“Casus Luciferi”
Drakkar Productions

Most bands ruin re-mastered albums, especially black metal bands. As a genre known for the poorest quality equipment, equivalent of listening to a few guys jam in a basement (quite literally at times), hostility has met many bands that trade in their garage for a recording studio. Watain’s “Sworn to the Dark” may be of high quality recording, but the music engrossed within is more primal than anything anyone else could have spilt from their gilded goblets of basement recordings. Watain’s complexity and dimensional guitar work, tsunami drumming, vein bursting bass vibrations and vocals from evil’s very own mouth, are better listened to when you can clearly hear every note. Now, “Casus Luciferi” is always a record to fall back on when you want real black metal, but the re-mastered version is all the more fitting for a night of church-cursing rage and religious mockery.

It’s without hesitance that I call Watain unique and consider them the best black metal band ever, non-conforming to any trends of what “true” black metal is or what they “should” play like. Sure, Dissection strains and some similarities to other Swedish counterparts can be presented, but not to a very convincing degree. Even if you wanted to put them alongside Dissection, Watain stand beside them on a higher platform. These are serious musicians with a “tunnel vision” of sorts, for they see nothing else besides their own paths. Their music is in balance with melody and chaos, no matter how tormented it may sound. The attention mainly goes to the guitars and vocals. You’ll never find pianos, clear voices or orchestration on a Watain album, because they consistently write attention-grabbing hooks and serpent-tongue licks amiss ultra black moods to create harmony. Erik’s defining voice is perfect for black metal, so full of misanthropy and pain, with hints of despair that seems covered up by a gun pointed at the world.

Though each song is a masterpiece in its own right, “I Am the Earth” finally gets a chance to sound as big as the title, especially in the winding drums and Erik’s powerhouse screams. “Devil’s Blood” is old school worship with fast-paced whirlwind guitars marked by Watain’s trademark grinding, crunching instrumentation helped by the loud bass. The Satanic thoughts carried by this band are not flaunted by screaming “devil” and “Satan” or “evil” and “black” in each breath. Rather, you just feel something sinister and creeping, almost like being stuck in a room with the lights turned out and just knowing you’re being watched. The lyrics are actually quite poetic in a non gothic or sappy way.

“Black Salvation” is almost blinding as you can just see the fast movements made playing the instruments, like fluttering ghosts dancing across the floor that you can imagine are laughing with Erik’s evil chuckle. “From the Pulpits of Abomination” starts with discordance like fangs puncturing your throat. Firing up the generator, it’s a steady beat until two minutes in when the hot oil is poured over the victims below and things run rampant. Things quickly slow down and as Erik sighs at a job well done, a relaxed guitar sounds out only to transform into a hungry wolf again. Ending with “Casus Luciferi” the chiming of funeral bells and crackling thunder is the backdrop to the rain of acid that’s to come from Watain. Just think “Dante’s Inferno.” The Von cover of the song that the band grabbed their name from “Watain (VDN)” is great tribute to an influential band. They prove they could play in the predictable classic sound, but choose to do something better. It’s a great track nevertheless.

You should buy “Casus Luciferi (Re-mastered),” no ifs, ands, or buts about it, even if it’s just to check out the illustrious fold-out or the Von cover. Of course, it sounds amazing with the fuzzier sound, but dare I say I love the re-mastered version even more and that’s saying a lot. Watain are a band that I want to soak in every sound of; every drum stick hitting a snare or cymbal, every bass string tugged at, every scream and gasp uttered and every guitar string resonating in their turbulent vortex. Even lovers of muddied instruments and cavernous vocals should listen to this and possibly, receive new appreciation for professional recording. This should be labeled as “shadow metal,” because
Watain burns bright with the fires of hell, casting the blackest shadows to completely cover the entire room as you listen to their souls pour forth from your stereo.