Watain “Opus Diaboli” (2012)

The fiery celebration
Of a unique band and a brotherhood
And their 13 year long journey
Into the unknown”

(So says the under title of the DVD)

A while ago a Swedish musician told me by the way that he wondered about WATAIN’s endurance to keep their attitude through all those years without changing it. He spoke about the band with wonder and slight respect. Instead he could have chosen to express his astonishment about WATAIN’s decision not to mature, not to develop more sophisticated viewpoints, but to hold on to their crude juvenile demonstration of a rather arrogant conception of what should scare off and attract people who unfortunately have no accession to deeper and more enlightening ideas of life (and death). But he chose not to. He spoke with wonder, seemingly not able to comprehend how people claiming to be artists can go against artistic development so much, yet he uttered his wonderment more puzzled than with arrogance.

Watching “Opus Diaboli”, the first WATAIN documentary (= more than just a concert) on DVD, I can understand his wonderment, but don’t share it. WATAIN present themselves as iconic ambassadors of black contradictory metal with such a ridiculously elitist attitude that it’s sometimes almost funny to accompany them for one and half an hour into the humourless and irony-free zone of Catholic delusions of grandeur. Well, depending on your music taste, you can easily skip most of the concerts scenes. Not that WATAIN deliver a bad show or that their music bores me (indeed the music is above the average black metal and the show is almost perfect from a specific viewpoint), but a band which has been infamous for creating hell on earth with blood, sweat and stench in a way that parts of the audience have to vomit, doesn’t naturally belong on a fast food entertainment medium like a DVD. Moreover WATAIN’s music is pretty state-of-the-art-black-metal and not as revolutionary as it might seem, especially not from a historical perspective. In terms of brutality and devilishly twisted arrangements, WATAIN just don’t come up to At The Gates, in terms of epic melodies Dissection’s first two albums still rule, although WATAIN comes admittedly quite close. “Devil’s Blood” has a monster chorus for sure.

“Let’s make one thing clear: The world you live in, is hollow.”

Like many radical and elitist Christian sects, WATAIN leave no doubt about their supremacy right from the beginning. The human world is hollow, but WATAIN leads to (un)holy (thought: deeper) grounds. Nevertheless the introduction with its film sequences and the interview & film sequences which follow throughout the “documentary” are impressive, worth seeing and reflecting. They’re filmed surprisingly well, with a great feeling for aestheticism, perspectives and atmosphere. Vocalist Erik pretends to not to pretend with so much seriousness that after some monologue passages I almost crave for a cut, or at least for somebody like else to appear, maybe other religious extremists and warriors…

Yes, of course, I know – I’m just not able to cope with WATAIN’s highly challenging and demanding approach: “It is a very personal and emotional piece of work and certainly not for the faint at heart.” Hell, I’m just a rock music fan. “Watain is first of all for those who want more than that.” So what’s this “more” in the end? First of all it’s aestheticism, and that’s from the finest you can get in the black metal underground. Although I experience Watain’s metal rather conventional, I adore especially the typeset, the lettering and the layout of their releases which are obviously inspired by olden Christian art and other mythologies. Surprisingly enough, the documentary lives up to high expectations when it comes to a similarly symbolist and excessively charged aestheticism: it’s like WATAIN have marauded the stage properties of traditional gothic horror movies and taken everything together what they thought of as worthwhile representing their brotherhood. Since despite its popularity the band won’t have millions to spend on production, the result makes a pretty great visual impact. Moreover front man and spokesman Erik – who obviously likes to present himself as key figure in the hell’s front court and who likes to hear himself whispering – whispers and talks a lot in a way that many Christian sects would surely love to incorporate him into their own ranks. With suggestive voice he declares even the most banal or shameful clichés of metal mediocrity to play a role in the transcendental art he provides with his band and even when WATAIN enters the ground of rock stardom, he explains:

“…but in the longer run we have always returned to our temple with our honour kept…”

All in all this is as absurd as it can get, yet it is in its very absurdness so well-done that even the pope would applause if he became aware of the Swedish wolves in sheep’s clothes, pardon, the Swedish wolves in wolves’ costumes, damn, the shepherds in customized wolves skins, whatever… in fact I find the connection with the wolf as sort of totem animal for WATAIN more than amusing since some years ago a group of Swedish youths with Asperger autism characterized each of their members as “ensom varg”, as lonely wolf. The idea that especially young people with alternative apperception could welcome black metal as tool to clean some channels from superfluous sensory stimuli is given new food for thought right here. But although Catholic hocus pocus still has its aesthetic charm, it can’t conceal that WATAIN has little more to offer than metal traditionalism with a strong Christian influence – and the ultimate will to stick to its concept which will of course fascinate many young people who miss something “more” in exact that kind of life that Erik illustrates oh so well and who are eager to learn the basic lessons of self-proclaimed black metal supremacy.

An alternative diction for the same documentary could be:

“The almost perfect portrayal
Of a conservative band and his arch catholic drama queen
And their 13 year long romanticization
Of Christ, blood and metal clichées”

Thor Joakimsson


Release:  May 2012
Label:  His Master’s Noise
Avantgenre:  Arch Catholic Traditional Black Metal
Duration:  90 Minutes Says The Info
Origin:  Sverige
Official site:  http://www.templeofwatain.com
Review online since:  04.04.2012 / 10:19:58


01 – Intro
02 – Malfeitor
03 – Devil’s Blood
04 – Reaping Death
05 – Lawless Darkness
06 – Stellarvore
07 – On Horns Impaled
08 – Waters Of Ain
09 – Outro

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