Jan. 5Watain, “Trident Wolf Eclipse”Lately, black metal has reveled in ambiguity, subtlety, and atmosphere, in stark contrast to its abhorrently abrasive roots. Swedish roots warriors Watain return after five years with a brand new ritual offering to the demons of black metal and it is a hell of a record. No frills, no filler, no bullshit at all, “Trident Wolf Eclipse” starts with five seconds of crackling flames before launching into the opening track “Nuclear Alchemy,” a hellstorm of swirling riffs and howls from a choking throat. Watain seem to be going through the highlights of sounds from the late ’90s and early 2000s black metal, with icy riffs that punch through a churning war machine of bass, drums, and rhythm guitars. They are not afraid to slow things down when the song calls for it, which is a mark of mature songwriting in a genre like this. Second track “Sacred Damnation” excels at this, bringing the tempo down to a low simmer only to erupt once again into catchy cacophony.
Lil Pump, “Lil Pump”Mumble rap is such a strange artistic exercise: Lyricism doesn’t matter and beats are dark and moody, and don’t always match the vibe of the rest of the song. I swear, Lil Pump may be a genius just because he made a two-minute song, “Gucci Gang,” where he says the phrase “Gucci gang” 51 times. Lil Pump sells an attitude and a lifestyle, and if that speaks to you and is artistic to you, then so be it. I’m not here to say whether or not something is a valid form of expression. As Lil Pump’s self-titled debut continued, I became more and more baffled by its existence. “Cocaine on the boat, dick up in the throat, I just had a stroke” is a highlight off of “Smoke My Dope,” or the part where he just says “D Rose” over and over for a minute and a half on, you guessed it, “D Rose.” I will admit, the beats are loud and jangly and dark and they vibe with me occasionally, but, overall, this one just baffled me.
Shining, “Varg Utan Flock”Where Watain revel in the baser aspects of the black metal sound, Norway’s Shining has always sought to push the boundaries of the essential parts of the genre. There are dynamics and range on display here that most black metal bands would not be caught dead embracing, lest they be labeled false. The fifth track on the record, “Tolvtusenfyrtioett,” is an absolutely gorgeous, solemn piano piece that highlights the heart of the album, the solemnity and power that comes from loneliness. The band’s mastermind Niklas Kvarforth has a bit of a reputation of being a shock rocker, antagonist, and overall crazy person, but “Varg Utan Flock” (“Wolf Without Herd”), is an intimate insight into his mind, and while it is a black metal record at its core, it truly transcends the genre to be much more than just riffs about the devil.