Given that Watain claims to be “the most black metal band in the world,” you’d expect this to be a black metal album. Surprise — it’s not black metal. Not even close. It’s traditional heavy metal with harsh vocals and tremolo picked guitars. That’s odd given that the band claimed black metal would be “reborn” with the release of Lawless Darkness, although probably not a surprise to those who heard Sworn to the Dark and the “Reaping Death” single.
However, it would be easily forgivable if Watain made a credible attempt at traditional heavy metal. Forgetting all other criticisms, is Lawless Darkness any good? Of course not! Its confusion runs deeper than mistaking warmed-over Judas Priest cloning for black metal. To be fair, the aforementioned “Reaping Death” is one of the worst songs on the album (not the worst, though; that “honor” goes to the utterly abysmal, and amazingly terribly titled, “Total Funeral”).
However, the rest of the album suffers from the same essential flaw — namely, that the songs are constructed around two primary riffs, with loads of unrelated bridges in between to mask the essential simplicity of the songs. This was an obvious reaction against the fan reception of Sworn to the Dark (which was blasted for its simple 3 riff songs), but the complete lack of focus that this new structuring style brings is a far worse error: the songs are robbed of all drive, and are nearly guaranteed to put the listener to sleep.
The riffcraft is mostly excellent; the musicianship is quite proficient, provided you ignore the abysmal guitar solos; and the production is professional, although the drum production is quite possibly the worst since Metallica recorded St. Anger‘s drum tracks in a Porta-Potty. However, Lawless Darkness wastes this raw potential in songs with no impetus, no backing concept beyond “dark-sounding minor key noodling for a few minutes contrasted with more poignant minor key noodling.
The result is sonic wallpaper. You might enjoy it if you would stare at the texturing of drywall for hours on end. “Astounding! On this one, the stucco is sponged on instead of rolled! How unique!” – Cynical