Watain by Ben Bertocci
In honor of the 21st century’s most fashionable and Martin Luther-ian mode of communication and to accompany Ben Bertocci’s beautiful paintings (above) of the recent Watain, In Solitude, Tribulation show at Irving Plaza, I composed an open letter to everyone who doesn’t love Watain above all other bands that currently exist in the multi-verse.
Dear Watain, People Who Hate Watain, Christ/Anti-Christ,
Reasonable people hate Watain. Reasonable people think Watain are posers, or poseurs. Reasonable people call them clowns in face paint, animal killing nerds, sausage kings, pretentious gay wads for homophobes and hipsters. Reasonable people think Watain are not as smart as they think they are and too smart to be real metal. Reasonable people can’t be bothered because if Watain were really into the devil, why would they have girlfriends and sunglasses, really? Reasonable people also write Yelp reviews. Reasonable people leave anonymous comments. Reasonable people repost Gawker articles about David Byrne’s views on economics. Reasonable people think black metal drums should sound like shit. Reasonable people believe in god but only in the “spiritual sense” and Satan not at all. Reasonable people can go straight to hell—and not the awesome hell that Watain is going to, with filth demons imploding jism on the chest of Christ. Reasonable people can go straight to the high rent low impact, high-rise on the water hell that they already inhabit.
Watain are our Led Zeppelin that you actually want to listen to. Watain are our Motorhead you don’t want to listen to quite as much as actual Motorhead but you want to listen to actual Motorhead all the time so that’s still something. Watain, in their being the last men standing in still believing in rock and roll as an inherently oppositional force, are our Nation of Ulysses. They maybe wouldn’t like that last one but they aren’t the bosses of me.
I can hear the gnashing of teeth and lamentations of your women already. “But, Zack, you prattle on incessantly about Death In June and Burzum and how I can’t wear my favorite Absurd shirt and, 'wah wah I’m Zack and I cry about stuff, swastika swastika blah blah’… AND NOW YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU LOVE WATAIN. You are totally like that guy who did the Outback song and my dad! Booooo!” Yeah. I hear you. My hypocrisy is a real bummer. But, short hand justification that you are under no obligation to accept? Deaths in June et al are for wimps who wish they were strong. Watain is for wimps who wish they were literal volcanoes spewing shit and satanic ash into the eyes of a weeping god. Wimp who wishes he was a bully VS. Wimp who wishes he were a cesspool with a succubae (black) sunbathing on a fiery lily pad in the center of his fetid muck. Now, I’m partial to both brands of wimp; but I’m ashamed of my former instincts; they lead to lack of empathy and crushes on Putin and druids- no thanks. While the latter leads to wild eyes, wild hair, and the coolest belt buckles known to man so, for me, Watain is the sketchy band of choice.
Why are Watain the best band? That’s like asking why Killing Joke is the other best band or Wallace Shawn is the best actor or Eritrea is the best country or on the cob is the best way to eat corn. Because these things are true and nobody wants to hear your stupid opinion anyway, person who will eventually die. Why should you get a say; 30 or 40 years from now, your ass will be ass dust. So don’t worry about it; when I say Watain is the best, they just are.
In Solitude by Ben Bertocci
“Really, Zack?” You say. “You sure this isn’t just another one of your black metal phases? A blatant attempt to get some of that sweet Deafheaven payola?”
Sure. Fair enough. Even though I never fell for Liturgy (a swell enough band but basically a great drummer with a manifesto attached) I certainly haven’t been troo since birth. I won’t pretend to like Burzum (I, like a square, think racism is lame) and I always liked Watain more than Dissection so I guess I’m just a fleshy husk of lies too. But I really believe I have science on my side on this one.
Watain is the best because:
A. They totally mean it.
B. Possibly they don’t mean it, but their facsimile of “meaning it” is extremely catchy and violent enough to make other modes of “meaning it” seem sort of clunky and dull in comparison.
C. They are the only black metal that I can think of (off hand) that unashamedly cops a Heart riff.
D. In the July 2007 issue of Decibel, they rendered all band interviews completely irrelevant by stating the following: "I don’t think, I know that there is an apocalypse coming,” asserts Watain frontman Erik Danielsson presciently. “Anyone who cannot see that is hereby encouraged to put down this magazine and take a look around them. Can’t you see the unconscious panic in your fellow man’s eyes? Can’t you smell the smoke of the fires? Can’t you hear the drums from the deep? Can’t you feel your very own body telling you ‘something is really, really wrong?’ Exercise your right to tremble with fear, man, for it is soon the only thing left to do.”
EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO TREMBLE IN FEAR, MAN. So good. Like the Old Testament written by Dean Martin. The quote, encompassing their refreshing (maybe just to my mind) self seriousness and incredibly dry sense of humor, that initially made me immediately go out and buy “Sworn To The Dark” and play it constantly, ever day, until the sort of dull by comparison “Lawless Darkness” came out and I cried bitter tears until the absolutely perfect “Wild Hunt” came out and I started composing Watain mash notes and submitting them to my editor.
E. When I was explaining to my aforementioned editor my “Watain is our Led Zeppelin” theory (which he irritatingly but tellingly noted he’d heard before from others) a drunken female pal came up and screamed at us both “NO! Watain is our Fields of Nephilim! Our Neil Sedaka!”
F. I really don’t know what further proof you need. I basically just unified theorized Bigfoot. You are very welcome.
Tribulation by Ben Bertocci
In the spirit of said science, I should acknowledge all the metal dudes who are my friends and peers who hate Watain too. I’m not going to say that you all learned all the wrong lessons of hardcore and have taken regular guy-ness too far in your expectations for every motherfucker in a band to wear a baseball cap and be, ugh, “down to earth” and I’m certainly not going to imply that it’s that sort of thinking that allows the American electorate to want Uncle Pal types as their elected leader; inevitably resulting in the invasion of Iraq and hundreds of thousands of innocent dead; I’m not going imply that. Even though we’re talking about a band that regularly covers themselves in animal entrails, that would be in appalling taste, and we’re friends and I’ll probably see you at the bar. I’m just saying that I really like you and your confusing font t-shirt… but you’re wrong about Watain. They rule hard.
My love for Watain is confusing to me too. Their direct ancestors—Queen, Venom, Bowie—don’t do much for me. I thought I’d go through life wearing a This Is Not a Fugazi shirt I ordered from a Sessions catalog, never to be swept up in the vaguely anti-Semitic cloven embrace of any of Sweden’s finest. But here we are; I’m smitten. Awash in satanic rose petals. A princess in full demonic anti-swoon. This isn’t corpse paint; I’m just naturally pasty and currently blushing.
PS. In Solitude and Tribulation were very good too. They can be our Temple of the Dog and Lucifer’s Friend respectively.
Zachary Lipez really, really, really likes Watain. He's on Twitter — @ZacharyLipez