Watain Casus Luciferi


casus-luciferiLet us start out by making it clear that this is a commentary on the music of this album.  It is not about the ideology whence derive its lyrics, the authenticity or truthfulness of it, the religious devotion of its members and even less what fans of the band feel about WATAIN.  Each of these things has its place and time, and there might come a time when attention is given to a discussion of the metaphysical component in the promulgation herein contained.  For in exploring Casu Luciferi, it becomes plain to the knowledgeable analyst that to capture its whole worth it is necessary to approach our experiencing of its musical content from the point of view of its lyrical content as parting point and sole center.  It is only in this way that the haphazard organization and streamlined production of parts makes sense in their assembly as we see it in the final product of the album.  It is proper, therefore, even before we proceed into other matters, to state that this originating locus of events is rich in content (however, extra musical, and not pertaining it) and that in light of it the experience of the whole derives considerable meaningfulness.

Musically, the music of WATAIN in general provides us with a unique opportunity to address the topic of music composition quality in black metal (or in metal as a whole, for that matter).  The reason for this is that, correctly understood, composition works at all levels of relations and developments within the music1, taking care that not only that performance execution is flawless and balanced, but that the narrative of the music (which, again, is not the same as lyrical narrative) is coherent throughout the piece and beyond any single part.  Now, Casus Luciferi is able to achieve the former as any high-end professional product requires2.  The latter is at first compelling, yet detailed listening reveals its patchwork method that leaves much to be desired for the refined listener of music.  Single sections are elaborate, beautifully eloquent and deeply stirring and which, when compounded with the content of the lyrics, are able to summon up auras and images of great potency.  Where, then, lies the deficiency of such a solid-sounding music with esoteric reflections of considerable consequence? Simply put: in its complete disregard for concrete musical development.  That is to say, parts have minimum relation to one another, from the strictly musical point of view, achieving cohesion merely from a very well-defined artistic voice and an enviable clarity in focus.

Nevertheless, if we then do take Casus Luciferi as a theatrical narration rather than a purely musical one, not only is the reason for its popular success at once apparent, but its true value allowed to shine through what at first seemed like limitations.  What follows now is a brief but gradual explanation of this statement.  As with many other shock and contrast-based musics, WATAIN can hold the attention of a popular audience for long periods of time.  This especially true when there is a consistent action directed at hypnotizing that occurs at through channels other than the music itself.  Each of the parts is high-intensity, transitions non-existent and adjacent sections tend to be highly contrasting in mood.  These characteristics ensure a constant stream of new sensations which keep the listener in a constant state of high emotional flux.  In general, this is a recipe for disaster, but as was previously mentioned, WATAIN balance this out by making use of a very precise and consistent style and personal voice.  In doing so, Casus Luciferi is able to win over the favor of a more refined audience with particular needs and intellectual inclinations.  In general, as well, the popular masses do not mind when the result is indeed a catastrophe, because they cannot see it and instant gratification is all they care about.  But when such an approach is used conscientiously and with razor-sharp focus as we see in Casus Luciferi, a wholly different monster is created.  Those who can see through the ruse, will also be able to appreciate the value of its counter-balancing elements, and what is more important: the aural and conceptual spires built on top of them.


1Musical content will only pertain the lyrical content insofar as the musicians are able to channel those verbal and abstract ideas through intuitions coherently into an observable and intelligible organization —system of relations— of the tones and frequencies, not those verbal meanings themselves.
2 WATAIN as a band is renowned for its live performances, famously enacting veritable musical rituals that entrance members of the audience with varied levels of understanding and perception, thus demonstrating the power of their act itself.

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