Watain – Devil at Heart

It’s been 13 years since Watain, black metal band from Uppsala (Sweden) exists. Watain has become greater within the last few years. They won a Grammy for best hard rock band in Sweden last year, their last album Lawless Darkness has received exquisite reviews and just earlier this spring they won the Best Underground band award of Golden Gods 2012.  In May they just released the movie Opus Diaboli, which describes the meaning and symbolism behind Watain with live performances, deep conversations and theatrical video shots.
Watain has just performed at both Wacken Open Air festival (Germany) and Bloodstock Open Air festival (England). Now the band has nothing special planned in the nearest future. Erik Danielsson had the time to meet me a couple of weeks ago.

There is a sort of emptiness in Uppsala in the end of July. When it happens to be in the middle of the holidays, many are out-of-town and some of the stores are closed. The summer weather has been mostly cloudy and cold, so many have left for warmer places. Though Erik Danielsson has moved back to his hometown, right here in the cozy city of Uppsala where he grew up. His family and friends are still here, and he just found a calm place outside downtown.

I saw him coming from a distance. It was easy recognizing him, wearing dark clothes with traditional black cowboy boots and he has a subtile silent-slow way of walking.
We went in the café upstairs. Just the two of us. In this old baroque room with each cup of coffee we sat by a table near an open window. The contrast of drinking hot coffee while the fresh summer breeze flew in was nice.
“This summer has been kinda free for me and the band. Now we are rehearsing for the two upcoming concerts at Wacken and Bloodstock. After that I want to focus on writing new materials. I want to close this chapter of Lawless Darkness tour. These upcoming two shows will be the big finale. There will be big stages, we’ll be playing at night, it will be perfect.”

Erik seems comfortable, he talks with a low and very tender voice. Thinking about that it has been 13 years since Watain took form, I wanted to take a step back into the past, but even more earlier than that, the time when Erik started to get interested in Metal.
“I think it was around ’91, I was maybe 9 years old, rock was very common, many listened to it around me at school and rock music was very often played on the radio. Such as Gun’s and Roses and Metallica. It was those kinda of bands or Micheal Jackson that people listened to. So hard rock became an easy choice for me.”He even recalls the first album he bought: “It was Wings Of Tomorrow by Europe. Back then you just entered a music store and just chose an album with a tough cover. Later, I had a friend who had an older sister who listened to Death Metal, many were even scared of her because of her style and taste of such dark music. She introduced me to rougher metal”.

Erik had a very peaceful and calm childhood. He grew up in a safe environment within a traditional home and school. But something drew him away from all that:
“Maybe it was just this safeness which lighted something in myself. The curiosity of exploring darker places and the danger. For me it was a natural way to go, the music was an obvious entrance to that unknown world I wanted to explore.” – He takes his time while talking, making pauses and sipping his coffee. “The music was the momentum which made me think in religious terms. All my life I had music around me. It has always been a way for me to enter another world. When I pushed play, I shut out everything else. And it was when I stood face to face with the devil of metal, that I suddenly felt: It’s here where I belong. Since then I haven’t been interested of anything else. With the devil, it was love at the first sight.”Erik’s crystal blue eyes shines bright saying that.

He met Håkan (drums) and Pelle (guitar) ’96-’97 through the roads of Uppsala, where all the punk/ hard rockers and generally strange people hanged out. They started to talk because they had the same music taste, wearied Bathory t-shirts and they was into a similar lifestyle path. Actually the same night as they met they declared that they should play together and just a week after they met up and rehearsed.

Watain“We were 16 years old. What we had in common was a very serious view of death and black metal. We didn’t know how to put this strong feeling we had into a context. We knew it was a beginning to something so big that you couldn’t put into words. This feeling was what we through Watain could use to explore and develop of what we were already part of.” Håkan, Pelle and Erik still are strongly bounded in Watain. It’s more of a brotherhood than a band. They have shared this faith together from the start. Never took breaks. Never looked back. Since they were teenagers they formed their music from influences and today, after three albums they’re an influence to others.

Watain is the answer that explains everything they stand for and believe in. It’s difficult to describe it with words because those reasons are so abstract, sentimental and extremely individual. Erik have never been able to explain his feelings so clear as he can do with Watain through its music and lyrics.
“My own experiences of religion are too powerful and strong for putting them into words, here is where Watain comes into the picture and do the work. Maybe I have always felt a need to mediate this feeling that I cherish inside myself… Like a monk in a monastery spends most of his time writing and reading, I believe that everyone who has a greater truth or a more complex conception of reality inside him/herself, feels a need, not necessary to share it, but to get it out, because it’s too great to bear. Like when you are madly in love and you just have to write the feelings down, maybe in a love letter or so...” Slowly, he searches the words in his mind to describe . “If you don’t try to put a frame around of what you feel, it becomes difficult to develop and learn about it, because inside yourself there is just chaos. Through Watain I learn more and more about what it’s inside myself.”

There are many which see the “Temple of Watain”, look them in their eyes and base their entire life philosophy on its music and lyrics. To Erik, Watain is still a puzzle piece in a universal unite. They ‘d rather be an inspiration source than a life path to blindly follow. And today, Erik doesn’t wish to engage anyone:
“I’ve often felt doubtful about which role I should take on stage. I feel extremely uncomfortable to see myself in a role of a preacher. I’d rather want people to make their own mind about Watain and its meaning. There was though a period before in my life when it was very important to me that people clearly understood what I wanted to say. But through the years I’ve done this first of all for myself. If there is someone who I succeed to change and bless, that someone is myself.”

To Erik the stage is a portal, a connection to another dimension. He’s longing to a lawless, illimitable, free world. And through Watain’s shows and music he can finally revive his wish.
“I want to release myself from the physical form and most of all from all that consists the creation. Before anything was created it is described as there was a void of chaos. That is for me the ultimate paradise where everything exists while nothing exists.” explains Erik. “We’ve always tried to have a show that reflects Satan’s Paradise. Our scene looks like a hell cave but still beautiful in my eyes. Although we have goat heads which have rotted since many years, it’s just rotten flesh, but if you put it in a context it becomes absolutely powerful and beautiful.”


To Erik the magic is easy, if you call something seriously, it will come to you. He describes Watain as a magnetic field that attracts incredibly strong energies. “ I can almost touch them, there on stage”. There are a lot things going on stage, which unfortunately not more than half of the audience may experience.
Watain is a goblet that they have filled with all their experiences, everything they have seen and lived. They have put their entire lives in this cup. And this cup has succeeded to be a hell’s goblet which converts the content in something demoniacal and very dark. At the real beginning there were passion and will, and with just a nail and a hammer. From a single inverted wooden cross, they have built a temple. The Temple of Watain.

I turn my back from the crowd I look of what we built. I look at our temple and all the hair on my body rises. We have built something outstanding, and we will continue until the end.”

/Viktoria Colonna

First 3 Pics by Ester Segarra

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