Satyricon: Satyricon (Roadrunner Records)
CD / DL / LP
Stalwarts of the infamous Norwegian Black metal scene, Satyricon (who also contain some of the founding fathers of said scene) have recently returned with their eighth studio album in 20 years. Andy Santiago reviews it for us.
The core duo of Satyr (vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards) and powerhouse drummer Frost have been steadily forging their own path away from what is normally accepted as ‘Orthodox Black Metal’ since the 2002 album Volcano. They have taken the genre into previously unknown territories, and it’s fair to say their singleminded-ness and uncompromising nature has attracted a degree of controversy and criticism over the years.
So, after a five year absence since the last album The Age of Nero, Satyricon are back and this time, it’s self-titled!
I’ve always considered it quite a statement of intent to release self-titled recordings as to me that says to the listener, “This is our definitive work, the pinnacle”.
So does it live up to all expectations?
On first listen, I was far from impressed and I have to say, pretty disappointed, but with a little perseverance my initial misgivings have somewhat changed.
The album opens with an instrumental intro that is pretty much a Sabbathy riff and that is then repeated, only to give way to some impressive kick drum action from Frost. This opening morphs into the first track proper, Tro Og Kraft, a mid-tempo stomp with Satyr’s trademark rasping vocal style sounding as good as ever.
It’s round about now I started to think that Satyricon could well have pioneered a completely new sound, how about “Heavy Rock with added Blackening?” Now there’s a concept!
The single, Our World, it Rumbles Tonight, picks up the pace and has a slightly progressive feel to it, and the following track Nocturnal Flame features a great deal of melodic riffing.
It’s about this point in the album when I realised there’s not masses of variety in the guitar sound and song structure. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and does work to a degree, but as a lover of the ‘grim riff and blast’ I found myself craving a moment of face-melting aggression.
It’s the track ‘Phoenix’ where Satyricon break out the most audacious move on the whole album. A guest vocalist in the form of Norwegian rock singer Sivert Høyem and the end result is something that I can only describe as some sort of ‘Euro Goth Rock’ in a similar vein to HIM.
Walker upon the Wind is a highlight, a much quicker tempo song and it includes some aggression in the delivery which gets the head nodding. It then breaks down into a moody mid-section and with a cry of “Go!” from Satyr, snaps straight back into the speed of the first part.
Personal favourite Nekrohaven follows with Satyr’s vocals receiving a metallic, industrial twist. A cracking melodic, yet at the same time heavy, riff is the basis of the song. I can’t wait to hear this track live as it’s got a full-on banger of a chorus that will doubtless raise the roof.
Ageless Northern Spirit is about as close as Frost gets to being let of the leash. I consider him to be one of the very finest extreme metal drummers, but the unhinged violence he’s capable of generating has been reigned in considerably on this and the two previous albums. I suppose this is fair enough as the Satyricon sound is far more disciplined and regimented than the mayhem and carnage of his other band, 1349.
The near eight-minute epic that is The Infinity of Time and Space has numerous time changes and almost spoken word passages involved that can feel a little disjointed at some points.
The album closes with the superbly melancholic instrumental, Natt, and I would have loved to have seen this developed into something more.
This is a very challenging album where you really have to work at it to get the best from it. I’m still trying very hard to ‘get it’ as it’s not one that you instantly pick up upon, but after each listen, I do find myself finding more to appreciate. I think Satyricon have once again followed their vision with a bloody-minded determination to do what they want rather than pander to the demands and expectations of fans and critics alike.
One thing radically different about the album is that it has a feeling of warmth running through it. Everything sounds very organic and carefully considered. This goes totally against the grain of what is accepted as the norm in Black Metal, but Satyricon have been bending and twisting the boundaries for many a year so should this really come as a surprise?
‘Satyricon’ is out now and the band head out on a full European tour that begins next week and ends in late December. The UK dates are as follow:
- Sunday 10th Nov – MANCHESTER Academy 3
- Monday 11th Nov – BELFAST Limelight
- Tuesday 12th Nov – DUBLIN Button Factory
- Thursday 14th Nov – LONDON O2 Academy Islington
All words by Andy Santiago. More writing by Andy on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.