November 22, 2013 Satyricon – Satyricon (Album Review)
In the world of underground metal there are few bands that can withstand the rigors of obscurity and possess the longevity necessary to gain a loyal following, and Satyricon is one such group. Hailing from Norway and founded in 1991, Satyricon (comprised of multi-instrumentalist Satyr and drummer Frost) is one of the purveyors of the Norwegian Black Metal scene, with most of their albums staying true to their black metal roots. However, in more recent years they have begun to experiment with different elements in their music: fusing rock with black metal to create a more old-school vibe in the vein of Venom or Bathory. With their self-titled and eighth full-length album Satyricon, it presents this blend of styles in an impressive way.
The album opens with pounding drums, sounding off the pummeling instrumental that is “Voice of Shadows”. With this song Satyricon sound more akin to a blackened-death band much like Behemoth, and this kind of track is the perfect beginning to an album as a means to draw the listener in. The next track “Tro og Kraft” continues the musical themes presented by the guitars in the first song, but the majority of the song features an alternation between a half-time double bass groove and a four on the floor rock riff, which in itself is an interesting duality of sorts. The ambient-like bridge section gives the listener a “breather” from the heavier parts of the song and is a nice and unexpected departure. Following the opening two tracks is “Our World, it Rumbles Tonight”, which is a guitar-driven and rhythmically mesmerizing song. In many ways the riffing is similar to what Opeth has done on previous albums, and the song gradually gets more melodic with a mixture of harmonized guitars. The next song, “Nocturnal Flare” is a perfect example of Satyricon’s ability to blend black metal with rock. Interestingly enough, the drumbeat seems to be the pervasive element that more or less defines the feel and presented style of the material, with the guitars having a fairly consistently sinister vibe. This track also features a rather tasteful guitar solo!
“Phoenix” is an intriguing song because it is the first on the album to feature clean vocals, and the accompanying music is appropriately doom-laden. The slower vibe of the song seems to beg for the clean rock vocals, and the chorus of this track is certainly strong in a way that most wouldn’t expect from this band. As if to remind the listener that this is the brutal Satyricon, “Walker Upon the Wind” is a fast-paced and blast beat ridden song that is quite reminiscent of their older material. It is a great example of how a band that has been in the genre so long can still create songs that please their die-hard black metal fans. “Nekrohaven” is a song that is also highly exemplary of Satyricon’s rock influences, and is once again dictated heavily by the drumming style and the simplified song format. The fastest and most unrelenting song on the album is “Ageless Northern Spirit”, which showcases Frost’s drumming prowess and stamina. The open-ended interlude that appears twice in the song is a nice break from the heavy guitar and drum parts that dominate the rest of the song. The second to last song “The Infinity of Time and Space” is easily the most stylistically diverse song on the album, giving the listener a little bit of everything the band has to offer in terms of style and song structure. There are blast beats and double bass parts accompanied with tremolo guitars, as well as a doomy section followed by an eerie clean section. This song is a benchmark for the depth and vision of Satyr’s songwriting capabilities. The album finishes off with “Natt,” an instrumental song that possesses a dark and lulling quality, and is also a nice choice to finish what is a rather intense album. The song begins and ends with a quiet guitar lick and ambient sounds, and the full band section is certainly doom influenced with a great intertwining guitar melody.
When considering the origins of black metal and where is has arrived at today, there seem to be two pervasive attitudes. The first of these is that of the “true” black metal fan or group who choose to claim the old school and original albums in the genre to be the most accurate representation of the style. However the alternate opinion is one that shows that black metal is ever evolving, and it is interesting to note that three of the original Norwegian Black Metal groups: Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Satyricon have all expanded their musical styles and constantly seek to reinvent themselves. Satyricon’s most recent self-titled effort does not fall short of this endeavor, and is a prime example of how a band that was once pushing the boundaries in the early nineties continues to do so many years later. The album is a masterful blend of styles and it achieves exactly what this band has set out to do, naysayers be damned. By extension it would seem that the truest form of black metal is one that seeks to constantly redefine and overthrow the norm of its genre. Cryptic Rock gives this album 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Written by Cameron Stucky