It is far from easy to approach this new Satyricon record, which numerous metal fans said had been more anticipated than any other. Satyr surely did a great job in keeping us guessing, while promising us an outcome cornerstone-significant: no less than “the dawn of a new age”.
It is perhaps too early to judge the outcome. We’d have to trust the artist in that the album would “grow on the listener, and stay forever”. However, we have been listening fervently, attentively, and an early opinion is urging out.
My initial reaction following the single (Our World It Rumbles Tonight) was: eclecticism. I am not a fan of that aesthetic approach, and especially following the last four Satyricon records which clearly sought consolidation.
How could it be that, in one song, I heard Metal Church’s Ton Of Bricks, plus clear references to songs from both Nemesis Divina and Now, Diabolical (at least); this topped with tempo changes and dissonant guitars which seemed to interrupt the song, rather than contribute to its tension (and thus, parallels with Enslaved as suggested in some online reviews, are less than adequate).
It would prove the album would offer interludes as if meant to break from the song structure, rather than cater for it: the opposite to the line of Satyricon’s past “trilogy”.
Instead of building volume, dynamics and energy within a structure – as the case with the trilogy – here is an outward direction. Not an expansion – but almost an escapism.
I see nothing “epic” about this new record, contrary to many a metal fan (to whom that definition, whatever it entails, seems essential). It’s hard to think of even Supersonic Journey or To The Mountains in that term, for Satyricon of the past 15 years promoted an element of hermeticism. The Age Of Nero, however, saw an expansion, and there we got that energy unfold into a true epos such as Die By My Hand. Whenever I seek to expand, I will return to that.
What is the composer escaping now? Did the restraints of the past 10-15 years prove too much? Is he finding a new sort of comfort?
He does seem eased-out. But how does that relate to metal music, which finds its essence in a state of unease?
The first three tracks of the record thus sound formulaic, put together like pieces of a puzzle. There’s a huge talk of “atmosphere” among fans – atmosphere maybe, but not the thrilling energy which infiltrated songs such as A New Enemy – songs which spell perfection, and, in my subjective perception, deliver “the spirit of Satyricon”.
The author’s explanation, if I understand correctly, is that this is the summary of a career, and a homecoming of sorts.
True – in the opening track (Tro Og Kraft) after the initial (Voice Of Shadows) instrumental, there’s the distinct feel of the “old times”. But since I never acquainted myself with the genre at its peak, nor do I have a bias for nostalgia or history (or feel that these should be a driving force in creation), all I sense within that song – and the next – is a certain naivety. No, I’m unfair… there are touching folklore melodies which lead into the album’s further, exalting sentiment.
I knew there was to be a song which would grab me: instantly, and not “in the course of time”. Grab, and hold “forever” – with intensity, romantic pathos, and that X-factor which makes me crave and return to it time and again.
Nocturnal Flare – enough to give this record five stars. Here, any talk of under-production could cease. Satyr’s roar and breath cut directly into the ear, blatantly raw yet refined; articulation intricate; each detail touched with precision and serving the whole. An accomplished, thus enthralling song which is my epitome of “Satyricon” and the atmosphere promised. It’s intimate, attesting to the maturity of the record. If we have to determine to which older album it refers in terms of sound, it has to be Volcano – with the addition that the vocals on „Satyricon“ are deeper, harsher – the hit in that analogue approach in recording. Satyr here may not be furious – but he is sinister, haunting, possessive.
Nocturnal Flare flows beautifully into an early-maiden reference: lyrical, melancholic, dark and sticky as black metal itself.
And what is black metal – the genre whose future Satyricon have claimed they would map with their self-title? A question as tricky as the genre itself.
Black metal may well be all contained within Di’anno’s Maiden – and unless I have misunderstood, that could be part of Satyr’s feel as well.
Add to that Frost’s elaboration:
“… it’s a music genre that’s creative itself, it’s very open; it’s not really defined by strictly musical technical characteristics, it’s defined more by the atmosphere, the moods, the vibes. You could mix in lots of elements. Of course, for it to be black metal, there should be dominant metal elements, but apart from that you are very free to bring in elements from all different sorts of music, bring in unconventional instruments, and you could go as far as making almost purely electronic or drone-based music and still call it black metal, because it still adds to metal and evidently it comes from there. There’s a danger in that as well, because it might lose all contact with its origins and the roots. Usually it’s very important to have a strong touch with the roots, as well as developing and bringing the whole genre further, which is what we do; but no matter what, I think that this kind of creativity and the openness that I see at the bottom of the genre, is a very good thing, even if it is misunderstood and misused by lots of bands.”
To be more specific, what is Satyricon’s black metal? Satyr’s roar, intricate riffs, ingenious melodies, and Frost’s voluptious, muscular and articulate drumming. As Frost’s confidence as a musician grew, he became core to the band’s identity – its most organic part – pumping up life into the record from its first ceremonial tones and into the faster pieces down the road.
Meanwhile, there’s Phoenix – a pleasant creation, even though maybe nick-cave-generic… at least to someone unacquainted with the genre, like myself, and finding interest in Depeche Mode rather than “typical” dark-wave.
Nekrohaven is the blackened punk-rock I’ve always loved from Satyricon. Their straight rhythms and lines are igniting, and I’m happy they have not abandoned that ostensibly simple quality in this “summary” of a record, even without the punch of Repined and Fuel, and with a less than interesting solo guitar. Walker Upon The Wind retains a similar mode, and Ageless Northern Spirit, apart from the nostalgic „classic-Satyricon“ flair, brings more delectable drumming. The Infinity Of Time And Space elaborates on what has been the album’s atmosphere: dreamy dark ambient, and doomish metal, and that guttural vocal chanting the usual misanthropic and militaristic words/phrases in a catchy chorus – all that with a touch of “progressiveness”. An Enslaved parallel in this particular song is not devoid of reason; however, Enslaved have done a career out of organically bringing together their aggressive and contemplative sides – something we don’t see Satyricon even touching upon, despite the pretense made. Are Satyricon authentic in their yearning, or in their testosterone-fueled power? I don’t see the duality either resolving, or remaining intensely opposed; however, I sense less zest and more sorrow.
Satyricon is… whatever you make of it. (“It is strange but I like it”, says our editor.) Question is – is this the Twilight Of The Gods?… We hope not, although “Satyricon”’s overall feel might fall into an oxymoron with the “meta-language” (the interviews) convincing us into the band’s activism. Natt (the outro) moves the subdued ambiance into a further twilight… and the dreamy innocence we so much need. Still, I do not get this sorrowful piece as a whole. I would gladly leave it unjudged, but since some points need to be given, I assign 6, largely due to Frost’s input.
Diana Chavdarova (6/10)