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SATYRICON in Berlin – a nostalgic flare… (and a Frost-esque reflection on music)

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It is quite difficult to describe the feeling of seeing Satyricon live after four years; with a period of more than a year (2008-2009) having been dominated by them through the extensive and explosive Age Of Nero tour. The emotion is, of course, personal to begin with. The band do have their loyal and passionate – even fanatical – following; to the extent of a young man banging on the tourbus door after the gig in Berlin: „I must meet Frost!“… After all, we ourselves waited for hours to meet the band in the cold November night. The layers of personal memories and the excitement of a gathering long overdue, are there. In addition – and more objectively – we must definitively state this is a band ingenious. Precisely the reason we took the ‘trouble’ of flying from Sofia to Berlin for this gig.

I must say I was a bit apprehensive. Having attended the ‘Nero’ tour about ten times, I was secretly hoping for the same sweeping energy; furthermore, I was curious how the controversial new record would be delivered live in its intricacies, anticipating a resolution of what to make of the record. ‘Satyricon’ (2013) certainly carries the flair of nostalgia. That sweet feeling of decadence, of autumn, of twilight, and ultimately of maturity. On the one hand, a feeling burdened with the experiences of the past, carrying on their undertones, producing a richness of expression. On the other, nostalgia could be a feeling of loss, of generally being devoid of the past and its content.

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While my emotion is highly subjective, I was seeking that presence, that fullness in the Berlin delivery; and what I got, is rather complex to describe. The concert began quite differently from what I’ve witnessed on the Nero tour. There was that definite overtone of the ‘old school’, which seems to also characterize the new record. Surely, a majority of fans are happy with precisely that. ‘Satyricon’, if summarized laconically, is perhaps a gift for them. I suppose these fans have not sensed the depletion of energy, of punch and a power, which devotees to the past decade of Satyricon would expect. Most would go with the ‘Mother North’ flow, and they would be right in themselves. But I was anxious in my expectation of Now Diabolical: the song that blew me off every time I heard it. This time… it did not. The vibe did not pick up. I was puzzled by how deplete of energy the opener to the marvelous Satyricon 2006 could sound.

Luckily, the songwriting gem that followed, namely Black Crow, delivered. I was ready to be immersed in more musical splendor. I couldn’t wait to hear whether my impression of Nocturnal Flare being the best song off the new album, would be confirmed. I was hoping that other songs would also deliver. To cut a long story short, the concert stood on three pillars: Black Crow, Nocturnal Flare, and To The Mountains. The rest was a more or less lax (or laid back) musicianship, far too melodic guitars, and catchy tunes, e.g. Nekrohaven, Fuel For Hatred, King (mind you, Fuel could – and have been – a blast in the past, but here it also sounded routine). Sadly (very sadly!), we did not get Repined Bastard Nation: a tune which I cannot imagine being played without madness.

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Around the dancy post-punk feel of the gig, revolved and intersected the aforementioned feel of the ‘old days’, with four songs from pre-Rebel albums, and the sumptuous Our World It Rumbles, Infinity Of Time And Space. I was curious what I would get from the latter, but no, it definitely didn’t have the groove and magnetism of Nocturnal Flare. All in all, even Pentagram Burns struggled to be dynamic. Density did not characterize this concert; however, I was content with the quality that three rock-solid songs delivered. There needn’t be that manic feel anymore (and surely, we’re all getting older), in order for a song to be intense. Intensity is brought just by the quality of songwriting and the rendition. Sometimes I wonder whether Satyr realizes – or cares, even – about his compositional genius. With an effort, more Nocturnal Flares could have come out of Satyricon 2013, instead of the wandering through territories not immanent to Satyricon (‘progressive’ black metal in the vein of Enslaved, etc.). All criticism aside, I would rush to see the band again, not sparing any means. I can’t, however, free myself from the feeling that music is no longer Satyr’s main passion. Like Michael Caine gives an impression that rather than being on camera, he’d prefer to be lounging in his London restaurant smoking a Bolivar, it seems Satyr would rather be somewhere else.

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I’d like to thank the guys for being kind enough to sign autographs, and Frost particularly, for the warm and responsive vibe I always get from him. And could it be otherwise, with the man who once said: „It’s a passion for music that has brought me and us to devote our lives to Satyricon. You can always try to analyze this further and see that music in a way is tied to life and vitality but I haven’t really brought the thought or analysis that far. I just know and I feel that there’s passion for music and I observe that music invokes very strong things and very strong feeling in me. It pulls strings and being a performer myself it feels like the only way I could go. I cannot really even think of my life as something detached from music now. Ten years ago perhaps I could but not any more and passion for music must be what does it. I cannot conceive of it differently.“

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Also in 2009: „As far as black metal in general goes, I simply think it has gone through a perfectly natural evolution. There is really nothing dramatic with what has happened. It has grown and matured and gotten more complex just like any living organism. But a revolution rather than just slow evolution is now called for, I think.“

„Different people have different needs and aspirations in life. I am much more strongly linked to music than (…) an established life. This is the reason why I have dedicated so much of me to the music.“

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I humbly think that passion in itself is a revolution, an antidote to establishment per se. In the light of all the recent Satyricon’s statements that the 2013 album should „pave the way for the future of black metal“, I hardly think the genre follows a linear movement. There are a few unique bands (Samael, Enslaved etc.) who have followed their own line of evolution, with passion always being the unifying moment, the base to which everything could be reduced – a base resolutely extreme, unambiguously intelligent, yet running far deeper than the conscious.

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To summarize, Satyricon may have lost their edge (or are taking a break from walking that thin line which makes a good performance astonishing), but they will always be known for the rich, rather hermetic, completely unique (and certainly ‘progressive’) compositions, together with a first class live delivery. A world of their own we hope will never crumble.

The darkness shall be forever, the beautiful darkness…

Diana Chavdarova

Satyricon, Berlin, Lido, 28.11.2013

С нетърпение очаквах да чуя какво ще ни предложат „Сатирикон“ след бомбастичния тур, след дългото затишие и последвал нееднозначен албум. Чудех се дали впечатленията ми от албума биха се затвърдили. С една дума, оказа се, че да.

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Почти няма следа от суровата енергия от предишни албуми и турнета. Концертът в Берлин започна лежерно и „олдскуул“, с интро от новия албум, последвано от Hvite Krists Dod. Now Diabolical, която досега винаги ме е разбивала, шокиращо мина някак незабелязано. Black Crow ме грабна – това просто е великолепно парче. Оказа се, че концертът се крепи на три пилона: Black Crow, Nocturnal Flare, To The Mountains. Nocturnal, любимо ми от новия албум, звучи още по-прекрасно на живо.

Запитах се: защо ли Сатир не се уповава повече на композиторския си гений? Какво е целял с откровено комерсиалния „Сатирикон“ 2013? От една страна, явно да погъделичка олдскуул феновете, а от друга, тези на които се нравят пост-пънк ритмите и мелодиите на King, Nekrohaven. Дори Fuel звучеше слабо. Много се надявах да чуя Repined, но не би. Infinity Of Time And Space не звучеше инслейвдски, а също й липсваше интензитет и динамика. Като цяло китарите бяха твърде мелодични, а музицирането – рехаво. Мисля, че за Сатир музиката просто е престанала да бъде приоритет.

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След доста мръзнене до турбуса, се сдобихме и с автографи. Фрост бе особено мил, както винаги. Дано групата продължи да има фанатични фенове… като младежа, блъскащ по вратата на буса: „Трябва да се видя с Фрост!“, който зарази и случайно минаващ възрастен гражданин не съвсем с всичкия си, и последният взе да приглася: „Искам Фрост!“… Като цяло, доста забавна и ведра картинка. Нека споменем и любезните германски фенове, които не пропуснаха да се зарадват, че сме дошли чак от България, и пратиха поздрави на милата ни родина.

Диана Чавдарова

Сатирикон, „Лидо“ – Берлин, 28.11.2013


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