Approaching SATYRICON is a meta-textual, meta-musical thing, Satyr and Frost sumptuously providing us with points of reflection to their artistry . We’ve heard that, while Now Diabolical and especially Age Of Nero were „a wall of sound“, the 2013 and 2017 releases aimed at „dynamics“, apparently understood as a less dense soundscape with freedom and amplitude of arrangement. With Satyricon (2013), says Frost, rooms were opened which Deep Calleth Upon Deep explores. The songs are filled with „magical energies“, he continues, although he said the same about Now Diabolical. Being vague is inescapable for SATYRICON, relying on „moods and atmosphere“ rather than any genre definitions.
Considering technicalities, in Now Diabolical we have prominent drums (and bass by none other than Lars Norberg), the „wet“ luscious sound remaining relatively unchanged through Age Of Nero. SATYRICON was a symbiotic duo, powerful drums suppporting fierce vocals.
That changed in 2013: „the dawn of a new age“ promised by the band saw them taking a more „progressive“ introspective direction with nostalgic flair, while retaining both the previous drive and the ability to deliver a memorable, emotive melody.
If the self-titled album was SATYRICON’s melancholic autumn, in Deep Calleth Upon Deep nature has withdrawn into its black-and-white winter. The vocals are subdued (even monotonously recitative, yet appealing), and despite the widely advertised variety in instrumentation, the sound seems dominated by dissonant guitar, as if rehearsing a bleak delayed finale.
It seems to be Satyr’s individual undertaking – he’s always been a leader, but this feels like a solo record. SATYRICON’s token of brilliance with Rebel Extravaganza was a tribute to disdain; Volcano’s „freight train“ consolidated the feeling and opened room for melody which would dominate a few records, culminating majestically in Live At The Opera. Deep Calleth Upon Deep summons us with echoes from SATYRICON’s entire discography: it feels like either Satyr revisiting his legacy, or exploring SATYRICON (and other) tropes, sometimes resorting to self-quotation (we hear Phoenix at the end of Brethren In The Dark). There’s a PANTERA feel in the title track, and The Ghost Of Rome could have been a MOONSPELL song.
The album picks up on Satyr’s contemplative, melancholic tone first heard on Now Diabolical, while departing as far as possible from the smoothness of that record. There’s no problem if traditional songwriting is entirely abandoned, giving way to improvising/experimenting with structure (a play with SATYRICON’s straightforwardness), as in Blood Cracks Open The Ground, which is almost a jazz piece coloured by neoclassical passages. Such elements are atypical for SATYRICON and drawing parallels with Ihsahn; similarly, the song Dissonant is reminiscent of SHINING – puzzling to hear, since Rebel Extravaganza is perhaps more original than the avant-garde Norwegian band. Alongside all this, we have honest (sometimes blatant) cliches in terms of both lyrics and song development, making us question the postmodernist mood we have surmised. The two sides of Satyr’s personality which flowed along on Now Diabolical, are clashing here: the deep-feeler and innovator is being challenged by the „rock-star“ who put forth an „epic“ hymn like Mother North and a commercial hit like Phoenix; this accompanied with reason-defying lyrics such as:
„In the rain alone with your demons claw
Now, let your brother help if the palace falls
And the dragon dies we’ll let the mothers mourn“
There’s difficulty in assessing the album: on one hand, we have its pretense of being experimental, appealing to an intelligent and mature listener, and on the other, there’s the explicit appeal to a simpler, young audience, experiencing metal as cliche: a tendency which already manifested itself, at least lyrically, in 2013. Satyr was never a poet; however, in earlier albums he conveyed infectious emotion.
Who knows – the existential personal adversitiy behind the record might have been difficult to voice out. Satyr reportedly links the notion of black metal to that of the blues – it’s a bottomless feeling. „Dark was the night, cold was the ground“, the legendary transcendent piece by Blind Willie Johnson whom he reportedly admires, has no lyrics.
This record in particular is far from deserving the staggering extolment received by sycophantic journalists, yet Satyr’s appeal and SATYRICON’s fame cannot be denied. If black metal is a mood, an expression of innermost psyche, let judgment be reserved in favour of yielding to the musically-erotic and the depths of Thanatos alike. I was not going to address this release (mainly out of respect for the delicacy of Satyr’s personal journey), but the artist visited my sleep, during New Moon, on the eve of the album’s release; without Frost, unfortunately, of whom I’m an ardent admirer.
To summarise more rationally, this is a diverse record falling in the „progressive post-black“ tradition. If it had done it maturely and consistently, it could have earned high acclaim; alas, its wanderings without sufficient innovation leave a feeling of aimlessness.
Best: Blood Cracks Open The Ground
Worst: Deep Calleth Upon Deep
Diana Chavdarova (5/10)