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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If the self-titled album was SATYRICON’s melancholic autumn, in Deep Calleth Upon Deep nature has withdrawn into its black-and-white winter.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)
„Constructor of my worlds… guide me, I am the open wound“, had Fischer pleaded in the opening to the impressive Eparistera Daimones (2010). Question with the second album by Triptykon is, have all the demons of Goetia obliged this time, too?
The brief answer is, no. The impression is that of inclination to constructive fabrication, rather than susceptibility to the inspiration needed to penetrate a record, thus making it whole: inspiration of course not external, but equaling authentic creative impulse.
Melana Chasmata leaves us uncertain about precisely that conviction. It is eclectic and sketchy, although these qualities might prove colourful to the artistic taste of some. Celtic Frost in their earlier efforts exhibited such an approach, characterized by their proponents as diversity and experimentation. To those who hold Monotheist in higher regard, and justly see Eparistera Daimones as its continuation, Melana Chasmata might come as a disappointment due to its lack of solidity.
The massive wall of sound ran through tracks such as Ain Elohim, and subsequently Goetia.
The opening song to Melana Chasmata makes a similar (if not the same) promise, referring verbatim to Goetia.
While Eparistera maintained the high level of expectation with compositions such as Descendant and In Shrouds Decayed, Melana Chasmata falls very short of both that energy and originality.
Boleskine House rings along the notes of 2010’s Shatter, but while the latter was haunting in its simple melody, the second track to Melana Chasmata digresses to painful metal cliche(s). In a similar pattern, the next one – Altar of Deceit – resembles ED’s Abyss Within My Soul, evolving however to be tedious and watered-out, rather than compact and enthralling.
Melana Chasmata is a genre-mix altogether, and as such it is a disappointment, given we expect from a seasoned artist to have overcome his influences into a unique emphatic signature.
Of course, that signature is clear enough through the distorted guitar and equally rich vocal. These don’t fail to induce the hauntingly seductive atmosphere we unmistakably know from Fischer. However, leaning on these pillars, he also gives an impression that it’s atmosphere he had been after, without the conceptual musical elaboration to ground it. There’s far more sketch and ornament to the record, than structure. It almost feels as if its solid, overwhelming „brutal“ tone should have given way to the purely fickle „a collection of moods“ content. Is Tom Gabriel a pillar or a whim, we ought to ask ourselves. (To the defense of the „moody approach“ in what is widely seen as black-metal-derivative style, we cannot omit the argument it lies on solely mood and atmosphere.)
There are quite a few clean „classic heavy-metal“ guitar solos, which kick the listener right off the avant-garde and into tradition. There is also poignant guitar in Aurorae which is touching, but the song itself leaves me questioning why would extreme bands (see also recent Satyricon) regress to influences like these of „dark-wave“. The sound is nothing new, translating to nostalgia for the „goth“ 80s. Some of these artists have moved on brilliantly… and a brilliant song such as Gary Numan’s relatively-new Jagged rings too clear through Melana Chasmata’s Demon Pact.
Waiting for the record to pick up, we’re nearing its end. There’s the unlistenably weird Fischer’s vocal on In the Sleep Of Death (coupled with Santura’s consistently uninspiring harsh vocals), making the song a challenge to even the most amorous Fischer fanatics. Finally, there’s the Prolonging of this record: the lengthy Black Snow. It is a satisfying wrap-up in its unsentimental droning: I’d have stripped the record to Tree Of Suffocated Souls – Black Snow. The outro Waiting extends the slumbering comfort, in the vein of My Pain („fall asleep in my arms, never to wake up again“).
Most of the tracks here give the impression primarily of length. The aftertaste is that of sadness, romance and dead-end nostalgia. It’s a lingering record: one without goal in that a goal is not sought. Sadly, it’s a lifeless offering compared to its predecessor – confirmed by a recent Fischer’s statement: „It’s high time death claims me“. Without creativity arising from the chasm of hopelessness, regrettably the entire sum of heavy-metal-and-dark-rock arsenal of riff/phrase/sentiment comes to no use. Without spark, each song separately, and the album as a whole, come to a standstill.
I hear the album begging for sympathy through its failures, and therefore I give it at least 5 out of 10: with the warning that this is how prolonging, denial, waiting, and hostility predetermine one’s art-equaling-life in the faltering between erotic and thanatic. Moreover, auto-eroticism can result in self-plagiarism.
1. Tree Of Suffocating Souls
2. Boleskine House
3. Altar Of Deceit
6. Demon Pact
7. In The Sleep Of Death
8. Black Snow
Tom Gabriel Warrior – voice, guitars
V. Santura – guitar, vocals
Vanja Slajh – bass, vocals
Norman Lonhard – drums, percussion
Beyond The Black (5/10)
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.
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.
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.
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.“
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.“
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Сатирикон, „Лидо“ – Берлин, 28.11.2013
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)