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Picture a window of pure black stained glass, now break it into a couple different pieces, each with its own unique shape yet still all containing that uniform sense of color. Essentially what you have is the perfect analogy for what the black metal scene of the early 90s was like in Scandinavia, as a sizable collection of bands came all but out of nowhere with a strongly unified style, yet each carrying their own unique detailing within the framework established. Satyricon and Enslaved come from all but polar opposites within the spectrum of this movement, as the former has a pretty simple format that largely resembles that of Darkthrone, while the latter has this strong progressive and symphonic element to their style that puts them a little closer to Emperor’s side of the coin, though even there the comparisons are fairly small.
Comparing these two bands is basically like comparing the composer of epic adventure movies against that of creepy horror flicks. Both of them employ keyboard sounds to augment their respectively raw sounds on here, but they take it to very different places. Satyricon definitely relies on a more dissonant synthesizer quality that gives images of supernatural beings haunting the forests of Norway. The character of the riff work on the “The Forest Is My Throne” side of the split definitely goes for a vintage Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost sound, largely resembling a darker variant on the speed/thrash style as pioneered by Venom, but with a production that is largely similar to “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”, though the songs themselves are a fair bit simpler and less touched by late 80s death metal influences. Meanwhile, Enslaved basically throws in a whole bunch of ideas that are fairly uncommon in other bands of this scene, particularly the vintage string orchestra and percussive sounds that draw up images of heroic Vikings speaking in tongues while channeling the will of Odin.
The interesting thing to note is that although Enslaved comes from a much more complex and developed side of the equation, their production quality is actually rawer and more low fidelity than their straightforward companions. The drum production is pretty dry, while the rest of the arrangement is so loaded with reverb that it sounds like the band is playing about a quarter of a mile away. Even on the slightly higher in quality production bonus song “Enslaved”, which actually showcases some riffs that are highly similar to the same early speed/thrash influences that are more present on Satyricon’s end, all of the arrangement sounds like it is occurring in the middle of a violent blizzard. “The Night Of The Triumphator”, which is the other bonus song not found on any other releases, showcases Satyricon at their strongest, as the production value is heightened and the riffs taken on an all out Thrash feel, not all that far from something that could have been heard on “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark”, including the vocal performance, which is lower sounding and closer to a death/thrash vocal bark.
As far as any split that has ever been done between two members of the same musical scene, this one arguably has the greatest level of stylistic tension. Even a novice newcomer to the 2nd wave’s music would not be able to mistake these two bands or these two albums. Later on both of these outfits would change very drastically and become something completely different from what they were at this time, which may have been inevitable given the highly progressive and exploratory natures of both bands. Far from being the cult of dogmatic copycats that some claim these bands to be, this music had a strong level of differentiation, even between bands that came from the same country. This is definitely an essential pickup if you can find it, as you essentially get two rare releases in one, as well as 2 songs that can’t be found anywhere else.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 24, 2009.