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Whilst Satyricon might be considered one of the better of the second wave of black metal, they’ve never really hit it off with me. Although enjoying some of their material from time to time, it’s never enough for me to consider myself a fan of their music. Something has always bugged me about their music and I understand what it is; it’s languid. Really, that’s all there is to it, compared to an album like Under a Funeral Moon, Dark Medieval Times feels lazy, non threatening, descriptions I typically wouldn’t associate with this form of black metal. Contrary to what some would have you believe, this is not a difficult listen. In fact, when compared to much of the second wave this is positively accessible. The distortion isn’t razor sharp, it’s not hard to listen to and rather it’s quite light compared to other releases giving the music a much easier tone. It’s just not threatening, and that’s really why I can’t get under it that much.
Don’t get me wrong, the music on here is good. The riffs themselves are actually quite stellar, showing a good balance of melody and atmosphere. The distortion, whilst being quite light makes room for the guitar work, not burrowing the riffs under a layer of fuzz the riffs are easy to here creating a much more lasting effect. I’ll give Satyricon credit; they’ve created a fairly unique album within the second wave. It’s subtle, not subjecting the listener to a violent and primal assault. The song writing is dynamic, with multiple riffs working together within each song. Songs contain multiple sections, ranging from melodious guitar lines to subtle, atmosphere use of keyboards. It’s a good mix and one that would come to be expanded upon in the future. Expansive would be a good descriptor for Dark Medieval Times, the sound is typically quite “large”, with each riff never repeated into oblivion. Atmospherically, Dark Medieval Times is cold yet comforting. It’s a rather relaxing listen, far removed from albums such as Pentagram or A Blaze in The Northern Sky. This dear readers is perhaps the fundamental flaw of this album. It’s far too relaxing for its own good, yes I am a huge fan of atmospheric varieties of black metal, yet whilst an artist such as ColdWorld kept the music interesting, Satyricon just don’t seem to be able to do it. The guitar work, whilst good in its own right doesn’t work well in the tempo that it’s played at, giving the music a languid, lazy feel to it.
Satyricon just never seem to reach any real heights with this album. Riffs come and go without leaving much of an effect; vocals are quite lazy, far removed from the fierce bite a vocalist such as Varg Vikernes carried. Keyboards are relaxing, almost to a fault, they work well in creating dreamy textures underneath the guitars but it doesn’t contrast well with the similarly relaxing guitar. It seems that everything was surgically designed to be as clean and accessible as possible. Even the production quality is rather high in comparison to a lot of other black metal records. The atmosphere feels very human, black metal is often nightmarish, dark, evil and occasionally mystical, Dark Medieval Times is none of these. It’s more human, much more down to earth. It still retains some of the trademark black metal coldness, but it’s a rather mild coldness. Whilst Dark Medieval Times successfully creates an atmosphere of blissful coldness, it’s not a particularly interesting atmosphere, at least not to this particular reviewer.
Another problem I have is just how damn unmemorable the whole affair is, Dark Medieval Times is an album that suffers greatly from a lack of memorability. This is mainly due to the meandering song writing style, which never allows a riff to settle long enough to achieve anything. To call Dark Medieval Times lifeless would perhaps be a bit of a stretch, but it certainly isn’t the most exciting album I’ve ever heard. Or perhaps I just don’t get it, perhaps this languid, less ferocious form of black metal just isn’t for me. Dark Medieval Times lacks most of the aggression that makes this kind of music so special, instead it opts for a more mainstream friendly form of black metal that is more concerned in creating a comfortable listening experience than anything else. The overall content of the music is pretty good, but it just doesn’t enough for me.
"Dark Medieval Times", the humble beginnings of Satyricon. While a highly interesting album due to the immense youthful enthusiasm, which eventually revealed itself to be highly incongruous with the band's infamously hackneyed and watered down later day efforts, this debut from 1994 of black metal newcomers Frost and Satyr still fails to provide a very enjoyable listening experience, despite many demonstrations of undeniable talent. The album has two very serious problems. Firstly, the song structures are painstakingly random, and consequentially the album seems like a mere series of riffs and folkish passages betwixt. Secondly, the album is largely lead by the synth as the guitar is sometimes subdued to the point of acting chiefly as a mere producer of timbre by poor mixing and excessive distortion (the guitar follows the synth slavishly, and there isn't always much riffing to speak of), which is mainly problematic due to the dull timbres of the keyboard, the lifeless noise of the guitars, and the resulting lack of riffing power. The third issue, which may in some cases be forgivable if other aspects of the music – such as atmosphere and sound – are especially great, the riffing on "Dark Medieval Times" is more often insipid and dull than it is evocative or intriguing.
There are points of interest, however, as "Dark Medieval Times" isn't without strengths despite its considerable shortcomings. The occasionally great atmosphere and adequate instrumental and vocal performances by Satyr and Frost are all noteworthy aspects, some of which were superior to the respective elements in their contemporaries' works. However, the album's value is drastically hindered by the sloppy, nonsencial structure and blatantly poor pacing (as in "Walk The Path of Sorrow", where the highly Burzum-esque main theme constantly changes to drumless ambient passages – there is plently of repetition, eventually, but pointless interludes interrupt the flow constantly). The fact that the terrible pacing interrupts the album's flow frequently is especially detrimental to its overall quality, as atmosphere is without doubt the album's greatest strength, and bad pacing greatly hinders the conveying of atmosphere.
The opening track is possibly the album's strongest point, followed closely by the earlier parts of the title track, where the opener's lack of riffs is made up for in the folk tinged, grim and sorrowful riffing, and perhaps "Taakeslottet", a brooding journey through dark atmosphere, hateful emotion and Burzum-esque riffs. The atmospheric excellence never reaches similar heights until "Taakeslottet" after the very first song, and the majority of the remaining "Dark Medieval Times" is composed of badly paced mediocre riffs and unrelated passages. The title track shows some of the most serious issues in terms of songwriting competence, as speedy blasting black metal sections abruptly shift into a passage of upbeat acoustic guitar and flute. Said passage transforms into a black metal rendition of the same upbeat theme mid-riff, which then shifts to a soft section of synth and bass. The only issue is not remarkably incompetent songwriting: the upbeat themes are also rather insipid and repeated excessively. Similar issues can be heard in "Skyggedans", where the relevance of subsequent passages seems to become flimsier and flimsier as the song progresses. The song is also quite abundant in dull power chord riffs and second rate synth melodies.
So, not only are the album's great tracks ruined by shortcomings in songwriting and sound, but nearly half of the album's length is unworthy material in itself. It hardly appears in individual tracks (though "Skyggedans" is clearly subpar), but mainly in that each track's quality moments helplessly drown in the mire of unexciting and trite music. A more accurate depiction of the songs would be that in most of these dull and uninspired songs Satyricon has embedded a quality riff or two. Lower quality of riffing, as in "Into The Mighty Forest", could be overlooked with better sound, pacing and instrument arrangements, but all these elements are of considerably low quality. Thought was put into writing drum parts to suit the guitar rhythm, but seemingly little effort was put into the rhythm itself. In the lowest points of the album, with considerably tame riffs and haphazardly constructed arrangements, the mediocre moments tend to stand out positively from outright the annoying. Some songs initially promise a turn for the better, like "The Dark Castle In The Deep Forest", and yet become stuck in irritating repetition of cringesome, plodding riffs.
The album is largely unenjoyable, but it is tolerable for the most part, and at best even pleasing. The quality is considerably low on average, but the album's best moments are certainly worth listening to, and while "Dark Medieval Times" is not worth considerable monetary investments, the underlying quality makes the album a recommended listen to all black metal enthusiasts despite the inconsistency, incredibly hackneyed realisation and completely substandard sound. The album is especially disappointing due to the immense potential it has in creating immersive atmosphere and great sense of wonder, which is all but ruined by several tremendous flaws, but the budding, largely unrealised genius makes it worth the time to listen to "Dark Medieval Times" and assess for oneself whether the pros outweigh the cons.
While it's musical value is formidable in of itself, one of the things that has truly always drawn me to the Satyricon debut Dark Medieval Times is the laughable, yet enduring black and white cover art. Before the gates of some foreboding, gray keep, a single ghastly rider rears up his black steed while his cape flutters in some winter breeze. He raises his double-headed axe as if to invite the listener to dinn... er, battle across a bridge of ice, and a field of withered trees. This looks like something a nuanced and competent 13 year old Dungeons & Dragons geek would draft for his 8th grade art class, but fuck it, I WAS that person at some point. I'm sure many of us were. Hell, I still AM that person to a degree. So despite its silliness, I have to think this is one of the most iconic of the Norse covers along with those early Burzum records, or In the Nightside Eclipse.
But what's more, it represents the isolation and majesty that black metal once, and still in some cases, hints at. A group of young, inspired deviants separating themselves from the conformity of their hollow civilization, escaping into fantasy and history, just like the lonely black wizard in his tower, the witch at her cauldron, the dragon in its mountain lair. Satyricon wanted to be feared, just like many acts in this wave, but what is not in question is their musical ability to back up the thematic content. Dark Medieval Times is not so grim, raw and punishing as Darkthrone and Burzum Not so folksy as old Ulver. Not so well orchestrated as In the Nightside Eclipse, nor so infamous as Mayhem. There is not much of a gimmick going on here, so the young Frost and Satyr had to bring the music, and they accomplished nothing less with what is for many their most beloved memory of the duo's career. I can't say that this is a personal favorite of the Norwegian 'second wave', but after only Nemesis Divina, it remains the best of Satyricon.
It's obvious from the beginning that they were going for something immense, epic and larger than life. "Walk the Path of Sorrow" is over eight minutes, complete with a strange symphonic intro that has some looped, martial synthesizers, ghostly choir and crashing percussion, before the drums thunder forth at a mid-paced gait, and the spires of distortion crash along under the steady clime of the keyboards. Before long, they transition into a calm acoustic part, and then back into the fray where Satyr applies his rabid, biting rasp. I can't say that the transitions here are all that smooth, but nonetheless the song continues to inspire as it cycles through a great many phases, like the ambient resilience of the bridge before the 4 minute mark, or the crash of timpani deeper into its depths. Ultimately, this is a strong start to an album, despite the rather brash tactics at segueing into each segment that often feel like jilted, irate icebergs elbowing one another for the same ocean space, while they wait for some unsuspecting cruise ship.
Other songs here feel more focused and manageable, like "Skyggedens", which is only half the length, and still manages to tear through five or six sequences, including acoustics. Or the lush and windy interlude "Min Hyllest til Vinterland", which is not more than a sparse, resonant accumulation of acoustics that slog along like a slow-moving autumn stream. Or "Taakeslottet" with its grimy, tremolo melodies and thundering percussion beneath the verse; one of the most melodic and memorable pieces on the album. Other standouts include the titular "Dark Medieval Times", the other 8 minute whale on the album, with a lot of strong, rushing chord streams, and an extended closing sequence with clean guitars and flutes that lives up to the song's name. Also, I rather enjoy "The Dark Castle in the Deep Forest", one of the most haunting and cheesy of the tracks but nonetheless engrossing, which the band would later title "Night of Divine Power".
The production is not their most elegant, after all this was put out through their own, small upstart label and didn't have the backing of a Century Media like Nemesis Divina. All the guitars, drums and vocals are clear, as are the keyboards, but I found the bass to have only a minimal, uninteresting presence throughout the compositions, and the whole mass is decidedly raw and unpolished. That said, that is actually half the charm of an album like this, and it wouldn't work with a poppy, modern gloss to it. The lyrics were not originally included, but what one can gather from them is that sense of sadness and isolation that I mentioned above, a grasp at the natural world of olde and it's most unfriendly environments, through which the band's despotic spirits wander. In other words: it reads much as it looks.
Dark Medieval Times had its problems. The bands' transitional ability was rusty and still in its incubation stage, and the riffs perhaps not as punishing nor distinct as on some of their later records. I like this mildly more than its close successor, The Shadowthrone, even though they had certainly made a few proficient strides on that material; but this doesn't have a tune like "Mother North" on it that makes me want to rush into some fevered battle and hurl my life away in the charge. It's dynamic, esoteric and makes a bold attempt at creating a rustic, glorious experience through the use of keys and clean strings, but doesn't entirely excel at any one thing. That aside, though, this is well worth the money, because it's a straight shot of imagination that seems almost innocent in comparison to a lot of what you'll hear today, and despite their noted weaknesses, many of the songs still endure.
Satyricon's "Dark Medieval Times" ranks pretty high on my favorite albums list. As an exercise in atmosphere I regard it as more or less unparalleled. This to me is a pretty rare kind of album, one that perfectly captures the essence of what it sets out to capture, which, in this case as shown by the title, is "Dark Medieval Times."
The times are dark here indeed, and there's no light creeping in at any point. This is a cold, bleak, harsh, and somber album with little respite. A haunting and ghostly and even otherworldly intro opens the album and the mood is kept for the rest of the disc. What sets this apart in my mind is that "Dark Medieval Times" retains a genuine medieval atmosphere as opposed to a folk-styled atmosphere or merely dark atmosphere. The acoustic break in the title track and the pure acoustic "Min Hyllest Til Vinterland" really do retain a very unique, a cold and dark feeling that brilliantly captures the darkness of the medieval period. This is an album that wouldn't be out of place in a film like Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal."
The instruments here are handled competently. Being a fairly old school-style of black metal, there isn't a lot of technicality to speak of as the focus is on atmosphere and not technicality. The drumming is typical, consisting of very fast blast beats and standard, but effective slower patterns. The vocals are a grating screech, which, while not terribly unique to the genre, fit the music perfectly. Organs, whispers, and lots of acoustics are all used very effectively in creating the atmosphere.
There's little negative to say here. Now and then the atmosphere breaks as the music meanders along and becomes uninteresting, but for the most part the music is solid and consistent.
The atmosphere that is achieved here is astounding. Genuine medieval darkness is here: dark castles, evil forests, other worlds, the plague, and cold are all present on this album to a degree that I've not found on any other album. For those looking for darkly grim mood music, look no further. This entire album resonates with a feeling of ominous darkness and an almost dream-like atmosphere. I highly recommend this for any fan of metal and medieval music.
When many metalheads hear the words "medieval metal," Satyricon quickly comes to mind - particularly because of this album. Everything about it is pre-Renaissance influenced, from the scales to the riffs to the unusual instruments. Dark Medieval Times employs much dissonance and varied speeds, as well as an enormously icy production. Take a look at the cover art. Its achromatic tendencies give the listener a feeling of wandering in a frostbitten Norwegian kingdom around the early 1300s, of course in keeping with the overwhelming atmosphere of the album. It is immediately evident from the cover art that Satyr and Frost feel a yearning to return to the aforementioned Middle Ages, and to escape the monstrosity we call the modern world. This desire permeates the album, transferring the feeling of discontent with the modern world to the listener. This idea is one of the key points that make the album so effective.
Another central aspect of Dark Medieval Times is the musicians themselves. Satyr, not content with simply performing his well-developed vocals, also takes over guitar and bass, and plays them equally proficiently. The guitar's ice-coated tone again contributes to the overall feeling of the northern Middle Ages, and when it does away with the distortion in the acoustic passages, it does not lose even a bit of its effect. The bass, while not entirely audible, it occasionally makes itself known with a distinct tone that adds even more to the atmosphere. Frost, meanwhile, whips across the drums, varying between speedy blasts, midpaced beats, and powerful rolls and fills. Somehow the drums manage to be icy themselves, possibly related to the cymbal tone. Besides the main instruments, several unusual (for black metal, or even metal in general) instruments come into play throughout the album. These include subdued choral chants - not the symphonic kind, mind you - as well as strange wind sounds. There is even a flute in the title track; you really can't get any more medieval than that. The interesting usage of these atypical sounds and instruments and variation in the vocals and the use of the acoustic guitar make Dark Medieval Times quite distinctive.
The third and perhaps most important central aspect of Satyricon's debut is its actual music. The songs range from eight-minute black metal epics to short but equally chilling acoustic interludes. "Walk the Path of Sorrow," the opener, displays a mastery of dissonance from the first minute with a strange chanting section that perfectly captures the ancient Nordic spirit. Once the first and possibly most infamous Satyricon riff comes in, the song draws in the listener in its murky splendor. The track then proceeds to hold said listener in its grip for its entirety, meanwhile varying from soft, minor-key acoustic parts to more harsh passages. The synths in this song work very nicely, as well. As it approaches the eight-and-a-half-minute mark, it abruptly ends. Thankfully, there's more to come.
The beginning of the title track takes what the previous song left off on and runs with it. Here Satyr and Frost display more of an understanding of variation, in both the structure of the song as well as the riffs and patterns. These variations involve a remarkable whispered passage as well as background wind effects, plus an especially memorable flute-guitar duet. This song also runs beyond eight minutes without becoming monotonous or repetitive, and ends less harshly with a nice ending flute line. Straight on the title track's heels, a shorter, more straightforward song takes off - "Skygeddans." Apart from its classic black metal tendencies, it contains a quite interesting middle section employing sudden, quick, and harsh electric zaps over a quieter acoustic melody.
"Min Hyllest til Vinterland" offers a break from the speedy opening trio. It only contains one lyric: an oddly sinister, moaned line in Norwegian. More wind effects penetrate the song, as well as a bit of flute. Though not at all harsh, the song is still very threatening. After the interlude ends, the listener is treated to a chainsaw-resembling guitar riff, followed by two more songs filled with ridiculously fast and accomplished drums, awesome, chilling rasps, great riffs, and dark, moody background synths, as well as a couple acoustic passages. The album closes with the excellent pseudo-instrumental "Taakeslottet," so labeled due to its quiet, indecipherable whispers. There are some varied riffs here, some fast and some not so much, and the only disappointment arrives long after the album ends - when the listener stops hearing the riffs in his head. Luckily, it's still there for another listen.
Satyricon would soon "evolve" into a black-'n'-roll band of inconsistent quality, but for now, they were at the top of their game. Dark Medieval Times, along with the follow-ups The Shadowthrone and Nemesis Divina, offer insight into the minds of two highly nostalgic individuals hearkening back to ancient times, and after you listen, you'll join them in their longing.
Depending on who you happen to be speaking to, opinions on the modern Satyricon range from 'a great and scene-leading modern metal band' to 'a vile and heinous pair of foul traitors to the one true cause of black metal'. This is their first album, and very quickly it is clear that in the course of the intervening decade-and-a-half Satyricon's philosophy on music and metal has changed almost beyond recognition. Sure, they haven't changed overtly on a musical level - markedly dynamic, riff-centred black metal - but rather, their entire style and stance is now completely different. On "Dark Medieval Times", they were a raw and atmospheric band close to the ideals of black metal in every way; the desperate yearning for ancient times, the dust-covered production echoing from the depths of the far past, the long, introspective songs, the black and white pencil drawn cover art depicting a snowy scene with a castle and a warrior on horseback. Cliched, sure, but powerfully authentic and atmospheric for all that. Nowadays, Satyricon's black metal is no more than an icy trapping which they use to enshroud their pounding rock anthems.
Musically, this is fairly unique. The songwriting is dynamic, at complete odds to the relentless droning of Burzum or Darkthrone, and expansive. Compositions meander swiftly from riff to riff, flowing like a river on its winding course: tempos and intensities modulating as the flow increases to a rush, or slows to a gentle ripple; completely eschewing conventional structuring for an epic exploration of musical vistas. Acoustic interludes are not infrequent, lending yet another level of dynamics to the music, and often augmented by flute, keyboard, or the icy sound of a blasting wind. Riffs progress melodically; wandering, searching, yearning, but inevitably returning to their tonic roots, tension constantly at work in microcycles of build and release. The structures themselves feel rather loose and floating, not mired in the earth or worldly concerns, but free - wafting in eddies of gentle build and release.
Indeed, despite the amount of musical progression and change inherent in this music, sections are rarely composed to shock or startle; the album is fundamentally relaxing and cerebral rather than energising, a journey of the spirit rather than of the body. Occasionally themes are taken up and explored in cyclical, constructive fashion, creating a sense of genuinely purposeful progression, but these moments rarely resolve and instead drift apart like mist before the cold winter sun. Intense screams or dark croaking speech pierce the fog like knives, bitter and sodden with a glacial and raw menace. A genuinely chilling sense of evil emerges from songs like "The Dark Castle in the Deep Forest", the dark and drifting riffs torn apart by baleful shrieks, groans and moans. Elsewhere, the atmosphere is contemplative, mystical, or even beautiful, but never overtly enraged or confrontational.
Production is idiosyncratic, with the distorted guitars, drums and vocals (all the most intense elements) seeming to emerge, wraithlike, from a vast distance away - the echoes of conflict long forgotten - whilst the acoustic guitars and keyboards are far closer and more intimate, though still aloof and somehow inaccessible. Even the most crushing of grooves or fastest of blasts emerges diffused and filtered, their visceral nature evident yet spread wide as a cloud; the sharpness and intensity reduced, but the weight of heaviness still transmitted in hypnotic waves across an apparently vast distance. A deep layer of reverb surrounds most instruments, creating a further depth of cavernous echo that swallows everything. This production really cements the impression given by the gently meandering riffs and songwriting that this is a lost whisper emanating from far away, something ancient, encrusted with the must of ages and the ice of a wintry solitude.
The album is not perfect, however. Occasionally there are missteps that reveal the architects of "Dark Medieval Times" to be merely human, and these sounds to be not the groans of ancient spirits but the work of a couple of young Norwegian lads with a guitar, bass, keyboard, drumkit and microphone. These slips in the facade are entirely compositional; occasionally, a contrasting timbre will appear with slightly rushed suddenness, and the transition from the echoing ice of the distorted sections to the much more intimate acoustics jars slightly, a notch in an otherwise perfectly smooth and seamless surface. This occurs mostly in the title track, but is not enough to ruin the song. Also, some strange compositional choices (like the sudden loud instrumental 'hits' that occur in the mid-song acoustic passage in "Skyggedans") occasionally grate against the tone and flow, and the thought occurs: 'did these guys really know what they were doing?', jarring one out of the serenity the rest of the work inspires.
The album also suffers from a lack of memorability that is derived from its meandering riff style and multitudinous segments and sections. Unlike Burzum or Darkthrone, whose hypnotic repeating of phrases provides an anchor for the otherworldy explorations, here the overall effect itself lingers far more than any individual track. Some sections occasionally leap out - the ghostly yet martial intro to the album at the start of "Walk the Path of Sorrow", the opening riffs on the title track and "Skyggedans", some of the evil riffs and keyboards in "The Dark Castle ..."; but mostly the songs are obtuse and difficult to fathom, requiring concentrated listening to get the most out of. This can cause people to mistake the music for 'boring', which is a common complaint levelled at "Dark Medievil Times" from newer fans of the band.
In conclusion, this is probably the most interesting Satyricon album I've yet to hear, caressed by a wonderful and mesmerising atmosphere that by far transcends anything they've managed for years. Whilst not overtly powerful, and falling short in places (perhaps due to an incomplete insight into the effect of the music they were creating), this remains a fine piece of work.
Satyricon’s present work is recorded in studios in America. Their first few releases were recorded in grim and frostbitten historical Norwegian ruins, and it shows. Their Debut, Dark Medieval Times, is what many consider to be essential second wave Norwegian black metal. This is entirely justified by not only the quality of the music, but the stunning atmosphere it creates.
This music is cold. Ice cold. The mood it conveys is one of solitude and grief. The chilling guitar tone cuts through the sound like a blistering snowstorm, only to break into memorable acoustics. Frost’s drums are not at their prime yet, but still a pleasure to listen to. His blast beats are definitely as vicious as ever. Walk The Path Of Sorrow opens the album with the sound of fierce blowing north winds. The sound carries on for what seems like too long but in fact just enough to mesmerize the listener in order for the ferocity of the coming storm to catch them off guard. The black metal is fast and unrelenting. The acoustic breakdowns are something that I dearly miss from Satyricon albums. They really make songs like Walk The Path Of Sorrow for me. The title track carries the depressive ambience to a new level. Remaining fast at times and also breaking into melodic interludes. The inclusion of flutes make this track a very interesting and remarkable listen.
To say this album is raw might be misleading. The production is far from crisp but the heavy use of melody doesn’t bring the word ‘raw’ to mind. There certainly is pure black metal here (Skyggedans, Into The Mighty Forest) but also pure and dark melody (Min Hyllest Til Vinterland). Keyboards are not used extensively but are truly eerie when they included in the music (The Dark Castle In The Deep Forest).
Within the album sleeve Satyr has left a message about the recording of the release. Closing that message he says ‘Dark Medieval Times is Dark Medieval music for the ancient Vikings of Norge.” Although this may seem humorous today, it’s clear that the young mans corpse painted face was straight when he wrote these words. Jokes aside, this album is serious music for serious black metal fans. Pick this up and experience the cold and dissonant bleakness that is Dark Medieval Times.
It's not the album I'd listen to every day and night. But this kind of music is not meant to be radio hits or songs to sing along. It has - or rather, it had, for today hardly any bands do - the specific atmosphere, that can interest a careful listener.
First thing which always amazes me, is that with little or hardly any means some men can create things interesting and better than those MTV professionals. Here we've got two guys doing the whole album, with distorted guitars, some clean guitars, bass (but little audible) and drums... and recitation and flutes in some places. But it's all done simple ways, raw as hell and lively. I see - they could do it by themselves, I salute this. The cover is not Picasso - and that's good. It's a drawing, done by a non-professional as far as I can see... But what's best about it - the cover fits the album perfectly, illustrates its inside and I can't imagine another picture here!
The album is old-fashioned and not over-blasted, the drums in very large parts of the material do a slow work accompanying guitar tremolo. First comes "Walk The Path of Sorrow", beginning with an interesting dark intro. Like being led, or maybe going myself into the past, and towards the northern lands. That's what all this album is about. After this long track (for a typical listener's standards) comes another long one - over 8 minutes of "Dark Medieval Times". This one is really interesting even to non-metalheads, for containing said clean guitar pieces and flutes. The main riff is repeated, but the song structure is rather complex, reminding of Mercyful Fate changing their tempos and melodies.
Then we've got "Skyggedans" and "Min Hyllest Til Vinterland" - another interesting concept, wind blowing over the northern forests and some lyrics recited. It was 1993, at these times it was something new, something fresh - and after all those years it's still good, pioneering material. Our journey goes on "Into the Mighty Forest", and as we've arrived... "The Dark Castle in the Deep Forest" - two atmospheric tracks. The last one is intrumental "Taakeslottet" which fits perfectly into the album, as a good ending.
Despite being loud and probably unlistenable to some - this album gives very much atmosphere, it's condensed darkness and cold. Yet another interesting thing about it is that no lyrics were published - it has even more taste of a mystery, something interesting. It is no hit collection - but a work that can show the listener a world long gone by.
Although I am by no means a long-time fan of black metal, I seem to enjoy the earlier releases of the genre rather than the garbage labeled as "post-black", or the thousands of clone bands who have releases with production so poor that neither "lo-fi" nor "raw" suffice to describe how unlistenable they are. Luckily, I found this gem of an album after searching for recommended bands on Last.FM, and hey, the recommendation wasn't half bad!
Dark Medieval Times is a brooding, ambient exploration of the very nature of black metal itself: to be as grim and depressing as Hell itself. The production is quintessential of black metal albums released in the early 1990's; the guitars sound extremely raw, almost like chainsaws to the ears. However, they can be so low in the mix that at times (such as in Walk the Path of Sorrow) they just sound like a buzzing noise overpowered by Satyr's vocals and the keyboards. The riffs I can hear, though, are memorable and one may find them stuck in their head if they listen to this album enough. Another nice addition is the incorporation of acoustic guitars, which do not detract from this album's menacing atmosphere whatsoever. The bass almost seems like it isn't there, but at times you can hear it droning through (not enough for me to really rate it, though). Frost is a hell of a drummer, but actually a creative one on this album, since he doesn't turn it into a blast beat hell like he seems to on every other black metal album he has been personnel for (1349, anyone?). The beats are catchy and at times hypnotic, layered behind the keyboards and melodic guitar leads. Keyboard work on this album is top-notch and the vocals seem full of hate (in a good way). Satyr's voice reminds me of early Burzum at some points, but without the suck.
Overall, I simply have to recommend this album to anybody who likes black metal. I constantly find myself coming back to listen to it, even after the hundredth, even the thousandth time.
I can still recall the day I bought SATYRICON's first release 12 years ago. This is not because, in itself, that day was any more special than other ones, but because this album unlocked the gates to a world that had been unknown to me until then. A world of Vikings, castles and vast forests. I thus entered the realms of "DARK MEDIEVAL TIMES".
We adults lack imagination when compared to children, and we need something to stimulate and trigger the process where all things rational are left behind and only the mysterious remains. This is what "DARK MEDIEVAL TIMES" does to me. It makes me delve into realms that no eye can see, and which exist only in the dark depths of my mind. When I first heard it, it made me dream of the times when Vikings still ravaged Europe and of centuries when the inner walls of castles were illuminated by torches. Today, it still has that effect on me, but there's another one as well. It makes me dream of the days when Satyricon composed songs of high-quality Black Metal! In both cases, we are talking about times that are gone for all eternity and will never return! In any case, I feel it is my duty to praise all the instruments used on this album. The guitars maneuvre exclusively within what were back then the newly-set borders of Black Metal, both soundwise and riffwise. The drums are not an imitation of Death Metal blast-beats, nor are they the result of artificial studio work which, as it happens today, gives drums a totally anti-BM sound that would have been more suited to pop music! Instead, they have a very special feel to them, a sound that typified all Black Metal albums in the first half of the 1990's. They are both complex and easy to follow, and beneath the buzzing sound of the guitars, appear to infuse the songs with a life of their own. The vocals on "DARK MEDIEVAL TIMES" are not exactly at the forefront, but simply loom in from the background like a spectral shade through a veil of mist. Which brings me to the atmosphere of this album. The only words that come to my mind are "misty" and "icy". The keyboards that are used on a regular basis throughout the songs accentuate this dense atmosphere further. What we are dealing with is Black Metal music with elements that are, if I may say so, darkly medieval. Unique in the most positive meaning of the word!
Too many bands have attempted, over the years, to create an album that is truly Black Metal-sounding yet has an atmosphere rooted in the middle-ages. As far as I can tell, they all ended up playing a mixture of folk and BM and sounded funny rather than dark or medieval. SATYRICON, however, were far more skilled and gave the medieval period a Black Metal expression. We all know it as "DARK MEDIEVAL TIMES".
With Dark Medieval Times, Satyricon not only laid a strong foundation for themselves, but in doing so were also a part of redefining the sound of black metal along with bands like Darkthrone, Emperor, Immortal, and other now-legendary acts who just happened to live in Norway.
Dark Medieval Times is an album whose cold majestic atmosphere seems to creep out of your speakers and into your unremarkable little world like a subtle fog; engaging the listener before they even realize what's happening. Satyricon have always had some of the most unique riffs in metal and these are embellished, not overpowered, by the use of acoustic guitars, flutes, wind sounds, and keyboards. The song structures are far from predictable and keep the listener engaged from beginning to end through each tempo and mood.
Every song on this CD is well-crafted and compelling. "Min Hyllest Til Vinterland" feels as if you're atop some grey mountain during a snowfall, listening to Satyr recite the words of an arcane prophecy. "The Dark Castle In the Deep Forest" shifts among several great riffs before culminating in a hypnotic melody that seems as if it could play on forever. You could go get a bite to eat and when you come back you'll still be hearing that one! "Taakeslottet" is a doomy way to end the CD and features chilling melodies that evoke wonder and trepidation as if the listener has crossed the threshold into a glacial palace filled with haunting sights. Perhaps this is what the rider on the awesome cover art found when he entered that castle on the hill.
The production is simple and raw. It was a time when drums sounded like drums and only pop bands used triggers. When black metal musicians dabbled in the occult instead of in techno beats. When hotshot producers ridiculed the idea of working with underground metal bands of any genre. Dark medieval times, indeed.
This album is all the more remarkable when the ages of the band members are taken into account. Satyr and Frost were teenagers when they recorded this gem! What were you doing at that age? This album not only helped evolve the sound of black metal, but one can also hear where a lot of folk metal bands took their cue as well. The influence of this album can also be heard in the music of the current lo-fi black metal scene.
Dark Medieval Times is simply an essential album for all fans of black metal.
Black Metal…infamous and laughable in all aspects. While the culture does have many moments, only some bands break through the void to actually create worthwhile music. One of which was the likely couple of Sigurd (Satyr) and Kjetil (Frost), two young adults who would become pioneers in the genre. Over a year of culmination led to the spawning of Dark Medieval Times, the duo’s mysterious and sinister debut. One should know first hand that the atmosphere on this album is concise and dark as fuck; no fooling around. Another reason the album is somewhat scary is the fact that the lyrics are a complete mystery, as they were never printed for some reason.
The cover uses only white, black, and the correct shades of gray to display what we call the Middle Ages. “Walk The Path…”, the title track, and “Min Hyllest…” display strong atmospheric presence and are filled in with misty guitars and (pun coming up) frosty beats. The catchier and Metal oriented tracks include the title track and the last 3. There is also the use of acoustics and an assortment of folk instruments, notably on the title track and “Min Hyllest…”. This criss-cross use of lighter instruments and Black Metal techniques shows the views on Norway itself, elapsing between how Norway is to the rest of the world and to how Norway was “meant” to be. These elements will definitely make you feel like you’re on a journey through Medieval marketplaces, heavily forested trails, and dark paths within lands of evil.
Seriously, I can develop a concept off the top of my head for all the tracks, even though the album is a concept on its own. An example is “The Dark Castle In The Deep Forest”. The shriek of Satyr stirs up the tenebrous hordes, rampaging out of the forest to overwhelm the hidden castle. Progression leads to victorious succession, as the hordes begin to consume all in their path. No good-hearted soul is kept alive, and the forest becomes forever tainted by the black mark when Satyr’s flag of evil is raised. While this may seem corny as hell, it works. However, I will put my money on the title track, “Dark Medieval Times”, as the best track. This track displays both light and dark elements of Satyricon’s music while also showcasing uncommon styles of playing. The song opts for alternating Black and Hard Rock rhythms, brooding for a very catchy and accessible work of art; believe me, you’re gonna be bobbing your head to this one.
The synths, eerie guitar riffs, tortured screams and benevolent chants of Satyr, and the typical “Frost” drumming pattern which we all love make up pretty much the entire album. The bass isn’t heard so well, as production wasn’t so standard as they are today. Nonetheless, the production suits the album well and creates a superb atmospheric effect. Satyr provides guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals, an incredible task for anyone who has experienced such stress. One should give Sigurd credit, as he manages to perform very skillfully at such a young age on his first record. Frost…shit what’s new about this ill motherfucker? He’s the dopest sidekick to have, and in Satyricon he commands the battery mid-tempo and simplistically, trailing beside the main melody of each song.
One thing to take note of is when to listen to this. To let this CD fully envelope you, I would suggest listening to it late at night (during sleep is best) when it is really dark. That way, you can allow the sorrow of lives during the Middle Ages seep through your ears, not only listening, but feeling the music. With that in mind, I urge you to pick up this album. Really, what better way to celebrate Halloween and kick off the bleakness of winter with Dark Medieval Times? …The Shadowthrone? Well, we’ll get into that one later…
Dark Medieval Times was Satyricon’s first full length album and was released in 1993. Astonishingly Satyr, the leader of Satyricon was only 18 when this album was released. This I feel is a colossal feat, due to the fact that this album was to become a definitive in the black metal genre. Having released two demos before Dark Medieval Times this album was to be set in blood one of the defining albums in black metal history because of it quality value and unimaginable talent emanated from the youngster Satyr.
Dark Medieval Times is a blend of coarse black metal collaborated with Nordic folk music which is extenuated through long medleys of traditional Nordic flute. This is an acquired taste, yet for people new to the genre it is quite welcoming. Walk the Path of Sorrow opens the album with classic Satyricon style, coarse moaning guitars halted by flute solos. This basically foreshadows the album; with all tracks being lengthy black metal anthems expect Min Hyllest Til Vinterland, which is an instrumental. Into the Mighty Forest is epic incarnate, spanning at 6:19 this is a deep and beautiful piece of music. The song differentiation isn’t that eminent through this album (aside the instrumental). This to some will be the downside of the album, but also some would look upon it as consistency, which is a defining quality in good black metal.
The production is crude and harsh, with an eerie mist like feeling toward it, creating a hardy base for the instruments to work amongst. The guitar sound is almost drowned out within itself the treble is so high, but this makes for good listening, this technique is used in numerous black metal albums, i.e. Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Panzerfaust. For elite black metal fans this will be no surprise but to untrained listeners this album is a shock of primitive black metal at its fullest.
Dark Medieval Times is a classic black metal album most fans of genre should own. In a phrase it is the heart of some of the crudest black metal to exist, yet a beautiful conveyance of an alternative style of classic Nordic folk music.