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A lone latern at the wake of Mother North. - 96%

hells_unicorn, November 18th, 2012

Often overshadowed by their larger than life contemporaries Darkthrone and Emperor, Satyricon was nevertheless able to carve out a highly esteemable position amongst the Norwegian ranks of the 2nd wave, offering up a raw yet grandiose sound that couldn't help but resemble a curious middle ground between the 2 aforementioned bands. It's a fairly strange marriage of sound when one considers that Darkthrone is widely know for their barebones simplicity and rigid orthodoxy, whereas Emperor took on an esoteric and wildly progressive take on things, perhaps being surpassed only by Enslaved in their level of technical extravagance. But Satyr and company somehow manage to make all the pieces fit together, and it culminates wondrously in their 3rd and magnum opus "Nemesis Divina", and album that can arguably be looked upon as the end of the glory period of the 2nd wave and a final aftershock following the turmoil that the scene witnessed in the mid 90s.

The friction between the two extremes that have influenced this album is unrelenting, yet masterfully contained and focused so as to hit the ears with a concentrated dose of auditory violence. At the very onset of "The Dawn Of A New Age", a slamming blow of frosty chords beat down the walls like Thor's hammer, in a manner not all that dissimilar from what was employed on "A Blaze In The Northern Sky", but unlike said early classic this beast piles on layers of keyboard sounds and is a good bit more technical in its riffing approach. It's not quite as fluid and blurred as Samoth's and Ihsahn's twin guitar assault, and even takes on a rugged thrashing character similar to Demonaz's work on "Pure Holocaust", but it definitely comes close to hitting the same pinnacle that was grasped on "In The Nightside Eclipse". If there is any downside to this song, it's that Satyr put it at the beginning rather than the end, since it pretty well sums up the overall character of the early 90s Norwegian sound.

The further things go, the deeper into the mystic ether the album proceeds, throwing a variety of differing musical devices that have since become staples of the genre. The intro of "Forhekset" conjures up future images of the sort of post-rock freeflow typical of Agalloch, though it is almost instantly supplanted by a battery of cold guitar riffs and chaotic drum work typical to the mid 90s sound. One area where Satyricon may have a slight edge over their intended objects of emulation (namely Emperor and Enslaved) is that they've gone even further into the through-composed realm, having contrasting ideas hitting the ears with even greater frequency than "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk", not to mention that the closing section of "Forhekset" explores the folksy realm in a manner more befitting of Windir or Moonsorrow. It gets to the point that one has to resort to repeating the song before even getting to the next just to try and fully comprehend all the ideas that have flown out of Satyr's guitars and the keys.

The rest of the album follows the same general pattern of finding even more unique ways of confounding the listener's expectations while still sticking to a standardized formula, but the absolute zenith of the fold proves to be "Mother North". In much the same fashion as the spellbinding gloryride that was Emperor's "Into The Infinity Of Thoughts", this thing literally teleports all who hear it into a haze steeped forest of wonder amid the winter bitten mountains of Norway at dusk. The song itself cycles through a series of faster and slower sections, but the principle theme features a relentless blasting fury out of Frost that somehow surpasses Faust on the insanity factor, and adds an addition luster to the streaming tremolo riffs and majestic keyboard voicings. Poet Robert Frost penned in his work "Fire And Ice" that a cold death would be a less desired end for the world, but one would be easily swayed by this Nordic trio to think differently when considering the glory present on here.

Apart from a somewhat bizarre element of studio gimmickry on the last couple of songs that don't really seem necessary, this is pretty much flawless by the standards of 2nd wave black metal with a symphonic tinge to it, and by far the most compelling and astounding work that Satyricon has offered up. Anyone who was taken in by "In The Nightside Eclipse" and "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" will be easily swayed by this one, and I have personally even found myself preferring this slightly to the latter. It acts as something of a bridge that connects the next generation of bands such as Limbonic Art, Odium, nay even Darkspace to the grand tradition that was conceived in the 90s by Emperor, yet also acts as a reminder to the newer generation that the mystique of the style lay in its low-fi production practices, and it definitely exhibits the same tendencies that Darkthrone has continued to cleave to until this very day. "Nemesis Divina" is, for lack of any better description, timeless, and deserves all the praise it has received.