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There have been many claims of yawning while listening to Satyricon’s ‘Now, Diabolical’, and while I’m actually feeling a little sleepy right now, I’m going to put it down to the big meal I’ve just eaten and dive straight into the melee. This album doesn’t do black metal (those people are right), nor does it do anything I’d call black ‘n’ roll (anyone who spells “and” with one letter can’t possibly be correct), but what it does do is take a few Darkthrone albums - perhaps ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’ and one of the newer, simpler ones, like ‘F.O.A.D.’ - dumb them down and smooth them out a bit, add in some quieter passages that bridge a strange gap between moody, creepy, and “waiting for a train”, then toss about a quarter of Satyricon’s own ‘Volcano’ back into the mix just when you thought that they’d forgotten what they used to sound like. Sounds a bit messy, right?
Messy isn’t quite what I’d call it, since in more ways than one this is better organized and more exact in its intentions than any of the band’s past efforts. Quite why it took three and a half years to reach this point after ‘Volcano’ is anyone’s guess, but these guys have made rather a habit of neglecting to meet expectations for a while now. Once again shirking the genre of their last full-length, ‘Now, Diabolical’ is an album that riff enthusiasts and progressive metal haters are going to enjoy in equal measures. Even though ‘Volcano’ was not a complex album, we have here 8 songs that revel in their structural simplicity and instant appeal, right down to the “epic” closer ‘To the Mountains’, which doesn’t surprise or deviate as much as it could. The mysterious atmosphere of ‘Black Lava’ and ‘With Ravenous Hunger’ has been toned down, leaving a much barer approach to the sound, which focuses almost solely on Satyr’s thick guitar tones and Frost’s semi-extreme battery, which bears some resemblance to Fenriz’s style of late. There are some minor features, like the use of horns and other wind instruments, that add a grandiose touch to an otherwise stripped-down and combative album.
The thing that seems most worthwhile about ‘Now, Diabolical’ is that Satyr hasn’t completely forgotten that the atmosphere of Satyricon’s albums was usually the best thing, though it would appear that some songs have other concerns. Although a little dull after a while, the echoing, seeping guitars of ‘Delirium’ and the churning tremolo doom riff of ‘To the Mountains’ do create that lonely, lost feeling that I’ve heard running through a lot of the band’s work, despite the fact that they are also rather balls-out and to the point than before. The direction that Satyricon were moving in (and have continued to move in, lest we forget) is towards rather straightforward atmospheres that don't include any of the nostalgia or archaisms from 'Dark Medieval Times', using a narrower emotional range that concentrates more on inner strength and determination, as well as the struggle to find such strength when in opposition to the world. Those trade-off riffs that appear in 'A New Enemy' and 'The Pentagram Burns' do a rather simple job of conveying those themes, shifting from rollicking uptempo rage to pensive, cool deliberation and back again, as if in constant thought and inner struggle. In fact, one can rather imagine the apparent recording scenario, whereby Satyr took himself to an isolated cabin in the snowy countryside to compose the album, so that the only things to mark the time are internal - the changing of moods, the passing of sensations, the feeling of Frost's manly hand on his shoulder (this last one is just my speculation).
What actually happens as a result of this general pattern is that songs are fairly engaging and interesting to follow while you are listening, yet one finds that, after the album has finished, you can't be sure if that blastbeat section was from 'The Rite of Our Cross' or not (it is, and it's pretty lonely in this regard), whether that marching chorus was from 'A New Enemy' or not (it's probably the album's best), or whether the starkly quiet section in 'That Darkness Shall Be Eternal' or 'The Pentagram Burns' was more haunting (a toss-up in this case). The middle section of the album in particular really suffers from having similar songs, while the title track and 'K.I.N.G.' stick a little more persistently in my head, even if the ideas aren't greatly superior. The off-kilter slides on 'K.I.N.G.' strike a good balance between catchy and atmospheric, though there's a suggestion that it's merely a rock song with darker lyrics, which is no problem for me but has turned off many before. In the end, the songs boast solidity more than anything spectacular, which leaves an album suitable for shuffling, but doesn't withstand too much intense listening.
I liked this album when I bought it and listened fairly regularly, yet I'm not sure any more if it's really that great. I'm not convinced that Satyricon sold out when they released 'Now, Diabolical', though their sound has grown slowly simpler over the years. Maybe there's some truth to be found in the idea that this album was "back to basics": however, it just reminds us that there's a reason why the basics were developed in the first place.
In listening to this album, I came to one simple conclusion. The individual songs on this album are good, but the album is boring. This is not an album that works well being listened to cover-to-cover. However, if you're listening to your entire music collection on shuffle, and a song from this album comes on, it's definitely worth banging your head to.
Of course, reviews don't work like that, but rather on cover-to-cover listens.
The album is, to put it simply, boring. Almost the entire album is filled with mid-tempo guitar riffing, standard AC/DC-type drumming, monotone vocals, and almost inaudible bass. It goes nowhere. The only interesting tracks are the last two. Even then, "To The Mountains" clocks in at an extremely overlong 8:25. The final track is the standout simply because it's the only one that has any blast beats or any real black metal heaviness to it.
Then, the album is further marred by production. It has absolutely no punch to it. The bass, while present, is almost inaudible, and mostly follows the guitars anyway. Nowhere is this inaudibility more noticeable than on "The Pentagram Burns," when there is a break where the guitar holds out a chord for a few measures and the bass does a little "C#...E..D#" fill, where the sustained guitar almost completely drowns out the bass, even after three measures of this sustained chord. The drums on this album do no better. They have no bite to them. Honestly, they sound muffled throughout the proceedings, as if the drum heads were made of felt.
All this is to put Satyr's guitars and vocals front and center. Unfortunately, there's nothing interesting about them. The guitars plod along with similar mid-tempo riffs (with some black metal chord voicings) and the vocals are completely monotone. No effort is made on the vocal department.
Of course, all this ripping on the album doesn't mean the individual songs are all bad. If "K.I.N.G." or "The Pentagram Burns," for example, came on a radio station, I wouldn't skip them. They're catchy and fun in those really small doses. I just can't take more than one or two songs in a row before I become bored to tears. Ultimately, that's the album's real failing.
While previous Satyricon works after Nemesis Devina simply bored me but never really made me wanna turn it off, Now, Diabolical does. This actually is hard to listen to, much like Metallica's $t. Anger or Lulu. This review will be painfully short, because this album is so painful I can only listen to it in small amounts.
Here's a summary of how it goes: shitty riffs on top of boring drumming with unenergetic vocals. Don't be fooled, there will occasional good riffs, but they will wither when it's apparent that they will go nowhere. You know how on previous Satyricon's early stuff there would be riffs that weren't as good as the rest, but it didn't matter since better riffs were around the corner? This time, it seems those are the best riffs. Seriously, I heard the first riff of Now, Diabolical and actually liked it. Until I realized that was the best song on the album, and the opening riff is the best riff in Now, Diabolical.
And don't get me started on Frost's drumming. For being such a good drummer, Frost pretty much ruins whatever good riffs are on this album with his super-standard drumming. Seriously, this is the conversation I imagine:
Satyr: For the next album, in addition to not playing fast, can you seriously cut out the ornament and style? I want it as plain as possible.
Frost: What? Then the drums will be boring!
Satyr: But I don't want the drums distracting from my riffs or vocals!
Frost: Ok, if you wish.
Seriously, Frost does NOTHING with the drumming here. And the guitars... they do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! It's like Satyr took the worst of black metal and removed all aggression from it. It's like everytime Satyr was on the verge of coming up with something good, he restrains himself and holds back and comes in with a filler riff. It's so annoying. It's like those metalcore and deathcore bands that would have a semi-good riff, and then ruin it with a pointless breakdown. Whereas Rebel Extravaganza was merely boring and forgettable, I remember riffs here and there from Now, Diabolical, and I really, really, really, don't like it. Any good riffs barely get any play time, and Satyr seems intent on repeating the shitty riffs over and over again, with Frost doing drumming that can only be described as the demo drums from programs like GuitarPro or something like that.
This is why I hate black n' roll. I've seen a few black n' roll bands, and the conclusion I came to is that it's shitty riffs that are often no more than power chords over completely staid and stale drumming with no variation or aggression to speak of. I don't have an intrinsic problem with mixing hard rock/heavy metal with black metal (Craft are one of my favorite bands, they're mid-paced/slow most of the time) but the atmosphere must be maintained. Here, it's not, and this is a flaw I see in many black n' roll bands.
The big thing holding this album back for me is the utter dearth of passion and effort. This screams "phoned in" and sounds like more of a recording class project than a proper album. I'm sorry this review is so short, but I can't take listening to any more shitty riffs or shitty drumming. I rated this 22 because there ARE moments of shining riffs or inspired drumming, but they are so far and few in between that there's no real point in this futile excercise. Seriously, this makes Rebel Extravaganza look like black metal gold. It's that bad.
I explored Satyricon back in 2006 when the single K.I.N.G. got released. A friend of mine told me to check it out and also check out the other new song the band had put out, called The Pentagram Burns. The last mentioned is a song I fell in love with straight away and up to this day it is still my favourite song by the band. Back then I had never heard anything in the vein of this melodic black metal style that Satyricon has developed. Even though this album leans more towards some kind of modern black metal since the core of the black metal sound are more, think the other term is more fitting, since they continued down that road as well. It's been some years since it has been released and I have grown very fond of the album. But of course objectivity comes into play. The album got a rather rough production, even though this it not something that may strike you at first, then compared to their later work, it is. If I had done this review prior to '08 my opinion would more likely be different.
Compared to the successor this album proves to be more evil in its sound and also vocally. A thing it shares a bit with The Age of Nero, definitely is the dark sound, but as the darker sounds took over on Nero and I think the black metal roots are easier to hear on Now, Diabolical. That may make it more easy to listen to if you're a black metal fan and prefer the stuff done in the 90's, if not, I can describe it as a harder version of The Age of Nero. Through some tracks, for example The Rite of Our Cross the band uses some slower riffing played in the likes of a more atmospheric sounding guitar to kind of give some of the song a kind of haunting feel and sound, and in the song mentioned here it really works well.
Satyricon have the ability to pick out some really good covers from time to time, the only cover I don't really like is Rebel Extravaganza. A cover I really like from the bands earlier days is Nemesis Divina, even though Dark Medieval Times also has a splendid cover, Nemesis Divina is more relevant since Per Heimly who was behind the work of that cover back in '96 also got employed for the artwork of Now, Diabolical. Since it is the most recognized cover from the band, at least when I look back it is fair to say a good job was done for this cover, and I think it looks great, but you be the judge of that!
Songs I would call fourth from this album are K.I.N.G., The Pentagram Burns, The Rite of Our Cross and To the Mountains, but it is worth going through the whole album. Even though it contains some really good gems and my favourite song by the band the production and consistency of the album just can't match The Age of Nero.
Written for The Legacy Reviews
After spending a few years and albums batting around various ideas and directions, Satyricon seemed to have finally settled in on what they were seeking with their sixth full-length Now, Diabolical. This album is the culmination of stripped down black metal aesthetics cast in a rock formula, and it has a drier tone to it than either of its neighbors (Volcano and The Age of Nero). I admit to being apprehensive once I heard that the band signed with Roadrunner records, and then upon seeing the lame rock star video for "K.I.N.G." I was terrified for what had become of this Norse duo. Thankfully, the song itself had a few clever hooks in it, and upon experiencing the album in its entirety, I felt that it was far more cohesive than the two before it. I can also say that Now, Diabolical is a 'grower', which is unusual, since I generally place that trait with albums of some complexity, or at least an impenetrable mix or atmosphere.
No, this is all around accessible from the get-go, sufficiently streamlined for their major label jump, but hypnotic nonetheless, and it helps a lot that the first three tracks are among its best. "Now, Diabolical" itself has a mildly Slayer vibe to it, with some slower thrashing riffs and a mild escalation, though the chorus feels obvious, repetitious (as it will with many of the songs). Then comes "K.I.N.G.", which is played at a steady, mid-pace with this excellent, mesmerizing chord sequence and a traditional rock structure that culminates in a killer groove around 2:20. The vocals here are quite representative of the album: very dry and even monotonous, but the means by which each line of imagery is delivered with an almost laconic amount of effort only adds to the effect. This was a personal hurdle in slowly warming up the music, but nowadays I doubt I would have wanted it any other way.
"The Pentagram Burns" is another track that deserves some mention, as it's got my favorite riffs on the album, in particular the verse itself, given a shining, diabolic radiance. This track goes one further to introduce horns into Satyricon's sound, but here they are used more for a pump up of the guitars in the end. They'll be used again in songs like "The Rite of Our Cross" and the closer "To the Mountains" to greater effect. The duo also experiments more with atmospheric, melodic passages further along the course of the album, like the chorus of "A New Enemy", and acoustics are also implemented through "The Rite of War Cross" and the intro to "Delirium". Probably the best song on the latter half of the album would be the 8 minute monolith "To the Mountains", with a lot of lurching doom riffs, precision double bass, and a well developed escalation towards the sweltering horn-driven climax. I almost wish the band had decided to use the horns for more of the songs, though I doubt they wanted to alienate their audience entirely.
But that's really what it all comes down to: do you mind an established band moving off into new territory? Satyricon had been down this road for years, and I think with Now, Diabolical and the ensuing Age of Nero they've made a damn fine show of it. Sometimes you've got just got to take the music for what it is, and in this case it's very riff-centric, with basic patterns that might not hold an appeal to those seeking endless tremolo streams and blast beats. If the guitars were awful, then it absolutely would not work. And yet they're pretty good licks, at least the best that Satyr had written for going on a decade. Now, Diabolical is a good time. Just try to ignore that damned video...I know I wanted to impale my eyes on a spiked armband after that stinking, narcissistic tattoo party. It couldn't have been any worse if you had Frost sport a pink dress and attending some ladies' high tea idyll.
Ah, Satyricon those who would love you for ever more if you were to say “Lock up your daughters, here’s Satyricon!”. A band who’ve, once again, gone for the jugular shocking-all-of-us by forcing together black metal (or is that a black metal aesthetic at this point?) with more traditional heavy metal; that ever illusive mix that seems too good to be true. But perhaps it only seems that way because its practitioners happen to have lost whatever respect they had for either style when they decided that Metal Hammer photo shoot was just too good an opportunity to miss. While the value of Satyricon’s early work is still up in the air for me, personally, I’d hope we’d all agree that the band are doing their dwindling credibility absolutely no favours with this unfortunate wants-to-be-called-black-n-roll-but-sounds-like-Marilyn-Manson-got-Lords-of-Chaos-in-the-post garbage.
They’ve never been a truly respectable band, really, but I think Nemesis Divina was a relatively decent pop black metal album (think of it like Def Leppard’s debut, except for black metal’s second wave… and a bit better than the said Leppard album). Not something I’d listen to much, or admit to liking, but a nice enough album. But now, they’ve followed the stirring in their loins and grumbling bank managers, uh, sorry, artistic inclination to quite an astounding level of audience pandering. Yes, Satyricon are the black metal band your sister will like -- straight from her first listen, too, she’s not going to be scratching her head over what this funny noise is! No, Now, Diabolical is an album she’ll love from first exposure. But again, there’s got to be something in those band names, hasn’t there? The ‘Satyr’ part, yes, he’s a horny fucker -- a voracious appetite for all sorts of things; namely the sorts of things that lay betwixt the legs of young girlies, never mind the whole ‘integrity’ thing. Ha, you can almost picture the A and R man popping his head round the door after the girls and wine have all been finished off with… “Right lads, now… Diabolical! Let’s get a really intense take, here!” Can you smell phoned-in bullshit? I sure can. Way up in my ivory tower I think I can usually sense when a musician is bored out of their wits by that meddlesome music thing, or moreover, has other, extracurricular activities on the mind. Satyricon seem all too into this sex and drugs bit, never mind the rock ’n’ roll part; that’s just some distant, mid-tempo buzzing noise they’re not sure they understand. They had a better understanding of the other distant buzzing noise, what was it? Ah, black metal. Yes, they did… but unfortunately their understanding of either doesn’t really amount to a justification of the attention they’re still getting.
And what’s that? Oh, it’s the song’s main riff don’t worry about that, you’ll be hearing it more than enough times for it to be DRILLED INTO YOUR HEAD. Christ, Now, Diabolical may not have anything I’d truly say was a great hook but Satyr and Frost must disagree with me what with their nauseating repetitions. Nauseating repetitions. Sure, you’d probably find similar levels of actual black metal on a mid-90s Smashing Pumpkins record but that’s not stopping the lads from digging out some of its more dubious synth-brass sounds. Oh yes, keeping parts of your initial fan-base on board sure is important to expanding your audience. Let’s just hope some token blasting (‘The Rite of Our Cross’) and dubious brass-keys are enough to please, eh?
Well, not just that! Giving the fans the utmost value for money we have shitty, unbearably twee black metal lyrics. Can you smell phoned in bullshit? Oh, wait, I’ve already said that. Okay then, let’s think of a shocking theme in metal today: let’s say, National Socialism: an obsession with your own country and race, a fetishism for big black cars, strapping young boys in uniform, men with moustaches and being “amongst the boys” … er, actually scrap that, National Socialism isn’t all that shocking; homosexuality has been legal in western Europe for quite some time now and one can probably find similar fetish clubs in any major city in Europe or North America. Ahem, anyway, isn’t this somewhat cutesy “sing about Satan and nature because it’s what the older boys did” stuff? I doubt even if Catholic parents would get all flustered other this. For shame, Satyricon, just when you really giving Marilyn Manson a run for his money in the utterly boring drivel stakes, you can’t quite can’t make the leap to being true professionals…
Poor Satyricon, you’ve pandering and begged for every scrap from the big boys’ table. You’ve whored yourselves blind (never mind the funny contact lenses, you’ve got to spend money to make money!), and now you can’t even make the real leap into being major league whores. Alas, always the bridesmaid and never the bride! Maybe even In Flames will snag that big hit before you do. The horror! Oh, the horror!
Gone are the days of the castle dwelling, corpse painted Norwegians we once knew as Satyricon back in the ‘90s. Their latest offering, Now Diabolical, is similar to 2002’s Volcano in that it is heavily rock n’ roll influenced with plenty of black metal flavour. It seems to be a sort of tribute to bands such as Venom or Bathory for arguably creating the genre of black metal. If you actually give the album a chance for a decent hearing before screaming heresy and betrayal you might actually be impressed with what Satyricon bring to the table this time around.
Musically Now Diabolical isn’t a whole lot different from Volcano, although it seems to be a bit more straight forward with shorter songs and simple structures. Opener and title track is a good mid paced headbanger with cool breakdowns and a catchy chorus. The following two songs, K.I.N.G. and The Pentagram Burns were the singles of the album and more or less carry on from where the first left off. I much prefer The Pentagram Burns as we are shown some awesome guitar solos from Satyr and it carries a dark atmosphere that reminds the listener of older Satyricon releases. Delirium is a slower paced song which nearly feels out of place but thankfully showcases some darkness to the music. The final two songs are clearly a treat for the fans. To the Mountains is an eight minute epic and Storm of the Destroyer is the fastest and most chaotic song present. If only the song was around five minutes longer it would sound like something off of Rebel Extravaganza.
Although Now Diabolical doesn’t capture the melancholic grimness The Shadowthrone did so well, atmosphere is something Satyricon haven’t lost. This impressed me because although the music is completely different, the messages and values of Satyricon remain. One thing that was a disappointment to me was the drumming. Having heard earlier releases from this band I know full well the ferocity and speed that Frost is capable of. Although full throttle blast beasts would sound largely out of place throughout most of this album, it is something that I missed nonetheless.
If you are a fan of this band or black metal in general and have not yet heard Now Diabolical I would recommend that you look into it. It may not be your favourite or theirs, as it isn’t mine, but it’s a good and interesting listen anyhow.
Satyr and Frost are playing a dangerous game on this album. After the triumph (in my opinion) that was Volcano, Satyricon have toned it down somewhat- something which is always difficult to appreciate by some and embraced by others. It may have been slightly acceptable if it were their first album, or released by a different band - but, as much as it hurts me to say it - it just isn’t.
The first thing we notice is Frost. Or rather, his apparent absence upon listening to the songs, which causes us to check the booklet to make sure it is actually him - which, apparently, it is. Just listen to 1349’s, Hellfire, and try and tell yourself that it is the same drummer.
Next, the guitar work. After only playing since late 2005, I was quite proud with myself with being able to play the album in its entirety without the use of online tabs. I have since realised, however, that it is no unbelievable feat, even for a relatively new guitarist. But it is quite a fun album to play along to - I’ll give it that much.
Satyr’s traditional raspy, gargled voice saves the album from oblivion. What is disappointing is the almost complete abandoning of keyboards and occasional female vocalist appearance which added quite a nice feel to the otherwise uncompromising Volcano, and for those of you that think it was a disgrace to “true black metal”, I think you have missed the point.
All in all, not a very interesting effort from, though I can see it working well live. Unfortunately, it does not cut it on the recording. Look elsewhere - first to Volcano if you have not already; (I understand it is supposed to be the worst thing they have ever done - but I really disagree).
I'm probably not the best person to review this album, as my Black Metal knowledge and experience is pretty much zero. But I'm still pretty sure that this isn't standard black metal. Basically, the album consists of 8 slow moving songs which all overstay their welcome. The first two song's aren't bad. Definitely the most radio-friendly songs on offer, but that's the strength of them. Sure, they're slow and not overly complex. But at least they're catchy and kind of melodic. Most of the last six songs are slow moving, pretty simple songs, which do little but trigger headaches with complete lack of rhythm or musicality. Apart from the occasional good riff it's just painful random notes. Along with the vocals getting more random and less interested in what's being played.
There is a few good parts to be found around the album. Every song from "The Pentagram Burns" to "That Darkness Shall Be Eternal" have one or two of these. But it's hardly a high rate of success. Also, almost every song seems to have a segment made purely to annoy. The title track has a pointless minute in the middle where nothing really happens, just a few trombones or something. Most songs have sections where nothing really happens for 20 - 30 seconds around the middle, but none as long as the first song, and they NEVER work.
Even with this, the album is at least listenable, until you get to the last two songs. They're longer, have more brass instruments, are slower, and worst of all have vocals which don't make sense. Basically, the music plods along as the singer screams out the title as loudly and randomly as possible. It's seriously just a yell, it's not a 'musical scream', and for that reason, Delirium and To The Mountains leave a very bitter taste in your mouth, or more accurately ears.
Musically the band is really quite bland. It's all slow chugging post-black metal, with the occasional tremolo picked section thrown in, but still played at a snails pace. The first two songs are more, Black 'n' Roll I guess you'd call it. Featuring more straight up rock riffs, with a lot of drive which easily makes up for the lack of technicality. So if you heard either of those songs, which are cleverly the easiest ones to get a hold of for free, be warned that the rest of the album isn't remotely similar.
The drum work is generally pretty basic. There's a little blasting on a couple of the tracks, but overall it just keeps time. And considering the fact that all these songs are slow and around the same tempo, it does get a little boring.
Which leads me to my next point, none of the songs have an identity, an individual purpose or goal for the song to reach. They all just seem like the band wanted to make some post-black metal, and they wrote a few riffs, shared the good ones out evenly, and filled each song up to an acceptable length with very similar sounding crap. The problem is none of the songs have anything drastically different from one another. The first two songs have that rock influence, but all the others just sound like the core sound of a post-black sound, with nothing giving them any real features to make them stand out.
Finally, we have the vocals. I for one find Satyr very good. Hes not piercing, it's just a good scream, it generally seems to sit on a pitch in between black and death metal and is quite easy to distinguish words. His lyrics aren't stunning, but they're not bad either, so the fact you can understand what he's saying is a nice touch.
The production is pretty clean, not exactly standard Roadrunner clean, but still quite clear. The guitars are a little fuzzy, but not so much that it distracts from the music. Overall the album has a pretty good sound. The drums are quiet, but they do sound natural so it all sort of works. Other than the quiet drums everything is mixed quite nicely. The vocals are only over powering and grating on the last two songs, and other than that fit in fairly well.
Really, Now, Diabolical isn't a bad album, it's got 6 songs which are worth listening to, admittedly only two that I'd bother putting on a CD for, but it's not that bad. The main problem is the last two songs. They really make you forget all the good. In fact I was going to tear into this album, but as I listened to the album again as I wrote, I realised that other the last two songs, everything is listenable. There is a drop of quality very early, but it's not as bad as I originally thought. There is a fair amount of good here, and the song's don't run into each other or anything, it's simply the lack of anything to make the songs stand out from one another, or to give them energy, or just to make them enjoyable. So, from someone who can't compare it to earlier work, don't pay for this.
The title of this review is off corpse a citation of Darkthrone and just like Darkthrone, Satyricon is the centre of attention. Negative attention, mostly. All the usual bitching comes into play. Where are the glory days of Dark Medieval Times? For myself I have to admit that I am one of those true-uberkvlt BM-maniacs that just can't get enough of the cold breeze of DMT and the majesty of Nemesis Divina.
The later albums of Satyricon (just like Darkthrone) are more rock & rollish than the previous. Catchy riffs and dito drums. It seems to me that Satyricon was searching to define their new found style on Rebel Extravaganza and Volcano (which I think sucked) and Now, Diabolical is in complete balance.
I rated it with 80 points simply because of the music. It IS good! But let us take a closer look on the arguments against the "new" Satyricon. If one listens carefully you will hear the both Satyr and Frost are doing the exact same trick on Now, Diabolical like they did on Dark Medieval Times. Does this implicate that a bad production really equals True Black Metal? I leave that to you.
There is some room for criticism here. Both Satyr and Frost have said in interviews that Satyricon nowadays is disciplined unit trying to make good songs, stripping them down to the basics. Sadly enough, this has resulted in some sterile tracks where they could have (but didn't) give the songs just that tiny bit of extra detail for the right bite. To my taste it is a little bit TOO calculated.
This band used to blow me away with everything up to 1996 with Nemesis Divina. The band just kept getting better with Dark Medieval Times, The Forest Is My Throne and Shadowthrone ending their peak with Nemesis. This catalogue alone is enough to cement their legacy in the history of black metal excellence. With Rebel Extravaganza you saw the signs of a band just itching to break out of their relative anonymity.
Satyr is very much in love with the idea of being a popular rock star. I personally don't have much of a problem with a band changing their sound, as long as it still sounds good. But how often does this really happen? Then comes Volcano which just made them sell outs. Not only did that not get many new fans but it probably made old, faithful fans run to the hills and throw away their Satryricon t-shirts in the garbage. Volcano was terrible. This band is capable of legendary music. They've proven that to us, while Now, Diabolical isn't even close to anything from 92-96 it's still an enjoyable release nonetheless.
I didn't even know this album came out that's how much I fell off their wagon. Then I saw the video for K.I.N.G. and for some reason I liked the song. The video was crap but that's a different topic. Everything in my mind told me not to like this band anymore, much less the song itself, but fuck this ain't half bad. The melody stuck in my head and even though it wasn't "true black metal" it was still good. I would call this album "blackened rock music". Frost doesn't really let the animal loose here, his drumming shines on 1349 and the latest Gorgoroth album and Satyr's voice still sounds good.
Musically its similar to Volcano but slightly heavier and the songs are just plain better. I understand if they want to appeal to a wider audience and with this album and it probably will. This time they fully absorb and embrace their sell out status and they make it work. For someone who's a diehard raw, true, kvlt black metal fan like myself, this is a guilty pleasure. Everything pointed to me slamming this album with a big fat ZERO but it gets the passing grade just because it's so damn catchy. And that in my mind deserves some sort of praise. If it weren't for their illustrious past I'd probably give this 5 more points. But in a way their past hurts this album and haunts the band because we know they've done this much much better before.
Satyricon must be the only Black Metal band to actually court popularity and go out of their way to find a wider audience. I find this approach to such a marginalised genre appealing, amusing and positive - again, alien attributes to such a misanthropic, humorless cult of musicians. Satyr has never made any bones about his desire to be the biggest band on the planet and has tried to work his way up the billings of many large metal festivals that would not usually feature the blacker arts on their line-ups. He has succeeded, of course.
With Volcano, they seemed like they were headed in the right direction for world domination, filled as it was, with dark grooves and danceable riffs - nothing to thrashy, harsh or occult. Fuel For Hatred really should have been a sunday tea-time charter, born from the purest rock and roll, then welded onto a menacing atmosphere. With Now, Diabolical, Satyr has insited on using the same, never changing, tempo for each track (not the whole album, different tracks, different tempos), and working with rhythm to create the effect of changing speeds. Possibly this approach has had a negative impact on the album. Whilst K.I.N.G., The Pentagram Burns and To The Mountains have a fair momentum behind them, Frosts drumming is never truly allowed to let rip as it has been before, and you can feel the guitars straining at the leash against the restraint Satyr has forced on them. Maybe this album is too clean and too restrained - a bit of dirt and impetuousness is present in the biggest arena filling bands, so it's not an element that needs to be left out in order to achieve that kind of status. But then, this is also the approach that gives this album an originality and freshness that is all to absent in most other releases of this kind – Black Metal of Norwegian origins. There is much repetition here, in the vocal elements as well as the guitars. Delirium for instance is the ultimate repetitive chorus, simply repeating the word over a simple slightly fuzzy riff that slowly bends, rather than shifts. The album serves as more of a languorous drone than any empire baiting hellstorm and maybe it is cynical of me to assume the whole conceit of this album is designed to shift numbers big time, but Satyr has been very candid about this, and it's also pretty clear from the development of Satyricon's sound these last few albums.
This is by no means a harsh album, and if ever BM could get close to Pop, then this must be the closest it’s ever come.
While I call Satyricon's Volcano 'Black & Roll' or in other words a familiar form of Post-Black Metal, "Now, Diabolical" is a pure commercial album completely away from being a black metal release except for few blast-beat drumming and some how the cute extreme vocals, and cute here means awful! I'm not one of those who are against Volcano and Rebel Extravaganza though I'm not their fan, but I respect Satyricon's change in sound while doing it well. When it comes to N,D I have to admit that Satyricon are putting themselves on the road(runner) of their own end.
Satyr's voice became weaker than that on Volcano & no more wicked full of evil like that on the masterpieces "Dark medieval times", "The Shadowthrone" & "Nemesis Divina", just evolving into a more ear-familiar sound. The music structure in most of the tracks is in normal 4/4 timings not alike the old albums just to support the ear-familiar sound theory, In addition to the slow hardcore guitar riffs or the groovish ones as each track is based on few repeated guitar riffs with slight changes, tremelo picking riffs are absent here. Frost stores his experience and fabulous touches for himself playing normal beats suitable with the lame song structures yet just adding some breaks & blast-beats here and there to remind us that he was the amazing Frost one day, at the same time the drums stay the good thing about N,D. Also, few background keyboards are used within the album adding a good atmosphere to the songs.
The mixing & production of the album is perfect, the vocals & every instrument appears clearly, crystal clear production.
Highlights: The Pentagram burns, The Rite of War Cross, To the Mountains (fading out with a nice outro).
Now, Diabolical is another album from a true metal band changing into being commercial in the same way of Dimmu Borgir & Cradle of Filth just like the other Roadrunner bands changing their metal roots or just being commercial.
Recommended to the Satyricon diehard fans, Volcano lovers or those who love the easy to absorb extreme metal like Dimmu Borgir's late albums.
A good release in the scene of commerciality competes with late Dimmu and Cradle of Filth, but its actually lame black metal (if its considered black metal).
My rating for all Satyricon albums compared to each other for guiding & comparison:
- Dark Medieval Times (90%)
- The Shadowthrone (95%)
- Nemesis Divina (90%)
- Rebel Extravaganza (75%)
- Volcano (80%)
- Now, Diabolical (65%)
Satyricon has changed, no more folk stuff or the ‘traditional’ Black Metal production, like in Nemesis Divina or Shadowthrone. When something like this happens to a band that has its name already carved in the scene (this is hard in the Black Metal scene, believe me…) a new record always bring something like “Oh, will this be Dark Medieval Times 2?” to the mind of all the fans, but let me tell you, this is NOT Dark Medieval Times 2, not Shadowthrone 2 and not Nemesis Divina 2, it’s Now, Diabolical, it’s the new Satyricon, get used to it. Satyr doesn’t want his band in the underground, he wants the spotlights. Can you blame him? I don’t, now it’s up to you to judge.
Well, let’s start by the name. Black Metal bands tend to be seen as the bad guys in music, that’s the way these bands try to gain mainstream status (okay, perhaps Dimmu Borgir just popped in your head…), but the name Now, Diabolical sounds kinda pretentious in my book, specially for Satyricon that didn’t named their records so obviously evil. Sorry, Satyr, but this is for Dark Funeral patterns…
Now, kids, let’s go to the sound? Yes! Production? Clean, clean and clean. That’s not a bad thing, but, as I see, if the sound were a little more Black Metal, the CD could be a bit evilest, cause songs like ‘The Pentagram Burns’ with its mid-paced riff would sound like Satan likes. Speaking of riffs… Satyr wrote lots of ‘em, in part they’re stoner riffs, like on the bridge in the title-track. It worked quite well in Satyricon’s sound; it’s good they add some new influences to their sound, though this is often bad-seen due to the ‘sell-out’ crap.
To the songs now, finally. I’ll try to describe them the best I can, since every track has a particular thing, I’ll not describe them generally.
1. Now, Diabolical: The title-track. Heavy intro with a very catchy riff. Frost as always, showing his skills with the double-bass. The entire song has bended riffs, very Iommi-like. The song itself is very head-bangable and has a nice, slow-paced interlude. To me what ruins the whole song is the chorus, it seems so obvious and cliché the “Diabolical now” screaming.
2. K.I.N.G.: Weird title, could be easily called KING, but I’m not Satyr, so…
Anyway, this song has the most commercial appeal, is by far the shortest song on the album, by far the most straight-forward, by far the simplest, the catchiest, this could go on for a while. The lead 2:33 is quite good; you’ll probably shake your neck during this one. Good song, period.
3. The Pentagram Burns: Cliché Black Metal title but besides that, this song is excellent, as I said before, if the production were a little poorer, this song could sound very evil (it actually does a little bit). It’s mid-paced almost all the time, doesn’t have any blast-beats and like almost every song on the album, this one has a very good interlude. One of the best songs in the record.
4. A New Enemy: This song starts with a moan (NOT Vikingland 2, okay?) and worked quite well, I must say. After the first 50 seconds you can hear the Iommi riffs again. The verse has fast drums and a good guitar riff. Good song.
5. The Rite of War Cross: Hmmmm, clean guitars in the beginning, that’s an improvement, but don’t expect to hear it for a long time, soon the distorted guitars starts to scream. Another surprise in this CD, a blast-beat! Yes, a miracle. This song follows the same pattern as the other songs: Intro, Verse, Bridge, Chorus, Verse, Bridge, Chorus, Interlude and the Verse, Bridge repeats a few times.
6. That Darkness Shall Be Eternal: The intro riff it’s a little dull, followed by Satyr doing a spoken part. Nothing much to be said about this one… Below average Song.
7. Delirium: This song has also an intro with clean guitars; it matches the song quite well. The verse has a good riff. What ruins the whole song is the chorus. Damn, to yell Delirium 900 hundred times followed by a spoken part in the middle? No, that’s made for hard rock or something.
8. To the Mountains: Satyricon loves to put the last track as an epic, and with Now, Diabolical is not different. This song has a special feeling, it has lots of tempo changes and has pretty dark riffs, a perfect closer. The main aspect here is that there’s not a pattern followed, like the other songs and the bended riffs are not here anymore, I guess Satyr wanted to leave the last song a little bit TRUER or as you may wish to call. One of the best songs in this record.
An advice, if you are open-minded and liked the two last Satyricon records, buy this one, you’ll not regret it. On the other hand, if you only listen to blurry Black Metal, stay out of this.
The first thing that came to my head while playing the first track "Now, Diabolical" was the daunting question "Is this even Norwegian Black Metal?!" but it's only when I kept listening through the tracks did I realize what Satyricon's album was about. What the band had started with (their rather experimental) "Rebel Extravaganza" and had progressively developed with "Volcano", they had perfected on "Now, Diabolical". Yes, it may have taken them 7 years to figure it out and jam it right in the studio but it's always good to hear the sound of a band that has mastered what it had set off to develop. It is not the purpose of this review to debate or judge the fact that Satyricon or Darkthrone, or other "tr00 kvlt" bands had re-directed the way Black Metal should sound, because as far as I'm concerned it were these bands that sat down a decade ago and ordained what Norwegian Black Metal SHOULD sound like. So when, today, they have something different to say I believe they've earned the right to be heard and respected.
The most notable aspect of "Now, Diabolical" is its sheer originality. The album has a very distinct sound to it and I guarantee you won't find any other Black Metal album out there that hosts the same sound. So don't anticipate finding any old riffs ripped-off and artfully reproduced and sold as new material because Satyricon did indeed come clean in this regard. Unlike other Black Metal albums I've heard this year, this album DOES NOT get repetitive at any point. Many good albums are infected with the disease of repetitiveness. You have one or two good tracks and the rest just being their covert derivatives. I must say that "Now, Diabolical" is not infected with this disease because each song has its own unique tunes/riffs and perhaps this is why the album holds only good 8 tracks as opposed to having 10 or 13 with the latter part of the album all sounding the same.
The production and the mixing is very crisp on this album and this is exactly what you get for signing with RR (RoadRunner records). Songwriting and musicianship are good but not exceptional. Frost does a decent job torturing his equipment but again you get the feeling that his skills are held back or rather bound to each song's tempo. I just sometimes find it hard to believe that Frost who incidently drums for 1349 is the same person who drums for Satyricon. Go listen to 1349's "Beyond The Apocalypse" or "Hellfire" and contrast Frost's drumming on these great albums to his efforts on "Now, Diabolical". I haven't got my hands on the lyrics but from the ones I could make out from Satyr's raspy sound are good but again not the ones that would cause you to change your philosophies or beliefs overnight.
The first couple of tracks really set the pace for the rest of the album and are outstanding. My personal favorite is track 6 "The Darkness Shall Be Eternal" because (besides having tons of great tunes and riffs) in my opinion really presents the sound which Satyricon were opting for, and I believe that their next album (2009?) will be hosting the same sound or maybe a more mature/less progressive derivative of it. The final track, "To The Mountains", even though has a "slow" tempo for a Black Metal song ( in fact many "tr00" fans might not even view this song/album as your standard raw Black Metal), yet I can assure you that it's what the "new" Norwegian Black Metal should sound like. The last track has a great outro (perhaps the highlight of the entire album) where the band mixes the sounds of a trumpet (I think?) with their riffs.
I have a serious complaint about the the cover artwork. Looking at it gives the buying consumer the feeling that "all evil" resides therein and that they're about to purchase a "real" Black Metal album. But once they pop in the CD and listen to the first couple of tracks and can actually hear the lyrics does it dawn on them that this not as "Satanic" as it seemed on the cover. You can also see this same phenomenon on Darkthrone's "The Cult is Alive" album cover. The way the Darkthrone logo is depicted and the artwork is portrayed immediately sends chills inside you even before you listen to the music, but once you hear their mediocre Thrash Metal instead of primitive Norwegian Black Metal you start to wonder why the "all evil" artwork used on the cover. Our brains have learned over the years to associate the grim and dark depictions on album covers with raw and primitive Black Metal (perhaps these drawings are what inspire us to buy the album in the first place). And since SOME bands have decided to take this genre to a rather unusual sideturn, their respective producers have decided to keep the good ole' Satanic imagery on the album covers to keep that happy consumer coming for more. If you're open-minded about music and a REAL fan of Satyricon then you should buy this album. If you're searching/opting for raw old-school Norwegian Black Metal then this album SHOULD not embrace your cd-rack, go listen to 1349 or Gorgoroth or Tsjuder or Taake instead.