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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.