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Satyricon has long been one of my favorite black metal bands. Say what you will, their albums always spoke to me of an 'elite' consciousness of their own place in the world (and to a lesser extent, the Scandinavian) black metal scene. They took upon themselves the burden of being innovators. My favorite Satyricon album (and one of my favorite albums of all time) will always be 'The Shadowthrone', drenched as it is in esoteric medievalism and folk melodies. To a lesser extent, as well, I would place 'Nemesis Divina' among the highlights of the Norwegian scene in the '90s, and only in a lesser role because of the fact that it hasn't aged that well: on certain listenings it sounds like a prop for 'Mother North', the material besides that song not standing up to the single.
One thing I know about Satyricon: their music sounds better in the Winter. It's just a necessity for me. In a serious listening of their music an entire web of evocative influences is created to bewitch your mind with its black spells. What better way to give in to that enchantment than place yourself in a suitable locale or environment for the ultimate reception?
What we have here on this album is a deliberate intent on the part of Satyr to bring his music kicking and screaming into the late 20th century. Gone are the elaborate and dreamy Norsk folk melodies, gone are the lyrics dealing with medievalism or 'fantasy' subjects. What we have here instead is a new palette for Satyricon to paint from, filled with the harsh monochromatics of modern life instead of the lush and colorful sounds of ancient ages. This album looks to the future instead of the past.
With that in mind, and not expecting any of the melodic elements that I had come to love, this album is a worthy exercise in Black Metal, Millenium style. The guitar sound on this album is that cold hissing Satyricon/Darkthrone epic grimness, the drums are pounding and amazingly fast (if Frost didn't employ a little 'help' here I would be very surprised!), and the melodies, if not up to par with their former work, are still catchy and accessible.
So what is limiting my enthusiasm here? It's just that I expected something more given the immense delay between Nemesis Divina and this album - to tell you the truth, I expected something miraculous. This is a solid black metal album, but one that feels out of place sitting next to their earlier works. I don't really understand the shift to 'modern' topics, or the decline in the use of entrancing folk melodies. So all I can say is 'What's next, Satyricon?'
Oddly enough, many reviews seem to be offended by Satyricon's attempt at experimentation. My tastes were not offended by Rebel Extravaganza -- if anything, I felt RE was timid and rather boring. Ignore what previous reviewers said, because there's actually very little experimentation here, unless by "experimentation" you mean "commercialization". Fear not, there are plenty of blastbeats and blackened riffs here, and this is not Satyricon selling out. This is simply black metal riffing mixed in with elements that seem out of place, like elements of hard rock which come out of nowhere. The drumming I find no fault with, but at the same time I also find very little to like, either; the blastbeats are wonderful when they appear, but too often Frost seems to be content grooving with relatively simplistic beats that don't advance the music at all, and combined with the rather erratic riffing I find after listening to RE I do not remember much of anything.
Let me make one thing quite clear: I am not against experimentation. At first I thought Rebel Extravaganza got terrible reviews because of experimentation, which, when mixed with black metal, generally produces a lot of butthurt fans. It was only after several listens that I realized it was really that bad. There are right ways to experiment, and I can name at least 4 or so black metal bands off the top of my head that do way more experimentation and do it way better. The problem with RE is that at its heart, this is really middle-of-the-road black metal. If Satyricon had just wanted to do that, I'm sure I would've liked it a little more, but songs like A Moment of Clarity and Havoc Vulture spend a good chunk of their duration not doing shit. Like, at least Darkthrone make their riffs semi-interesting even on their worst albums. This is the most boring black metal album I've heard, and I can't even rely on Frost's drumming to make up for the lack of interesting riffs, because most of the time Frost is plodding at mid-paced tempos, and there's a real lack of "let 'er rip" in Frost's playing here.
Satyricon have managed to do something here that I thought was impossible, and that was to piss off both the closed minded black metal fans who want nothing but Darkthrone clones AND bore the hell out of the open minded BM fans. In fact, stylistically, RE isn't really all that different than a newer version of olskool Bathory, except Bathory managed (and still manages) to get my neck swinging. I do not feel compelled to swing my hair in a windmill at any point while listening to Rebel Extravaganza.
So when we get down to the nitty gritty, all this amounts to is rather staid and stodgy black metal interspersed with really boring blackened rock with boring vocals and drums that don't really do anything out of the ordinary. And that's why this gets such a low rating: when compared to traditional black metal, this hardly qualifies as a two-fisted effort, and lacks the aggression of more earnest black metal efforts, while at the same time when judged as a more experimental effort, it falls short. Sure, there are moments of genius here and there, and Frost occasionally shines like in the song Supersonic Journey. However, anything Frost does is hardly distinguishable from simply being Frost doing what Frost does. Satyr certainly doesn't hold up his share of the burden, and the riffs range from forgettable to being simply terrible. There are keys interspersed throughout the album, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a case of too little, too late, and frankly I know Satyr's capable of better. I mean, is it much to ask that on an ENTIRE album there be at least ONE memorable riff? Instead we just get chords and chugging. And more chords and more chugging. Well, at least there's one notoriously hated black metal album that earns its scorn. Seriously, folks, stay away from this, there's way better stuff in Satyricon's discography, and there are WAY better efforts in the realm of experimental/avante-garde/industrial black metal.
I’m not going to lie to you, this album made me very worried for a while. I was concerned that Satyricon, being a rather popular black metal band, was relatively UN-experimental in how they played. I thought that all black metal was going to be like this. And then I learned that this was a really industrial take on the classic black metal sound. Needless to say I was pleased to know that I was wrong.
Perhaps I’m being a little harsh here. This album is not terrible. If you press play and stick it out, you will find some enjoyable moments and it is far from torture. However, I can almost guarantee that within a week of your last listen you will totally forget about it. I’ve done the same thing over the course of three days. The album is just too repetitive to really distinguish songs from each other, as everything has the same tempo blasting, at normal pace, and at the breaks.
For the most part this can be attributed to the riffs. There really isn’t a whole lot going on. The production is clear, but most riffs are beaten into oblivion so that all melody and sense of songwriting is lost. Everything is the same tremolo riff with different notes. Sometimes Satyr pulls himself together for some cool riffs (Filthgrinder), and other times he plays something more rhythmic (Tied in Bronze Chains). A Moment of Clarity also produces the one memorable full length song on the album that I come back to now and again.
When Satyr takes things slow and at mid pace things are OK and sometimes fun, but the blasting here just sucks. All unity of the songs is simply thrown to the wind, and despite the speed, these moments are just lacking energy. The drums almost feel mechanical in how forced they are. The Scorn Torrent avoids this by becoming almost an experiment in industrial black drone. The guitars become dissonant and at some times harsh on the ear, which I expect from far black metal, not this. Also, you can pretty much forget about guitar leads for this album.
Drums are very boring, basically doing their own thing while Satyr has fun with his ‘experimenting’. Frost does add some flavor to songs like Filthgrinder and Supersonic Journey with accented beats in the former and well placed vocal accompaniment in the latter. Havoc Vulture also features a really fun black and roll intro courtesy of Frost. The drum tone comes off a little too hollow, but I suppose I can allow that. If anything it could be louder so that I hear it instead of a solid hour of Satyr.
By far the worst offense this album serves up is the vocals. They’re bad. Satyr maintains an incredibly limited range for the entirety of this piece and tends to basically write a song and vocals separately and pair them up randomly. That’s just how out of place and ignorant of the rest of the band he is. There is no harmony, nothing to unite a song, and the songs suffer without having at least a little structure (Havoc Vulture actually has a really sweet and fun chorus).
The lyrics are also god awful. They sound like they were written by an angst-y pre-teen who just learned that society was messed up and only recently discovered the f-bomb such that Satyr is only beaten out in the swear jar by…well…any rapper. And the lyrics lack any sophistication and lack any poetic value. Look at this from Havoc Vulture: “Are you bitter when you see how pale you are? Do you feel hate without direction?”. This is simply childish and I feel perfectly justified in being condescending. FYI Satyr also makes a big deal on this record of how stupid he perceives religion to be, without being able to produce a single compelling argument.
That being said, Rebel Extravaganza succeeds in a certain aspect of industrial black metal, as the sampling and interludes are quite entertaining. The odd instruments coming in at the end of Prime Evil Renaissance are very haunting and moving in an emotionally void album. The female vocals on The Scorn Torrent also add a greater deal of depth to the track. However, the interludes are the most catchy and memorable parts of this album, with Rhapsody in Filth and End of Journey being some of the best on the album, mostly because they are the only ones that actually change tempo. This is easily the strongest and most enjoyable part of the album.
Tempo changes are not the only things left out. Songs are consistently poorly constructed on this record, with little to no organization. Riffs come and go at inconstant rates, with poor ones being overused and short bursts of actual quality guitar work. Almost none of the songs have defined choruses (Havoc Vulture and Filthgrinder are combo breakers), which sometimes makes for a progressive style song, but the lyrics fail to use this potential an the song still ends up going nowhere fast. That being said, songs take on a stronger quality the longer they are without vocals, as they really do detract and songs that skimp on the vocals seem to be the better written songs.
I know I might have been unfair to the band here, but this album is simply unmemorable and cannot stand up to most levels of scrutiny. A good part of this is due to the fact that the instruments cannot seem to really get in tune with each other, despite the fact that ALL OF THEM BUT ONE ARE PLAYED BY THE SAME GUY AND HE WRITES EVERYTHING. It’s not painful, but it won’t remain playing on your stereo for long. They did not make a repeat listener out of me, and I don’t think I’ll be recommending this anytime soon, so you could say that I’m happy that I didn’t pay full price and got this in a grab bag. Best tracks: Havoc Vulture, Filthgrinder, Prime Evil Renaissance, and A Moment of Clarity.
By the late '90s, most of the founding fathers of the Norse scene had begun to evolve in one direction or another. Satyricon, in '96, had helped push the boundaries of where black metal could be taken. Alongside acts such as Emperor, they blazed ahead of their peers. The previous album, Nemesis Devina, managed to achieve notoriety outside the strict black metal scene for its depth and complexity. So how would Satyricon follow up their 1996 masterpiece? Would they move further into that murky, frostbitten territory that Nemesis Devina existed in? Would they write an anthem that could top a song like "Mother North"?
Not even close.
The only word I can use to describe this album is "uninspired". What we have here is a collection of songs that are essentially riff salad. That in itself is the major downfall of Rebel Extravaganza. This is an example of how perfect musicianship and perfect production values do not make an album. This pretty much sounds like really well-produced riffs that jump aimlessly from idea to idea with no direction. Typically when a band becomes overly ambitious with the amount of riffs, it produces an album that is difficult to recall and difficult to store into your memory. Satyricon's Dark Medieval Times is actually one such album. The difference is that Dark Medieval Times creates a fantastic, cold, and frozen atmosphere. After listening to that album, I often have trouble recalling the individual songs, but the difference is that I'm left with a satisfied feeling after listening to it. Rebel Extravagana instead feels like a chore to get through. I find myself bored within the first minute or so of each individual track.
Aside from that I can't come up with much constructive criticism for this album. There's nothing objectionable about the album, but at the same time I just can't find anything appealing either. If you find brutality and blasting appealing, then you might not want to rule this album out without giving it a fair listen. If your interest lies primarily in atmosphere, then steer clear of this one.
If Rebel Extravaganza seems a mite fragmented in its intents, that fact rests solely on its shoulders as the 'transitional' period for the band. No longer simply content with haunting the isolated, winter shadows of some fantasy northern clime, Frost and Satyr made the decision that they'd modernize their lyrical focus and pursue a more straightforward, rock-inflected path of black metal, sort of a newer take on the ghastly Hellhammer without resorting to most of the same riffing patterns and vocals. Surely there were hints of changes with the prior album, Nemesis Divina, but where that stood at upon some glorious precipice with its brazen production values and epic, absorbing composition, Rebel Extravaganza takes us down from the mountains and into the yearning, sinful caverns of human spite.
Yet, at the same time, it is unwilling to throw away some of the bloated, burdensome structures that characterized the band's earlier, breakthrough tracks like "Dark Medieval Times", "Walk the Path of Sorrow", or "Immortality Passion". In fact, this album is book-ended by two rather enormous sonic sculptures: "Tied in Bronze Chains" and "The Scorn Torrent", both well over 10 minutes in length and sadly in need of a clipping. The former actually has some great riffing, like the dire swerve at the 2 minute mark which foreshadows a lot of their writing for albums like Now, Diabolical and The Age of Nero; the latter is something I might completely forget if not for some of the warmer bass-lines alongside the faster paced, melodic tremolo guitar passages, or the creepy lush bridge which dazzles for at least a few measures. In either case, though, there is clearly about 4-5 minutes of interesting content and then a lot of filler riffing and tedious shifts in tempo that never come off exciting or remotely necessary.
There are also several ambient/filler tracks here which don't really add a lot to the album, with the possible exception of 'hey, look at us, we're really esoteric'. "Rhapsody in Filth" is interesting for approximately 10-20 seconds with its sheen of sparse guitars, while the ringing distortia of "End of Journey" feels an entirely baleful experiment that should have just been snipped on the cutting room floor. "Down South, Up North" at least has a nice, percussive backbone to it, but the music itself is just fuzzy chugging that does no service to the 10 minute plus leviathan to follow. I might listen to this when traversing some sewer level in a survival horror video game, but there is nothing nuanced, subtle, enticing or enduring about it. And it's this very disjointed coalition of having long, fattened tracks in need of compositional calisthenics, and pretty boring interludes that make the entire 60+ minute experience of Rebel Extravangaza play out like an album in some desperate identity crisis...
But what of the rest? Well, to be completely frank, the 6-7 minute tracks on the album provide almost all of its thrills, even if a few of these could also be passed on. "Filthgrinder", for example, is a fast-paced, vicious explosion of extremity that utterly fails to hook the ears until possibly the thrashing bridge/breakdown, which in of itself is not so great. "Havoc Vulture" has this solid, grooving undercurrent which I found amusing, but despite its tinny, unnerving production and the copious, curving bass-lines it did not leave me much of an impact. "Prime Evil Renaissance" is once again a song which measures off some vapid, dull charging rhythms with an impressive, evil and atmospheric mid sequence that seems so much better than what led into it. And then there are two admittedly great songs: "Supersonic Journey", which has the best balance of riffs and blasting out of all the speedier writing, and "A Moment of Clarity", which is another tune that hints at the direction of the band for their next three full-lengths. Steady, dark and twisted groove rhythms accented with intense double bass sequences.
If this were an EP with those last two tracks I mentioned, and perhaps half of "Tied in Bronze Chains", It'd probably amount to one of their very best releases. Alas, there is all the rest of the sodden mire to trudge through, and even while nothing here is actively 'bad', it's the one album by Satyricon I feel bored in listening to. As a fan of both their earlier body of work, and their later, divisive black'n'roll sound, I feel that Rebel Extravaganza's just not able to commit itself. From a production standpoint, the metal tracks are certainly consistent, with a raw and organic edge to the guitars, a humble drum mix and audible bass, vocals and effects, but the songwriting often feels like a bunch of scrap that the band had sitting around as they mulled over their next choices in aesthetics. The cover of the album reeks of the narcissism that the band would later include in their fashion video "K.I.N.G.", even if they're going for ugliness over glamor here. The vertical/horizontal text mash-up is a gaudy attempt at looking swank.
That said, I like the lyrics here, which explore various human vices and shortcomings with a more personalized resonance than their past recordings. And, well, there are at least a few good songs here...if you care to dredge the serpent slough for them. Ultimately, though, the album just doesn't have the dramatic, raging flair of its predecessors, nor the full-bore oblique rocking and grooving of its successors, and it sort of sits in stasis, a lull in the more exciting action, a stopover on some greater journey, more of The Two Towers than The Empire Strikes Back.
What comes to your mind when you think of Satyricon? Probably masterpieces like Dark Medieval Times, The Shadowthrone, and Nemesis Divina. Those are the albums that Satyricon are most well known for and the albums that made them one of the best black metal bands of the second wave. With their 1999 release Rebel Extravaganza, they pretty much slap all of those albums in the face. Why? Because this album is boring, repetitive, way too long, generic, the list goes on and on. The point is none of the first three albums this band released were any of the words that just described this album. With this album they leave behind what made them famous. They leave behind the acoustic guitars, the folk instruments, and the great atmosphere that made them great. Satyricon were one of the first black metal bands to incorporate folk instruments and other thing of that nature into their black metal sound. Thats what made them unique and its very sad that they didnt use any of those things on this album.
First of all, there is no atmosphere on this album whatsoever. Usually when bands in the black metal genre make an album, they go for a great atmosphere. Well thats nowhere to be found on this album. Second, the instruments are all very simple. Simple riffs and simple drum beats with the occasional blast beats and tremolo picking. Now, with the right atmosphere all of this simple playing might have sounded pretty good. A good example of that would be Transilvanian Hunger. Now everything just sounds boring and uninspired and makes it look like Satyr and Frost were just making this album just to make it. The keyboards are ok, but they're pretty much lost in the mix most of the time because the production is pretty bad and the guitars and drums are so high in the mix. Bad production is to be expected on a black metal album made in the 90's though, but most of the classic black metal albums have great ATMOSPHERE.
Now for the vocals. This is by far the worst vocal performance by Satyr ever. He sounds completely different than he has in the past and even than he does on the more recent albums like Now, Diabolical and Volcano. It doesn't even sound like he's screaming/shrieking. What Satyr does basically the whole time is talk/shout in a semi-evil voice. So if you're expecting him to have an amazing vocal performance like he usually is good for, you're going to be extremely dissapointed. They could've gotten any random person to come in and scream on this album and it probably would've sounded better than Satyr does.
Basically, this is by far Satyricon's worst album to date. Yes its much, much worse than Now, Diabolical and Volcano. If you're looking for easy instrumental work and a very uninspired vocal performance then go ahead and get this album. On the other hand if you're looking for a great black metal album by this band, just get any other album in their discography. There's no way you would be more dissapointed than you would be after hearing this piece of garbage.
Satyricon is a band every true metalhead knows, so there is no need for the introduction. Let’s get on with the review…
What we have here is a piece of black metal, but not black metal that is just noise without a cause - this is black metal with some melodies, a hostile, post-industrial atmosphere and a bit more complicated structure than usually in black metal. Nevertheless, it’s still extreme music. This is quite original I would say, but still close to the frames of black metal - so we have sharp riffing, fast moments with light speed blastbeats and typical black metal vocals here. However, there are also some calm songs, like the short instrumentals “Rhapsody In Filth” and “End Of Journey”. To make their music more interesting, Satyricon used Hammond organs in “Havoc Vulture”, which gives this song a little progressive touch, and synthesizers in “Supersonic Journey”, that sound sinister and spacey. Most of the songs are pretty long: they are about six or seven minutes, and “The Scorn Torrent” is ten minutes!
The guitars play interesting, the rhythm of the songs is sometimes unusual for black metal and the music is intriguing, but there are moments when Satyricon seems to be going nowhere and that they lost themselves in never-ending blastbeating… So actually - this is just a fairly good album. The best songs here: “Tied In Bronze Chains”, “Havoc Vulture” and ”Prime Evil Renaissance” - but don’t expect them to be something outstanding in quality.
Black metal fans will probably like this record, ‘cause it’s nice music - as far as black metal can be “nice”, haha. But if you’re not really in this whole black metal thing - better look for something else. There are some better black metal records out there…