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The long-awaited eighth Satyricon album was released back on September of 2013 and it took many fans by surprise. Five years after The Age of Nero, it was obvious that the band spent time and put some deeper thoughts into songwriting, forging an album that is by no means proper black metal, or even the powerful black n’ roll of their three previous offerings. Some may dub it lifeless and numb while some others will be taken by its bleak and darkened aura. One thing’s for sure, the band took on a real challenge and came up with a very interesting result that certainly deserves attention. Let’s see why.
‘Voice of Shadows’ sets the tone of Satyricon with a slow, repetitive part that draws out a folky, Nordic feeling of grandeur, a solemn introduction for the track that follows. ‘Tro Og Kraft’ is a remarkable piece of music, a mostly mid-paced song with dark and sullen arpeggiated guitar riffs that creep up behind Frost’s thunderous pounding of the drums. Even though the album unveils itself very slowly, it is apparent that Satyr has experimented more with the guitars, constantly drifting around sections and soundscapes and creating really nice and captivating sounds and harmonies, with equally interesting vocal lines on top. ‘Our World, It Rumbles Tonight’ is another solid track, significantly quicker in tempo, fastened with scraping guitars and double bass drums that lead to an imposing chorus, as melancholic and ominous as the guitar chords that underlie it—the underscoring synths add an even more enchanting and epic atmosphere. This dark night wind rumble is soon replaced by the swaying flame that drives every beastly instinct to battle. Such is the momentum of ‘Nocturnal Flare’, which after a sluggish introduction attacks with a sharp blackened riff and Satyr’s grim snarl. This once somber trek has now turned into a nighttime expedition of the North.
The next track ‘Phoenix’ it is where the controversy starts. While it remains a decent song and Sivert Høyem executes his vocals greatly, I humbly submit that such an experiment is not a fitting addition to a Satyricon album and certainly not to the overall legacy of the band. While it’s the most memorable number, it surely does not do much for the consistency of the album. The same thing happens with ‘Nekrohaven’ as well. I understand that they need a great live song with a good sing-along chorus but they already did that with ‘K.I.N.G.’ and ‘Fuel for Hatred’, and in a better way. ‘Nekrohaven’ may work perfectly in a live situation but as a studio cut, it seems rather forced and uninspired.
Generally, Satyricon sees the band’s proclivity for musical exploration and evolution leading them to yet another musical path: a turn toward a more an ambient and gloomy black metal facet with relatively slow tempos. The songwriting is a combination of the simplistic, yet effective riffing they have already embraced with their latest releases and the atmosphere of the past. The changes are frequent, from tremolo picked guitar riffs to non-distorted chord progressions and back to a powerful chorus; the vocals too, alternate between harsh barks and spoken words but there is always a balance and every transition happens naturally. However, the atmospheric parts, especially the clean guitar interludes, are rarely supplemented by the drums, mostly because Frost’s approach is strictly limited to continuous double bass and fast breaks. Satyr’s vocal approach is unique and distinctive with a cold-as-stone vocal delivery that serves exactly what each song calls for, although the ferocious and passionate Satyr of old is certainly missed.
There is a reason that Satyricon chose this album to bear their name: it is highly representative of their modern sound. This represents another direction for the band and although it’s far from perfect, it exemplifies an honest, authentic effort driven by pure musical vision. A direction that suits the band quite well.
I'll throw this on the table right from the get-go...I've never really been a Satyricon fan. Their early works (see: "Dark Medieval Times" and "Shadowthrone") were the closest the group ever really got to "required listening", and by the time "Mother North" became the National Anthem to black metal I felt the chill of the band coming off as cold to me. Fast forward through the years and we found the Dynamic Duo of Satyr and Frost blazing from a modern industrial vibe to overproduced hard rock all the way to being the musical equivalent of drinking water for the flavor, thereby losing my attention as a result. Just dull, bland, go-nowhere meandering. While not as obnoxiously vapid as Dimmu Borgir's descent into nothingness, Satyricon's shift in focus, if nothing else, helps some appreciate the old days all the more.
With all that said, they do have a new album out (a self-titled record...is this the new cool thing with bands nowadays??? This is like the third one of its kind I've seen that year!). Which begs the question...where can they go from here?
There already was a certain degree of dullness present in the band's main musical output during the last few seconds of "Rebel Extravaganza" into their new rock-driven direction with "Volcano", but you haven't heard them go into full drudgery until THIS little number came out. The general feel of the record can be best described as Satyr growling his nonsensically esoteric rhetoric while some backing band undergoes a jam session behind him. Think an extreme metal spoken word beatnik poetry session and you've probably hit it right on the nose. This album is nothing. Absolutely NOTHING AT ALL. The music just meanders to and fro, back and forth in a wandering, listless way, albeit with a sense of smoothness, like the group was trying too hard to outdo Opeth when it comes to uber-proggy passages, only with no sense of direction, purpose, or any idea on how to do it. It's not obnoxious or irritating, just that it doesn't grasp at the attention due to not a lick of genuineness and brevity.
Some of the more harmonic sections flirt with being interesting in their own right, but all too soon they get squelched under the weight of tedium, bland performances and absolutely shitty production approaches. Yes, the whole turn into going full analog (or, at least, sounding like it) does work against the band, rendering the overdriven (see: not distorted) guitars limp and hollow and the drums possessing all the intensity of punching pillows. This is actually a point of contention with me; since black metal works the best when sounding very natural with regards to production approaches, the material within this self-titled clunker is closer to the background music of Hot Rags than a raging winter storm carving Christian flesh. For a prime example, I bring you my biggest piece of evidence: the clean crooning of "Phoenix", with no grim vocals at all to be heard. But I suppose that was the point...it seems like Satyricon haven't anything else to prove to a narrow, limiting stylistic world and would sooner use their own name to do whatever they please. If that's the case, then good on 'em...just that it wouldn't kill you guys to really knock it out of the park throughout this venture. Or would it?
So all in all, I felt absolutely nothing with this. Not a damn thing. I didn't hate, love, be bothered by or otherwise notice it in the end. This could have been a serious crapfest, and maybe it is in the end, but I was surprised that it only rolled off my back like so much water off eider down. It just is what it is...nothing.
I must say from the beginning that I own all their albums to date. But I don't want to spend money on this piece of crap. In fact, I will try to forget that the mighty Satyricon have released such a turd.
The warnings were there for all to see that this once prestigious black metal band will try to change something and move away from the majestic melodic black metal sound that they are known for. Or, were known for. Rebel Extravaganza is not a black metal album title, nor the music. It came 3 years after one of the greatest black metal albums of all time, Nemesis Divina. But what I am trying to say is that the band was already trying to show us that change was on the way.
But no one expected this. This has nothing to do with Satyricon. This is a metal album only because it has guitars that sound like metal, because the general impression is of a triple hand metal album that would have gone unnoticed had it not have the name Satyricon on the cover.
Speaking of the cover: How did old Mr. Tumnus get on the cover of a Satyricon album? What kind of metal fan would buy a metal album with the faun on the cover, to put it next to Nemesis Divina or Dark Medieval Times ?
We are presented with a few mid-tempo songs, almost identical, constructed around a main riff that is pretty simple by any standards. This riffs are failing to create any kind of atmosphere or induse any mood. I have read an interview with Satyr saying that the music can be evil enough without all the speed and aggressiveness typical for a black metal band. And he is right. The last albums of Immortal for example are far from being brutal or aggressive by black metal standards. But there was always something there that captured all our attention: the cold, dark atmosphere. That atmosphere isn't present anywhere here. And the very, very polished production and the “excelent” sound doesn't help either. Everything is so artificial and impersonal that you feel some kind of embarrassment listening to it.
I mentioned the mid tempo aspect of the songs. I can imagine that Frost was very frustrated when was introduced to the new songs. I guess it was difficult for him to go as slow as he does here. No combinations, no fills, no speed, no nerve. That kind of drumming can be very well performed by a triple hand drummer that Satyr might meet on the street. After hearing this piece of crap, I understand why Frost is doing that wonderful drum work for 1349. The guy is making an enormous effort not to forget his identity as one of black metal's greatest drummers.
Although the actual songs are quite long, clocking at around 5 minutes, there is nothing that can grab your attention. Back in 1996, the music of Satyricon was full of complex combinations of fast drums, great guitars, demonic vocals and a touch of keys that were ment to take into an apocalyptic world, full of sadness and dispair. All those elements are no longer present. There is no complexity to be found here, only songs that ar too long and for the wrong reason: the lack of good ideas. They just drag along, coming one after the other, on and on, and again and again, until the album comes to an end.
When the albums arrives painfully at the end, the general impression is that something was terribly wrong. You try to remember some kind of verse or riff ar chorus or something, anything. In that moment you realize that you just waisted an hour without getting anything back. No memory about any of the songs, just a feeling of emptiness and disspointment just like we heard Load for the first time.
Satyr has already forgotten who he is and the path that Satyricon has taken is proof enough. Satyr could have put Satyricon to rest and release this monster under his name. Excuse me, not under his stage name, but under his own, personal name. For that matter, he should have released all the albums after Nemesis Divina under a different name. But the fact that he put the name Satyricon on this pile of shit is an insult to his own legacy. And that insult, I'm afraid, it will not go away. Ever.
I will finish this review now and I will listen to the Dawn of a New Age and remember that, back in '96, Satyricon was the greatest black metal band in the world.
Don't buy it. Don't listen to it. Forget that it ever saw the light of day.
My first impression of Satyricon (the album) was the controversial track "Phoenix" with Sivert Hoyem's vocals, and it was not favorable. After years as a tolerant fan, I was finally ready to throw in my lot with the skeptics and say that Satyricon (the band) had tastelessly whored themselves in a bid for popularity or at least run out of ideas. Finally, I decided to give the album a spin.
At first, the tracks may seem too similar and too glib to be befitting a skull-stomping band of pure Nordic black metal pedigree. Where is the sting? Where are the blastbeats and growling, grandiloquent professions of satanism?
Given sufficient attention, however, this album reveals itself as an epic panorama, the most complete thought yet uttered by Satyricon. The opening instrumental Voice of Shadows serves to set the scene in the same way "Walk the Path of Sorrow" did for Dark Medieval Times, but in a more simplified and congruous way, seguing very effectively into the familiar-sounding "Tro og Kraft," which translates to "Faith and Power".
"Faith and Power" is a very apt phrase to describe the album as a whole. Throughout, Satyricon is a strikingly self-assured and powerful work, despite (or perhaps due to) lacking the conventional black metal tropes of early Satryicon, the long-winded, inconsistent experimentation of Rebel Extravaganza and Volcano, and "black and roll" accessibility of Now, Diabolical and Age of Nero.
What we're presented with is greater artistic unity and a fully developed vision rather than their previous albums' alternating brutal and banal tracks, and it's up to your taste to decide whether it's a compelling vision or not. The overall tone is one less of satanism and more of paganism. Satyr's old tricks are here, of course, with tracks meandering off into atmospheric or folk passages, but in the past these variations often outstayed their welcome (a la the unending flutes in "Dark Medieval Times" and glacial guitar passages in Volcano's "Black Lava"). Here, the slow instrumental passages actually make organic sense and balance the harder elements.
The tracks offer a smorgasbord of previous Satyricon styles, from the "Den Siste"-ish "Tro og Kraft" to the addictive groove of "Nekrohaven," redolent of "Fuel For Hatred." However, whereas "Fuel For Hatred" had a catchy opening riff and kicks before giving way 30 seconds of off-kilter riffing in the middle, "Nekrohaven" is a solid, coherent composition throughout. A bit pop perhaps, but played with a suitable lack of adornment. "Ageless Northern Spirit" opens with a rock-steady pace, but gives way to an actually interesting spoken-word section that states "Faint cries from ocean birds/ rays of light down the valley/ tore me out of my rhythm/ listen" before returning to Satyr's typically acerbic vocals. "The Infinity of Time and Space" repeats this pattern with alternating passages of rasp and lyricism. Like the jacket art, this album exists in the black metal world, but pushes ahead into the daylight, where the blackened elements are colored by pagan pantheism.
Downsides of the album include the occasionally banal lyrics (smoke in the sky makes a few appearances), and the pointless remix "bonus tracks" included, which are entirely redundant and annoying. Sivert Hoyem's vocals on "Phoenix" are still shaky and questionable to me, and I don't need a second version of the track to be reminded of that.
After a series of mediocre “black & roll” albums in the 2000′s, it seemed the once legendary Norwegian black metal band would never again release a worthwhile album, especially one as good as the likes of Dark Medieval Times, or The Shadowthrone. However, the 2013 self titled album is a surprisingly incredible release, It sees a remarkable shift in style; they’ve created a progressive and forward thinking metal album, and one of the best metal albums of 2013.
On this album the band has forgone their recent approach at making black & roll, no longer trying to write live anthems and crowd pleasers – they instead went away and wrote a fantastic studio album in the intervening five years since The Age of Nero. The guitar playing across the album is incredible, each track is filled with memorable, fantastic riffs, and they’re really the driving force behind what makes the album so successful. While rarely breaking out of mid pace, they meander and weave their way through the album, and they’re all brilliant, epic, and catchy. They’re not particularly heavy however, and in fact the album sounds somewhat soft and mellow, yet still fantastic and epic sounding. There are excellent leads too, especially on the track Nocturnal Flare, a dark, mid paced riffy track. And rather than thundering the album along with the constant high octane blast beats and energy he’s known for, Frost’s drumming is more there to keep the pace of the album, but this matches the tone of the album perfectly. He plays some interesting fills and really keeps the pace fantastically, it’s a great performance without being particularly flashy. Satyr’s trademark growl is in place throughout the album, harsh while still being intelligible, his vocals fit excellently with the rest of the music.
Phoenix is one of the more different tracks on the album, featuring a guest vocalist in the form of Sivert Høyem, who provides clean vocals to fantastic effect. He has a deep, rich voice, really suiting the song well. It’s one of the longer tracks on the album, but definitely one of the best. It seems strange at first to hear clean vocals on a Satyricon album, but when an album sounds as forward thinking as this, it’s not really much of a surprise, and it matches the song perfectly. It’s epic in every way, musically, lyrically and vocally. At the other end of the spectrum, and possibly the most familiar track to the rest of their back catalogue is Nekrohaven, being the most catchy song on the album, and a great live track, but it lacks the over the top wannabe anthem status that Now Diabolical had, rather its just a catchy well written metal song. The Infinity of Time and Space is another sprawling epic, the longest track on the album at nearly 8 minutes and it is rather varied. With a terrific chorus, sprawling drawn out riffs, acoustic quiet atmospheric sections, and blasts of speed and intensity in places, its another fantastic track.
The production on this album is absolutely incredible, it sounds very warm and atmospheric. The band made the decision to record the album entirely in analog, and it really shows due to the sheer warmth in every aspect of the recording. This incredibly clean production will add to the discussion of whether this is a black metal release or not, an inevitable debate for every legendary black metal album who changes their sound and breaks the mould. But when an album is this good, it doesn’t really matter. To me however, it is a black metal album, despite the lack of tremolo picked riffs, raw cold production, and blast beats. It’s certainly a progression away from the early 90′s Norwegian style, but it still sounds dark and atmospheric, and it just seems to have that original black metal spirit and atmosphere. Black metal was never defined by a certain set of rules anyway, and comes in varying flavours, Satyricon’s self titled just pushes the genre in another direction. But anyone who gets too tied up in the genre discussion will threaten to miss out on a fantastic album.
“And when the fire’s work is done, Our time to be reborn.” This quote from Phoenix really sums up the album, Satyricon have redefined their sound, and proven that once again they can release fantastic material, filled with excellent songs and especially riffs. Rising from the ashes of their 2000′s mediocrity they have delivered a dynamic release and one of the best metal albums of 2013, certainly the biggest surprise. The album really coheres as a whole, and each track is brilliant. Special mention must also be given to the great artwork too, it gives a sense of the warmth the production of the album has. If you’re one of those people who wrote Satyricon off after Nemesis Divina then it’s definitely time to give them another go with this new release.
Originally written for swirlsofnoise.com
The only Satyricon records I've listened to anything like devotedly are the brilliant Nemesis Divina and the thunderous The Age of Nero. But my respect for this band cannot be overstated. With admittedly less trumpets and fanfare than loudly radical outfits from the Norwegian primordial birth muck of the second wave such as Darkthrone and Ulver, the band has never rested its laurels in its attempts to better itself and create perfectly representative records. That to me, in hindsight, could be why they did three black'n'roll albums - searching for that perfect moment in the style which became The Age of Nero. So whatever was happening with this self-titled record with a cover illustration that looks like Pan's Labyrinth on Instagram, it was one of the most interesting and exciting releases of 2013.
A dazzling wash of atmosphere drenches the record, soaking their sound in oceans of organic guitar ambiance and distilling it via carefully considered songwriting. The instruments are lighter and the vocals are unthreatening to all but the greenest of black metal initiates while retaining Satyr's characteristic be-aviatored attitude. The funny thing is, while it is a move forward in terms of at least attempting to tread ground little or no black metal bands have trod before, it is also a move back. Satyricon returns to simpler song structures, bleaker and less Venom/W.A.S.P. influenced guitars.
The first four tracks constitute a really strong return. 'Our World, It Rumbles Tonight' is actually amazingly addictive. Very tough to turn off, one of the record's better accomplishments of its hypnotic, rocking black metal goal. 'Nocturnal Flare' features an utterly sweet series of guitar leads contextualised by outrageously cool, twanging black metal chords. 'Nekrohaven' is a decent rocking piece along the lines of the previous few records - but with a surprisingly uplifting chorus and gleaming guitar solo. Likewise, 'The Infinity of Time and Space' is truly absorbing in the cry of the album's earlier pieces.
In terms of negatives, 'Phoenix' has had lots of attention as it features some Norwegian rock singer performing all vocals. I don't mind him and the song is sorta well written, though a more impassioned and sonorous voice could have brought this song to a standout status rather than just 'OK'. 'Walker Upon the Wind' continues a bit of a mid-record slump, with a sudden return to faster black metal stylings that doesn't seem to work. I would rather they had stuck with the game plan here.
It isn't as muscular and manly as The Age of Nero nor, of course, as experimental as the intense Rebel Extravaganza, but it really sounds like almost nothing else out there. It's tough to compare Satyricon's self titled effort to any band or school of black metal active at the moment. Fans who've stuck with the band past their numerous reinventions will, like long-time Ulver fans, no doubt find much to enjoy extracting here, even though I don't find it perfect. It might infuriate trendy "old school or nothing" types, but they are missing out on the great irony of Satyricon's latest metamorphosis. With their progression comes also regression, and a great adherence to musical goals and visions they seem to have held a long time. For me I think I might mix a few of my favourites from here in with my usual Volcano-Now-Nero sessions; although I recognize this album as an achievement I can't see myself listening to the whole thing a large number of times.
...The band that now takes more rotten tomatoes to the face than Cradle & Dimmu combined. With their 8th album up for a good slagging off, nothing much has changed. So what have we got here?
Let's start with the artwork. This could well become one of my favourite album covers. It's an absolutely beautiful piece & I remember seeing it before the albums release & thinking "Wow. But will the music contained within be able to stand up to such an image"?
I must admit, since Nemesis, I haven't been much of a fan of the "new" Satyricon direction. The music didn't captivate & I found myself listening to albums a few times & moving on. However, with Satyricon, the album, something's changed. Where people are writing it off before it's begun, I've found new hope.
The intro 'Voices of Shadows' keeps getting compared to numerous other songs, but I think it's melancholic simplicity stands on it's own as a perfect opener & not some waste of ambient noise that leads brilliantly into Tro og Kraft. I like this song a lot because it's sung in Norwegian & it's refreshing to hear them singing in their native tongue again.
The sound of the album is quite soft & clean overall. Nothing sharp & icy but rather warm & for want of a better word, nice. The only thing in the way of a black metal sound you'll get here is Satyr's pretty much unchanged dry, harsh vocal delivery style. Frosts drumming is kept to the usual restrained plod in most of the songs with the occasional double bass flood. Even if it this isn't a blastbeat hellfest, he still manages some nice fills. This is Frost after all.
One song that needs a separate mention is definitely 'that' song; Phoenix. I actually like it, a lot. The only question is: does it deserve to be on this album? I'm not entirely sure? With a different vocalist singing in a clean voice, it's not really Satyricon. I've heard it enough times to forgive it's presence & it does lead into the fastest song on the album (a trick that Watain used on their somewhat lacklustre album. It didn't fool anyone there but it works here).
The other rock/pop number on offer, is Nekrohaven. With it's anthem worthy chorus, it'll probably go down well at concerts. I'm not sure of the effects Satyr used on his voice though. It could've done with a rougher shout type vocal style as opposed to his trademark dry bark. It's still catchy though.
One of the things that initially annoyed me was the constant "progressive" meandering during songs. It'll be driving along quite nicely & then up pops a seemingly pointless strumfest. Once you get used to it, it does actually become an essential part of the experience. I guess it's about accepting their sound & once you have, it stops being a hinderance.
The other thing that really annoys is the alleged bonus tracks. Just like previous albums, you get a rougher mix of a few songs, but I'm afraid I don't hear that much of a difference to warrant their inclusion & be called "bonus material".
This was never going to be Satyricon doing a 180 & as a long time fan & completist, I bought it not expecting much, except for it to pad out their other albums. However, I feel this to be their best output in years & I've been spinning it constantly since it's release. Of course it's going to get a lot of negative feedback from those who don't like this softer, more accessible sound or those yearning for another Dark Medieval Times or Nemesis. You only need to listen to Satyr & his inflated ego in the interviews he gives to know that's never going to happen. So either accept that fact or leave them behind & move on.
The concept of the experimental or self-titled release late in a band's discography is a statement of confidence, a pronouncement that we, the band, are releasing our magnum opus after 20 years and you, the listener, shall worship at its altar. Satyricon are not the first experienced metal band in recent years to go down this route nor the first to leave a bitter after-taste in the palette once the drug has been consumed; for "Satyricon" read "Suffocation", "Cryptopsy", or worse, "Illud Divinum Insanus" - a line of once giant bands flailing in the waters of mediocrity.
"Satyricon", however, dares to be different more than those examples, a choice that I'm sure is to be the deathknell for this album in the ears of those with an extreme metal inclination even still listening to the works of Satyr & Frost. It is the culmination of a journey that has been signposted for years now, at least as far back as 2002's "Volcano" (an album that I love to this day despite its questionable status) and has been steadily moving into view ever since, culminating in the cleanly sung "Phoenix" here. That track, which bears gothic overtones nodding to In Solitude's recent opus and the recent works of Beastmilk, stands out from the others here like a corpsepaint-clad warrior does at Sunday mass, but not for the reasons one may hope: it is surrounded on all sides by plodding, uninspired dross created in the hope of capturing a wider audience but devoid of a plan of how to do so.
Without the benefit of hindsight opening intro "Voice of Shadows" could be a powerful dramatic piece centred on Frost's slow beats but, knowing what comes after, it is merely emblematic of the lack of vigour that follows in "Tro Og Kraft", "Our World, It Rumbles Tonight" and "Nocturnal Flare". "Tro Og Kraft's" opening passage shows intrigue but I cannot hear this followed up in the remainder of the song. In these circumstances where slow is the game, a welter of incisive riffs and atmosphere (of which there is none in a stale production devoid of edges) are essential to maintain interest. To test, try getting through the break in "Tro Og Kraft" without yawning. "Nocturnal Flare" is a little better at harnessing the spirit of post-"Volcano" Satyricon after the obligatory dull opening has been passed but the lack of any bite in the guitars nullifies its effect. The "Phoenix" that follows is a grenade waiting to explode. The pop sensibilities with the launching of soft vocals following the uninteresting opening herald a new dawn for Satyricon; and I really like it. In contrast to the earlier tracks this has the atmosphere and tempo nailed perfectly to fit the feel of the song and is the highlight of the album, although being sung by Sivert Høyem, a mainstream Norwegian rock singer, is a big problem in my mind considering how central he is. It this really Satyricon supported by Høyem, or Høyem backed by Satyricon?
The album's fastest and heaviest track not surprisingly follows, "Walker Upon the Wind", and it's thrashing Absu-isms fight to erase any soft sentiment left off from that previous track. "Nekrohaven" begins like pure "Fuel for Hatred" but Satyr's distorted vocals are a drawback from what is otherwise a solid beat at the heart of the song and more of the pop-flecked chorals. Through "Ageless Northern Spirit" and "The Infinity of Time and Space" the duo at least sound a little more spirited but by this point it feels as if the album is petering out short of target, a sense only encouraged by the desperately dull closer "Natt", four minutes of pump organ nothingness that spits in the face of the timeless recommendation to have a strong beginning and end to a record.
I am fully supportive of bands willing to experiment and expand their creative horizons as "Satyricon" clearly is, but whether by design of stripping down their sound or unintentional consequence these Norwegian BM legends have cut most of what was interesting out of their sound and left a shell of a record. I have similar complaints with their past two records as well but have seen how much better certain tracks from those work on stage. We will soon see on their impending European tour if the same applies here but as a work five years in the making it is hard to get enthralled by this.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
There's one similarity between Darkthrone and Satyricon: the only thing black metal about them is their past. At a given point in time, with each new release both of them implemented more and more elements of other styles of metal and music in general, pushing the (black) metal elements to the back. According to the reviews, for some reason Darkthrone seems to get away with this, and Satyricon does not. Why? Another audience? Or is it their hubris, their pedantic attitude: each time Satyricon presents new material as if it were a masterpiece to be worshipped, perhaps only not by morons.
But I don't care about attitude, I like grim, dark music. Therefore, new Darkthrone with their funpunkthrash never convinced me, but the blackened hardrock of Satyricon does. Well, at least it did.
After the trivial intro, the album starts of with Tro Og Kraft. The opening riff immediately showcases the first major flaw of the album: the absence of power. The guitar, the drums and the vocals, they all sound very, very soft. This is an important productional failure that infects every song on the album.
The second major flaw is the lack of variation. Similar riffing, predictible song structures, choruses repeated one or two times too many, songs starting to drag towards the end, ... Again, the opening track is an excellent example, but Nocturnal Flare, Phoenix and the floorfiller Nekrohaven as well.
The third flaw is the lack of speed. Of course, Satyricons` shift towards blackened hardrock makes it hard to blend in fast percussion, let alone blasts. On the other hand, with Volcano, NowDiabolical and The Age Of Nero they`ve proven it`s possible. More, this blend is what makes Satyricon unique. Of course, if they still chose to do so. Most songs on this album however, are mid- to slowpaced, with the occasional exception towards the end of the album. The balance could have been a lot better though.
On the vocal part, as stated earlier they are produced too soft. Besides that, Satyrs` harsh throat fits the music well. There are some experimentations: clean vocals (The Infinity Of Time And Space, low in the mix and ok), distorted vocals (Nekrohaven, no success) and guest vocals (Phoenix). Oh yeah, lets talk about Phoenix... Musically, Phoenix is not that different from the rest of the album, maybe catchier. But it is sung entirely in clean (guest) vocals. At first my reaction was that the depressive, Nick Cave like vocals were not completely out of place. But when the chorus comes in, and the regionally famous popsinger can't resist the urge to start singing ooo-o-o-oo-o-o-oo, it becomes really embarassing. I guess this must be Satyricon's attempt to win their ticket for the Eurovision (becoming a trend lately).
That being said, is it all bad? No, it isn`t. Nocturnal Flare starts with a slow but promising buildup, to turn into a very nice stomping rhythm accompanied by decent riffing and a fitting chorus. Very decent vocal performance. With a powerfull production and two minutes less it would have been a killer. Walker Upon The Wind speeds things up, but lacks some brilliance to make it stand out. The album ends (neglecting the outro, which is trivial as well) with two very decent songs. Ageless Northern Spirit is an uptempo song, with a lot of interesting ideas, decent vocals and the best drumparts the album has to offer. There's some tremolo picking and a few blasts, but unfortunately the riff they support again lacks power. The Infinity Of Time And Space is epic and a bit in the vein of Den Siste, maybe less grim. It's a slow paced song, but there are a lot of elements that keep it interesting. And the moment you start to fear that it will again drag on for too long, Satyr and Frost come up with the best part of the entire album, at about 05.30 minutes. Sadly, it only lasts for 30 seconds. They should have developped this further.
The album is not entirely bad, there are some decent songs on it. However, the easy listening production ruins them all. The shift towards blackened hardrock was digestable, blackened softrock is a bridge too far for me.
It's important to renounce to all the preconceptions about how this album should be like, about how black metal should sound like, about how Satyricon should play. This is still Satyricon, but things change, they evolve, the grow up. This is indeed different from their previous albums, just as happened with tones of other bands that carved the milestones of metal music but didn’t want to stick to the standards anymore and tried to create something new. Things change and it’s not always a bad thing; if this wasn’t true, we would still be listening to hairy and stinky men hitting a rock with their clubs.
It would be a pity to miss this album just because there are no blastbeats, no tremolo riffs, no lyrics about trolls pooping on a dark ruin of a grim castle in a misty forest, just because it’s “not standard, not trv cvlt!”. Would we like to get “Another shadowthrone” or “Even darker medieval times”? I mean, those were superb albums I loved, but there would be no point in playing exactly the same things for decades.
Let’s jump to the album. This was a total surprise to me. I thought it would be more in line with their three previous albums, I wasn’t expecting anything special, anything new. Since I got the cd, I couldn’t stop listening to it. Every single song perfectly conveys strong emotions of melancholy, decay, grimness, the whole album displays a very deep and sincere array of feelings, ranging from rage to sadness, from sorrow to hope. You just have to listen to it. I hate labels, but if you forced me to assign this work to a genre, I’d say: “damn, it’s pure black metal!”. Even in those mellow moments of relief and hope like “Phoenix” and “Natt”.
I feel that the songs are very mature and well composed; every sound seems to be at the right place and strikes the chords of emotions with real feelings. Every song is remarkable in some peculiar way. “Tro og kraft” offers some very intense and touching arpeggios in the verses, while “Our world, it rumbles tonight” is very wicked and decadent and perfectly fits the vision of a falling world. If you close your eyes while listening to the outro (“Natt”) you almost can sense the scent of moss in the night breeze and see some naked nymphs enjoying a bath in a lake. I was really surprised by the contrast between the harsh industrial verse and the catchy, rock ’n’ roll chorus in “Nekrohaven”.
I could speak about every single song and tell you how I really enjoyed all of them, but I think it’s not the point of a review. I’ll mention only one more song: “Phoenix”. I understand why most of the people feel plain hate and disdain for this. It may sound like some goth rock ballad and it has clean vocals and a catchy chorus... there’s not even Satyr in there. But... I won’t hate something just because I have to. This song is good indeed, interesting sound, great mood. I've heard a lot of people saying it sounds like HIM; I think that only a deaf person or a bad comedian that repeats someone else’s jokes could have uttered a sentence like that.
Another thing I have to mention is the sound and the production of this work. I’ve heard people complaining and laughing at the analogue recording because it was pretentious and pointless. Well, try and listen the cd (or even better, the vinyl) on some good hi-fi speakers instead of downloading a shitty mp3 on a shitty smartphone. Nothing different, you might say, nothing special; true, I’d reply, but now go and compare it to the sound of the guitars on “The age of Nero” or “Now, diabolical”. Here it all feels a little more warm and authentic to me.
Last, but not least, the few downsides of this work. It’s a minimalistic album, no problem with that, it still manages to feel complete and I love it; but I find that the lyrics are a little bit too simple. Another thing it’s the drums; they’re ok, they properly fit the style of the songs, but I can’t stop myself from asking: “is this really Frost?”; I’d expect something more from him, I feel that his performance is not enough, you don’t have to play banally when you play minimalistic songs. Finally, the bonus songs; anyone would like to hear BONUS songs, not just a few pointless remixes; what’s their purpose? I feel that they had to fill the digipack in some way.
So, this is an album that I sincerely recommend, there's some excellent music with authentic feelings. This is Satyricon's best work since "Nemesis divina". Oh, and this album's cover artwork is superb.
Satyricon are a band that the metal community has been conflicted over for many years now, mostly due to their sound being driven further toward a more trademarked 'commercial' manifestation. This will often make or break a band in the heavily-weighed black metal scenes of the world, as it seems to bring with it an unfortunate stigma of having strict rules and guidelines.
In their 2013 self-titled album, 'Satyricon', the band seems to have a message to this community - "we helped write the book on black metal before many of you were born."
From a production standpoint, these recordings sound like natural successors to albums such as "Volcano", "Now, Diabolical", and "The Age of Nero", due to frontman Satyr's attention to detail while in the studio (and, one could gather, a generous budget granted to a band with Norwegian Grammy status). The drums are all mic'ed to a 'T', as it were, and have a punchy sound in order to grant drummer Frost's every hit its full breadth in the recording. The vocal recordings sound almost perfectly similar to that of the previous album (save for the occasional effects applied here and there). But what really stands out in these recordings is the sound of the guitars. Overall the album is quite diverse in that it has incredibly atmospheric segments - making use of each string and note as an effect in itself - and also some parts which act more in the vein of a traditional heavy metal or thrash band, using hard chords.
The album is so varied, in fact, that it almost speaks in a way in which the previous albums did not even wade into. From more melancholic bits, sometimes utilizing clean guitar channels (which would have seemed unthinkable back in the 'Rebel Extravaganza' days or prior) to the utilization of a pump organ matching guitars in the closing track - there is much to hear from the entity of Satyricon which will surprise even the most avid listener. Having been paying much attention to this band for years, I must personally say there were a few segments which delightfully took me by surprise. In their album "Volcano" the band made use of their earliest influences as musicians, invoking some more 'rock and roll' segments, and this is still quite present in this current album. This has long been a dividing point between fan and foe, as most who have lost interest in Satyricon could readily cite these 'rock and roll' segments as being their last straw. Luckily for the other side of the fence, though, this album offers that element of sound and so much more.
As a longtime listener, Satyricon are a band which I must look most objectively upon to review. In doing so, I can say that an album such as "The Age of Nero" was the easiest for me to critique due to my expectations. With this self-titled release, however, I find myself not really "wanting" to criticize or pick apart anything. To me, I am hearing Satyricon do what feels naturally to a band which has come out of the smokey depths of the early Norwegian black metal club scene to become a Grammy-winning, international success. They audibly make use of their success with the production and a bit of the riffing, but overall, the band just plays what they want to play. And their influences are a culmination of much more than "other" black metal bands. In this, I see this as being a more pure black metal album - black metal began as having little rules, and now the band is using the same philosophy. The message seems to be that contemporary, formulaic traits of "insert blastbeat here" or "tremelo pick the entire song" must only be granted to a casual follower. Having written a large portion of the book on the effect of this music culture on the Norwegian - and international - palate, Satyricon use every riff and every drum accompaniment to their painstakingly perfectionist advantage. This is what keeps Satyricon a step ahead of the game - perhaps not in the depths of the underground, but to where they have chosen to take it.
All this being said, I cannot even cite "standout tracks" as a thing of personal preference - I quite enjoyed pretty much the whole record. I think the only track I felt unsure about was the track "Phoenix" featuring Sivert Høyem of Norwegian rock band Madrugada... and that is solely a thing of preference, as I would have much rather heard Satyr howl these lyrical verses atop such atmospheric riffs.
Overall, without an objective standpoint, my attributed high rating mostly derives from how the music make me feel when I listen to it, which should be the goal of any music listener. There is much emotion to be found through these passages, and it perfectly pairs with specific moods a listener must have when listening to this album. A sort of nostalgic, melancholic, yet monolithic presence is evident in the very style of each track. For this, I once again tip my hat to Satyricon for accomplishing, at least in this listener, the goal of any band or artist - to make a connection to the listener.
After 5 years, Satyricon returns with a self-titled album. In my book, a S/T album is a bold statement about how the presented work is a faithful representation of what the band is and/or should be. In that sense, I think Satyricon has taken a fine decision, since it’s clear the album has a bit of everything the band has made but at the same time it feels like a totally new direction.
From what I've seen, this album has been getting very polarizing opinions, but for everything but important factors. For starters, let’s see the production. In a world where metal has become very stale sonically speaking - since every drum and guitar sounds exactly the same - I think the analog production of 'Satyricon' it's a bit of fresh air. The sound is very organic; it breathes and it's full of dynamics, something that I haven't heard in metal albums in many years. In a way, the guitar tone and drums reminds me to the sound of Agalloch's Marrow of the Spirit; it's not uber heavy and it's not quad tracked, nor ridiculously compressed and edited but still it has some bite.
Something that is totally clear is how natural the drum sounds. You can actually hear how the bass drum is a bit less punching when it kicks at full speed, which is a very human thing. The snare's volume varies depending on what Frost plays, the single strokes sounds clearly louder than the blast sections and every stroke sounds a bit different from the previous one. Still, the overall sound doesn't lack power; it's just like if you're watching the guy playing in his rehearsal room instead the uber processed and badly triggered sound of modern metal.
I remember when black metal was all about against the ever polishing production of death metal, particularly on 90's but people is actually bitching about how 'weak' the album sounds. This is not less heavy than your average Darkthrone or Burzum albums, bands whose classic material has not been criticized at all by the rawness of their recordings. So, I think the production ranting is totally unjustified, being Satyricon a (former or yet related to) black metal band.
Now, the performance is again, totally adequate and actually a step up from the last 2-3 albums. Satyr hasn't sound this spiteful since Rebel Extravaganza, especially on the fastest numbers: the choruses of 'Walker Upon the Wind' and 'Ageless Northern Spirit' sound very powerful and way more raspy than the normal croak/shout he normally does. The guitars are well played and the performance of those sounds very relaxed, confident. It feels like editing was minimal and the sections were well recorded in very few takes, if not at the first ones. Frost blasts with precision and strength and his double bass patterns sounds well played, yet totally natural and un-triggered. Bass is mostly following the guitars and adds a nice low end, although it shines from time to time adding some cool lines.
The most important and divisive element on 'Satyricon' is the songwriting. First, the album is mostly slow/mid paced with an extensive use of bass drum patterns. This added to the organic production and laid back riffing gives to the album a very relaxing feeling. The obvious focus was on the atmosphere and the ability to portray natural landscapes. This brings me to the cover album; a Satyr among trees and some sunrays opening the painting, which is exactly how everything sounds.
As I see it, the album is clearly divided on 2 sides: From 'Voice of Shadows' to 'Phoenix' and 'Walker Upon the Wind' to 'Natt'. The first side is the most atmospheric one, with tracks like 'Our World, It Rumbles Tonight' where some subtle keys appears on the chorus to enchance the peaceful atmosphere of the song. Songs like 'Tro og Kraft' and 'Nocturnal Flare' (which also features some old school keys) starts with some slow harmonies and when everything kicks in the riffing becomes more open and sustained, with arpeggiated sections. 'Phoenix' closes this side with a very rocker song with another guy on vocals. This song is probably the most divisive Satyricon song ever concieved, since it sounds more like a 80's pop track with black metal production.
Side 2 starts with the fastest number of the album: 'Walker Upon the Wind'. This track is a ballsy black metal song, with some tremolo riffs, relentless drumming and Satyr's commanding screams. The chorus is quite catchy yet rich on riffs just like the section played before the last chorus. With other kind of production, this song could have pass as an old lost Satyricon song, effectively bringing the listener back to the black metal origins of the band. 'Nekrohaven' is almost like a Volcano's bonus track; it has that rocker catchy feeling without sounding like a sellout; 'Ageless Northern Spirit' is the second 'brutal' number of the album, with Frost putting a very muscular performance. The song has an odd Darkthrone feeling with a Satyricon flavor. 'The Infinity Of Time And Space' is probably the weirdest track in terms of structure but it also features some potent riffs and powerful drumming, encapsulating the whole album's sound with progressive elements and heavy sections intertwined.
After 'Natt' is gone, I'm left with a very good impression of the album, which has been growing with further listens. This album might look very simple at the surface, but it needs to be heard several times to get it right. Totally recommended!
Highlights: Tro og Kraft, Walker Upon the Wind, Ageless Northern Spirit, Infinity of Time and Space.
I've been into Satyricon ever since Dark Medieval Times hit the stores and have regarded them as one of my favourite black metal bands. I've followed them up until the heady heights of Nemesis Divina and then along the rocky road from Rebel Extravaganza up until The Age of Nero. Having said this, I now have to face what is the long trip downwards that is Satyricon. I have read interviews given by Satyr regarding this new opus; he expresses how The Age of Nero was indeed the end of an era and that Satyricon, being self titled, represents a new era for the band. This had me a bit worried and rightly so.
The album is book-ended by two instrumentals, Voice of Shadows and Natt, which are quite nondescript entities, in my opinion, just there to pad out the run time. The first three tracks proper from Trog Og Kraft to Nocturnal Flare may as well be one track in three parts and are the first warning of what Satyricon have now become - progressive metal. The sound hovers between latter day Opeth style harmonies and My Dying Bride-esque doomy riffs, creating a rather turgid balance that, in my opinion, just does not work! I guess the prog-heads will love them, though. Just when you thought it was safe comes the worst track on the album, Phoenix. A guest vocalist has been used to provide clean vocals on a track that is pure, head-shakingly bad Goth Rock. It's really awful. The pace quickens with Walker Upon the Wind, the track, the only fast one on the album, feeling really out of place; when it started I felt it sounded like a Sodom outtake from In the Sign of Evil, but with better production and a drummer who can keep up!!! Necrohaven has industrial vocals and a pop punk chorus that fans of Marilyn Manson / Turbonegro are going to die for! Unfortunately, any proper metal fans out there will probably just want to die! With the final two 'proper' tracks, Ageless Northern Spirit and The Infinity of Time and Space, the album reverts back to the pompous, prog tripe of earlier, although, strangely, I heard glimpses of the 'old' Satyricon within these songs. There are three extra tracks on the CD I have, but they're all pointless remixes and I couldn't really be bothered!
When this mess of an album ended, I felt quite de-energised and numb. It doesn't appear to have any real direction, seeming like ideas that Satyr and Frost have penned, but have not really thought through enough. The production is annoyingly clean and polished, dispensing with any sense of the organic and replacing it with the mechanical. This is not the Satyricon of old, which is a real shame. I just hope that Satyr takes his head from out of his arse and realises that he should start listening to his fans instead of ignoring them and pen an album that is worthy of the band name!
Satyricon have been experimenting a lot with different influences and sounds since 1999's Rebel Extravaganza, but many people may still be surprised with how their self-titled new album sounds, with its earthy, somewhat mellow rock version of black metal.
It's an album that definitely will stir up a lot of mixed feelings among the fans and I reckon that especially the hard-core black metal fans will have a hard time with this. But in all honesty, I guess those people gave up on Satyricon a long time ago. And it definitely is an album that you need to hear plenty of times before it sinks in. I really didn't know what to think after the first times I listened to it and I guess I was initially disappointed by the pretty low tempo and the progressive elements.
But there really is something genuinely great with this album. It sounds nothing like anything ever released by a black metal band, yet still it sounds very, very much like Satyricon. The melodies and the riffs are somewhat different but still recognizable - there's no doubt that you're listening to a Satyricon album, albeit a very experimental one even by their standards. And without this feeling of recognition I might still have that initial feeling of disappointment, but the more I listen to it, the more clear the vision behind the album gets.
The best example of this is the song Phoenix, with guest vocals from Norwegian rock singer Sivert Høyem. Since the sound of the album differs so much from Satyricon's other work, I felt from the start that this song - that doesn't even feature Satyr on vocals - was completely unnecessary, basically like listening to an okay song from some other band. But after a while, when I let go of these preconceptions about how it should sound, it all just suddenly fell into place and by now it's one of my favourite songs on the entire album, with its fantastic build-up, wonderful vocals and beautiful melodies.
Some other highlights of the album include the stunning Tro Og Kraft, which really shows the power in Satyr's voice, and the progressive Our World, It Rumbles Tonight which was released as a single a while back, reminding people that they shouldn't expect a generic black metal album. I also enjoy Walker Upon The Wind with verses that bring my thoughts to Celtic Frost and Darkthrone, as well as Nekrohaven which probably is the song on the album with the biggest hit potential - there really is no defence against that catchy chorus, where Satyr almost spits out the lyrics.
This is a remarkable album in many ways - even when it doesn't sound very black metal, it still does in a way. And don't worry, if you want something that reminisces a bit more of the old Satyricon, songs like Nocturnal Flare, Walker Upon The Wind, Ageless Northern Spirit and The Infinity Of Time And Space should definitely keep you on your toes, while still challenging you.
Overall, there's a a lot of things I love about this album and I imagine I'll keep listening to it for a long time ahead. It caught me kind of off-guard, leaving me unknowing of what to think at first, but now that it has sunk in I can safely say that it has met my very high expectations. I can't wait to see Satyricon live again and I'll be looking forward to the new songs especially. Check this one out, folks, and be patient because it really grows on you.
Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com
Satyricon's newest and eponymously titled album comes after much anticipation following the success of The Age of Nero. Given Satyricon's unwavering disposition for exploring uncharted, even forbidden territory within the black metal genre, and never remaining complacent, rehashing, ad infinitum, derivative, hackneyed, if not by now stereotypical tropes and expressions, fans and detractors alike were left wondering how Satyricon would evolve next. There are those purist, those self-styled and self-appointed guardians and gatekeepers of all things black metal, who regard any one of Satyricon's 1994-2002 releases to be the peak of their creativity, all releases thereafter being, not only "false", but without merit entirely, and bereft of any redeeming qualities. Then, there are those who appreciate the band's visionary and progressive approach to a genre that, unlike any other, seemingly revels in stagnancy. Satyricon's newest release sees them yet again pushing boundaries, for the band, and, too, the black metal genre even further, and in a way that threatens to be even more divisive than ever.
Much ado has been made, by Satyr, in particular, regarding this album's analog production treatment, contrasting it to the "plastic" digitally and overly processed sound of modern metal records. Additionally, the guitars on this album have not been processed with any external effects units. Thus, the album has the feel of being old-school and raw, yet without sounding contrived, or lacking in vision, good judgement, or professionalism. What some listeners will deem to be a "muddy", or even "flat" sound of the guitar and drum tones, will by others be regarded as refreshingly warm, rich, and authentic. This is certainly the "fullest", perhaps even heaviest sounding Satyricon record to date. If this album's sound is to be adequately judged, and appreciated, it demands to be listened to on a good sound system, and in a format not sonically compromised.
Satyr's vocals remain as sharp and fervent as ever, but admittedly, and quite unfortunately, the lyrical content is a bit mundane, and in a several instances, seemingly recycled and reworded from the Now, Diabolical album.
The song compositions and instrumentation are pensive, restrained, measured, and reflecting a certain wisdom and experience, with greater emphasis than before on mood, atmosphere, harmony, and melody. The music is calculated without sounding strained or formulaic, whilst still retaining a compact, minimalist structure. The album is ambitious in its attempt to capture the essence of Satyricon's entire recorded history; The Shadowthrone echoes throughout Tro Og Kraft; the crude apocalyptic soundscapes peculiar to Rebel Extravaganza have been honed through Ageless Northern Spirit and The Infinity of Time and Space; the wrath and fury of Nemesis Divina is stripped to its most bare essence through Walker Upon the Wind; the rock 'n' roll spirit of Satyricon's more recent releases find refinement through Nekrohaven and Nocturnal Flare; and Satyricon proves its sense of medieval and folk-inspired melody has not been lost over the years through, what is unfortunately only a mere outro, Natt. The album listens like a recounting of past steps, whilst still eyeing grounds yet to be tread.
What the record lacks in intensity, is recompensed in an ineffable and unresolved unease and tension throughout, as a subtle and intangible foreboding and evil lurking beneath the calm, bellowing in malice and spite, yet that can neither be seen nor hear, only felt and experienced. Satyricon, by way of even more stark performances, have reinterpreted the bleak grimness black metal upholds as a prime virtue, in a manner that is far less direct and ostentatious as many of the so-called "trOO" bands of the scene. Phoenix, doubtlessly the most controversial track on record, even reinterprets the genre's typical mode of vocal expression, discarding the notion that abrasiveness has any objective and comparatively superior communicative capacity than understatedness.
It is doubtful that this release will gain Satyricon a new audience; on the contrary, quite a few fans, particularly those who came to Satyricon from their last two albums, may find themselves alienated from, and even disappointed with this record. There is nothing instantly "catchy", immediately gratifying, or otherwise easy to digest about this release. From the overall mellow, melancholic, and even more restrained sound relative to it's predecessors, to the minimally processed, retrograde production, for a band that has been as critically maligned for its commercial success, this is a decidedly anti-commercial album. The music, while so simple, will be difficult, even forbidding, to the casual or inattentive listener. But those who will properly and carefully listen to this offering, may find that it rewards repeated listens. And whilst this album may not be considered "future classic" material, it is, nonetheless, a solid effort, and perhaps the beginning of an exciting new era for Satyricon.
Nobody is indifferent when it comes to Satyricon. Originally one of the prominent bands in the Norwegian black metal scene, they went on to achieve relative mainstream success once they drastically and progressively changed their formula from Norse and medieval grimness to a rather modern and “black ‘n roll” sound. After their previous album, “The Age Of Nero”, main man Satyr boldly proclaimed that Satyricon would again venture into new territory. After five long years, we are finally presented with the fruits of their labour: the self-titled album Satyricon.
They sure talk the talk. In interviews preceding the release of Satyricon, Satyr proudly stated that the band had opted for the sonic benefits analogue recording equipment. Guitars, amps and hardware effects were carefully selected. Frost brushed up his legendary drum kit (which was used on just about every legendary Norwegian black metal album, not only Satyricon records). Great detail was to be found in the actual recordings, only to be discovered on high end sound systems with neutral equalisation. An elitist attitude we can only hail in days of plastic and brickwalled puzzled together records.
Now, does Satyricon walk the walk? Sadly, no. Listening to this self-proclaimed “future classic” on quite expensive studio monitors, I can only conclude that the hype is nothing more than that – hype. Wrestling through the intro “Voice of Shadows” – which indeed sounds like “When the Saints go marching in” on opiates – it quickly dawns that the allegedly superior sound of this album actually turns out to be a lifeless, thin, brittle, sterile and muffled affair. I fully agree that there have been too much high gain, squashed to death releases out there, but this is quite the opposite indeed. The rest of the album suffers from the same sonic flaws as the intro. Throughout the record, the drums are drowned out with especially the kick drums sounding like a partial deflated basketball being bounced against a concrete wall. The guitars lack any sense of definition and punch and could very well have been recorded using a free software amp simulator and a beginner guitar rather than vintage amplifiers, effects and guitars Satyr claims they have used. The raspy vocals sound very tired and uninspired, which truly is a major flaw for a record belonging to a genre that is dependent on emotional immersion of the vocalist. Another thing that struck me is that you have better odds on hearing bass guitar on Metallica’s “… and Justice for All” than on this record.
While black metal played at neck breaking speeds actually benefits from less-than-ideal sonic characteristics, this kind of production on a slower paced album quickly reveals the emptiness and shallowness of the compositions. Sound quality has never been the forte of the Nordic metal scene, so we would gladly oversee these flaws if the actual songs would be crafted in an ingenious and vivacious way. Unfortunately, all compositions on this album seem to be derived from one theme only; all sections seem to be interchangeable and serve no real function other than to fill space on a record that would otherwise be blank. Filling space is exactly the only thing some parts do; at several points a guitar chord aimlessly resounds and fades while kick drums wobble away in order to fill the emptiness. In other parts, the lazy 4/4 beat drums actually emphasise the hollowness of the songs; a copy/paste layer of dull kick drums cannot camouflage the utter tediousness.
The almost obligatory department of the swamp of mid tempo with “Walker upon the Wind” does not astonish us. There is only one real “surprise” on this album, namely the clean guest vocals by the rocker Sivert Høyem on “Phoenix”, which seems to indicate Satyricon is trying to look into mainstream success even further. Clean vocals on a black metal album are nothing new; if anything they are a rather standard song writing trick to achieve a melancholic feel. We’ve heard the excellent voice of Kristoffer Rygg (Ulver) in this capacity before on about a dozen Norwegian metal albums. Sivert Høyem hoewever sounds unconvincing, as if he actually realises how out of place his vocal timbre is.
Not a single track on this album manages to summon or convey any emotion other than boredom and the compelling urge to hit the “skip” button, which truly is a shame if you regard the musical legacy of this band.
No fan can demand from a band to return to the style of a random album they happen to like best. Artists need to stick to their true emotions and creative aspirations. Fans are, however, entitled to an album that is composed and recorded with passion, inspiration and true creativity. “Satyricon” simply is not such an album. Some stubborn fans will probably defend the mere product that this album essentially is because they are emotionally attached to a band name, a logo or their highly subjective interpretation of what a band is or was all about. I choose, however, to judge this indifferent, unimaginative and ponderous record independently and emotionally detached from what this band once meant to me. One can only hope that Satyr and Frost will soon manage to determine what style of music they really want to play, because this watered down and fatigued version of black metal really isn’t cutting it anymore.
Man, when people tell you that the intro piece to this album, "Voice of Shadows", sounds like a laconic, snakier twist on the old gospel hymn "When the Saints Go Marching In", they really aren't kidding. That is exactly the impression it leaves, and not a very exciting one. Suffice to say I was shocked, then, that the rest of Satyricon's eponymous 8th full-length is nearly as lazy and drained sounding as this one song. It's essentially a 'mellowing' of the black & roll techniques adopted for the last pair of records, attempting unsuccessfully to generate a more evil, occult ebb and flow to the riffing progressions. Now, as usual, I've got no problems whatsoever with what they aim to achieve here. I'm by no means some closet troll expecting Darker Medieval Times or Nemesis Divina Mk. II, and unwilling to accept any deviation from my parameters of underground acceptability! Not happening (possibly ever). I've long appreciated Satyricon as an evolutionary entity, uninterested in putting out the same record twice, and though they've made a few missteps here or there, I was actually on board for Now, Diabolical and Age of Nero, their 'Black Album' phase. Revolutionary? Fuck no, but the nihilistic Satyr-barks, stripped-out complexities, and concentrated, rock-like grooves sounded fantastic on my car speakers, and I found a lot of the songs memorable enough to continue visiting them for years to follow.
Satyricon is not a particularly shitty album by any means, nor is it void of ideas, some of which breathe new air into the Norwegians' canon; but for a good number of spins I just haven't had the hooks sink into me. I feel like it takes quite a few cues from its predecessors, with a load of simplistic grooves in tunes like "Our World, It Rumbles", and perhaps a wider spread of riffs than either of the last albums. Not only because there are more songs, but most of them possess a greater degree of internal variation than those found on Age of Nero. Guitar progressions are performed spaciously and patiently, relying quite strongly on their ability to captivate the audience but only occasionally doing so. Transitions are often quite overt with the percussion dropping out, and in general I'd say that Frost's presence on the record is entirely laid back and he's playing well beneath his ability. Not that I expect every madman drummer to be jocking it on every record, and certainly the guy wasn't pushing his limits for the last decade, but the performance just doesn't possess much personality to distinguish him from anyone else. I guess it takes some tact to reserve oneself like this, but I just didn't find most of the individual beats interesting. They simply seem sublimated to the more prevalent guitar patterns, almost like the guy was playing on one of Opeth's prog rock records with no metallic content in sight. The kicks and snares in pieces like "Natt" are steady but powerless, so much is left to the atmosphere above...only a few cuts like "The Infinity of Time and Space" show that the guy is even thinking about flying off the hook.
Naturally, the tunes here seem to lend themselves to more vocal diversity than the prior outings, and yet Satyr sticks to his bleak barks exclusively. He'll emphasize and sustain certain rasps for a more dramatic, throaty effect, but there aren't a lot of meters or lines here which deviate from the structures he's been spitting since Rebel Extravaganza or Volcano, only the music itself is far less explosive or exciting. He'll also do some spoken word stuff ("The Infinity of Time and Space") when they switch to a segue of cleaner guitars, or some tuneless clean singing ("Phoenix"), but both are admittedly pretty boring. Shimmery choir toned keyboards are placed sparsely throughout the record to enforce that angelic laxness inherent in the songwriting, but they rarely add much accept to stress the spiritual longitude and latitude being committed. I'm also not too impressed with the moody, clean sections where a few basic chords are strummed as if this were some minimalist Pink Floyd cover band. Really, this shit is child's play! You don't get a pass just for incorporating lowest common denominator blues or psychedelic rock elements into your songwriting, you've got to ensure that they're just as interesting as anything else going on, that the atmosphere they manifest is an effectively compelling contrast to the harder hitting rhythm guitars...there have to be a half-dozen instances on this album where such bland breaks in the action appear, and add nothing to the sum experience.
In the end, a WHOLE LOT of weight rests upon the rhythm guitars themselves to maintain the listener's attention span, and while they're infinitely better developed than anything else on the disc, painfully few of them have those morbid hooks I enjoyed from their recent works. At its most energetic, Satyricon feels like a replay of material off Now, Diabolical being performed at the predicted mid-pace with guitars that simply seem to be paraphrased off other songs and marginally tweaked. Granted, these are imbued and alternated with more shining, atmospheric phrases and a few straight black metal charges ("Walker Upon the Wind"), but the dry mix of the drums, and the creatively bankrupt, might-as-well-be-absent bass lines just leave Satyr with far too much room for his riffing to breathe. Where simple tracks like "K.I.N.G.", "My Skin is Cold" and "Commando" rocked my toes off, even the best material here like "Nekrohaven" seems to scrape at my socks and then give up for a cigarette break. It just feels like Satyricon are hanging out, rolling tape and laying out any cohesive riffs that come to mind, with little thought to their emotional impact or the overall strength of the performance. The lyrics, while appropriately minimal in accordance with the music, don't seem so capable of that poignant efficiency you'll find on some of the Darkthrone records.
Satyricon is one of those eminently frustrating experiences, because while I reaped little enjoyment out of it, and think it's easily the nadir of all their full-length efforts, I certainly can see where they were going and might have really enjoyed this contemplative, lackadaisical version of their style...if the songwriting had just been stronger, and the atmospheric components more resonant, weird, and in tune with the personalized, arcane philosophy of the lyrical themes. I almost felt like this was their attempt to tune into the whole psychedelic 60s/70s occult prog rock thing trending so heavily these days, only accessing that realm from the black & roll momentum they had been building over the previous decade. Oh, it can be done. Unfortunately, it's just not an intriguing transformation when you compare it to something like Tribulation's The Formulas of Death, which was this 180 degree shift from a hyper Swedish death/thrash band into something entirely different and unexpected. Satyricon have manage to string together an album here which is simultaneously more intricate and less compelling than those decisions leading up to it, and I really wish there had just been more to like about it. There SHOULD be more to like about it. As it stands: a handful of near-ragers and a bellyful of soon-forgotten, background black metal valium.
Ahh, it is time again for all the angry closeminded black metal fans to talk shit about Satyricon again. Oh, how I've missed it! Actually I haven't, I am just practising my sarcasm. After five years the Norwegian duo finally returned with a new album, and this one is bound to split even more fans than the predecessors.
From the get-go when the introduction "Voice of Shadows" starts it was very clear to me that it would be a different Satyricon that was unfolding than it was five years ago. This time we're handed a much more progressive and atmospheric piece of work, and I must say if there is a genre I hardly ever listen to, then it's progressive. However I am not very fond of the starting song "Voice of Shadows" as it throws the listener off course, at least it did with me. It doesn't quite suite what it leads up to, the track "Tro og Kraft" which is one of the best songs off the album, as it together with some of the other highlights from the album still got the same vibe as some tracks from The Age of Nero. But have adapted to the sound of this album, and it is something you must hear for yourself.
The weakest track on the album is "Phoenix", mainly because of the guest vocals from Norwegian singer Sivert Høyem. It's very hard for me to adjust to such a mainstream vocal in the middle of a Satyricon album. Musically the track is fine and sounds good, plus Frost keeps it from getting too mainstream with his signature drumming. But I would love to hear the track with Satyr's vocals on instead. Luckily the band applies some damage control with "Walker Upon the Wind" which puts you back on track where "Nocturnal Flare" left off. It actually does that and a little more as it got a lot more tempo to it. So don't think Satyricon has gone all soft, because they haven't! A track like "Ageless Northern Spirit" could easily been recorded on The Age of Nero as it actually hits you hard in the face but also got the slower passages that builds up for yet another punch in the face!
I was positively surprised when I saw the cover for this release, as it fits the album unbelievable well. It is different from the works they used in the past, and it should be as this album is truly unique. Highlights on this album is narrowed down to: "Tro og Kraft", "Our World, It Rumbles Tonight", "Walker Upon the Wind", "Ageless Northern Spirit" and "The Infinity of Time and Space". Previously Satyricon has divided a lot of fans because of the new directions they've taken, and this album will do the exact same thing as it wanders off into a different direction than The Age of Nero. But it is a good, and interesting path they have chosen.
You know, it doesn't always have to be about frostbitten mountains, grim forests or killing Christians. And it is getting tiring to hear people complain about Satyricon, after all it is not 2006 any more. So how about growing the fuck up, instead of saying this band is pretending to be this and that. As I said, it's tiring. Satyricon keeps growing as a band, and they will continue to grow, and that is one of the things that keep making this band so interesting.
This is an album that will grow on you. If you liked any of Satyricon's newer albums, counting from Volcano and up, then you will find some good sides to this album. This album doesn't hit you as hard in the face as The Age of Nero did, and with good reason since it never was its intention. This self-titled album is much more progressive and atmospheric, to be precise it is the most atmospheric album since Nemesis Divina. But since it's not "trve kvlt blerk merdl" with corpsepaint and stuff, then nobody cares. However there is still hard hitting moments on the album that reminds you of the recent predecessors. So if you liked those albums then you should give this a try, if not, try it anyway. This album should be enjoyed for what it is, and as I said, it will grow on you. And remember... listen to it with an open mind.
Written for The Legacy Reviews
You know this album is going to be bad when the first couple minutes sound like Queens of the Stone Age playing When the Saints Go Marching In. A few things about this release were already worrisome. Satyr has repurposed this band into a commercial rock band with black metal aesthetics for the past decade, and recent interviews suggested his passion for making music has waned. The wine galleries, the media appearances... the music was secondary. Then his claims of wanting to make something new though not feeling inspired but forcing himself to make music anyway could only mean one thing: a lack of passion, and covering up what is essentially an afterthought with hollow gimmickry.
This should come as no surprise considering their recent stage theatrics and image. Satyr took his winning formula but somehow came up with an unmarketable version of the rock vapidity he was shipping out the past decade and stripped it down further into what he has been hinting at for 3 albums now. Satyricon sounds like a jam tape from Snorre Ruch (Thorns) playing his favorite Bob Seger riffs and moments from the Top Gun soundtrack. This is so sterile and lifeless, one has to wonder why Satyr is even trying to pass this adult contemporary rock with open string dissonance once or twice a song as metal. He has claimed to listening to only rock n' roll in his spare time and not finding black metal as inspirational as he once did, so why does he continue to try to mask his projects as such? Without the raspy vocals, this could pass off as a The White Stripes album.
Satyricon was planning on changing the way people think about black metal, which can be seen as ineffective right from the outset. The lyrics seem like a parody of themes already explored on Nemesis Divina mixed with a dumbed down version of what Snorre Ruch wrote about on the Thorns album. The supposedly analog production is dismal. Guitars are weak and the drums thud along with no power whatsoever. Musically, the band is content to remain in one fixed slow tempo, with a lot of chords ringing out to create the space necessary for simple drums to establish a foot tapping rhythm. All the songs sound the same (track 3 has a parody of an old Cadaver riff), but some gimmickry is employed. Phoenix has cringe-worthy HIM-esque crooning vocals done by a guest vocalist but aside from that, is indistinguishable from anything that preceded it. The next half of the album attempts to vary things somewhat, with the next song being a "fast" song that feels like a Volcano b-side, but aside from faster tempos (on 2 tracks) and a long closing track employ the same limited range of expression that is utilized on the first 5 songs. Songs have about 3 riffs and meander about without direction, making them seem longer than they actually are. Being the youngest guys from that whole early 90s Norwegian scene, they certainly feel the most lifeless of the bunch nowadays.
This album is the definition of crippled momentum, lost integrity but, more importantly, phoning it in. It sounds like one idea thinly stretched to flounder around for about an hour. This doesn't even have the gimmicky cock rock "let's have fun and make money" shtick that gave their previous three albums marketability, reeking of a "another day at the office, lets phone something in" mentality. If Satyricon were more honest with themselves, they would change their name, drop the raspy vocals, and play populist Queens of the Stone Age styled muzak and give up pretending to be a black metal band, as this is probably the most insincere album they've released thus far, and considering their 2000s albums, that's saying a lot.