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There are two essential Norwegian black metal splits of the 90s, and it's not a surprise to me that Enslaved participated in both of them. They had he stronger presence on Emperor/Hordane's Land, but despite their enormous contribution to this one, with around 40 minutes of material, I think Satyricon match them almost pace for pace here, even if their half is only about 25 minutes. When you add that up, of course, you're looking at over an hour of material from two of the best of that 90s scene, a lot of which is not available elsewhere, at least not with as much value as experience both halves combined.
Basically, each band has offered up a demo, to which they had tacked on a new track just for this release. The Forest is My Throne was originally released in 1993 as Satyricon's second demo, after All Evil the year before. Of the four tracks, only "Min Hyllest Til Vinterland" would be redundant with Dark Medieval Times. "Black Winds" opens with an opaque zephyr of noise before erupting into a measured riff-fest, with some mid paced, raw guitars reminiscent of Bathory and Darkthrone. There are brief explosions into faster material, and Satyr's vocals are pretty intense, especially at that point right before the 6 minute mark where he opens up enormous growling over the slicing, blast sequence. "The Forest is My Throne", however, is my favorite of the demo, with razor riffs that march along with all the glory of Bathory circa Blood, Fire, Death, under some great atmosphere and effects. I do feel that the drumming is mildly uneven in volume, but otherwise it's excellent. Their last bit is "The Night of the Triumphator", which begins with a sample of fornication below some evil synths, and then explodes into some crude, primal black metal which sounds like early Immortal. I dug the growled vocals and the Celtic Frost undertow to some of the slower guitars, and it's fairly consistent with The Forest demo material.
Yggdrasil is a slightly earlier demo (1992), and features Enslaved at some of their crudest, which I find every bit as enjoyable as their acclaimed full-length debut Vikingligr Veldi (1994). Again, there is very little overlap to worry about. "Heimdallr" appears on that album in a more polished form, and "Allfáðr Oðinn" is also included with Hordane's Land, but the rest of the material feels like virgin, Christian soil to conquer if you hadn't already had access to the demo. There's a pipe organ "Interlude" which feels more or less worthless, but "Hal Valr" is a rush of raw, glorious Viking black metal with some tight tremolo riffing and a lot of crashing percussion and synthesizer accents. The mix is a bit rough, with the drums and guitars feeling a little too separate, but this and "Niunda Heim" are both great, even if the piano/choir outro "Resound of Gjallarhorn" is forgettable. The band's new contribution, "Enslaved" itself is a great, vicious storm of tightwire riffing and brutal, bloodied Grutle Kjellson rasping, but once again the louder percussion screws a little with the depth and tone.
In all, this split is a tremendous value, and I certainly can't fault these bands for making the demos available in such a form, while at the same time expanding their audience. Which, when you think of it, is the entire point of the format: you scratch my back, and I scratch yours. Along with Emperor/Hordanes Land, this was very likely the first exposure many had to these acts, in fact I know people who owned the pair of splits and had never even heard Vikingligr Veldi or Dark Medieval Times. Not every individual track is great, and some are available elsewhere, but there is a particular authenticity to this release which makes it worth a purchase, despite the demo level production of most of the content.
Picture a window of pure black stained glass, now break it into a couple different pieces, each with its own unique shape yet still all containing that uniform sense of color. Essentially what you have is the perfect analogy for what the black metal scene of the early 90s was like in Scandinavia, as a sizable collection of bands came all but out of nowhere with a strongly unified style, yet each carrying their own unique detailing within the framework established. Satyricon and Enslaved come from all but polar opposites within the spectrum of this movement, as the former has a pretty simple format that largely resembles that of Darkthrone, while the latter has this strong progressive and symphonic element to their style that puts them a little closer to Emperor’s side of the coin, though even there the comparisons are fairly small.
Comparing these two bands is basically like comparing the composer of epic adventure movies against that of creepy horror flicks. Both of them employ keyboard sounds to augment their respectively raw sounds on here, but they take it to very different places. Satyricon definitely relies on a more dissonant synthesizer quality that gives images of supernatural beings haunting the forests of Norway. The character of the riff work on the “The Forest Is My Throne” side of the split definitely goes for a vintage Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost sound, largely resembling a darker variant on the speed/thrash style as pioneered by Venom, but with a production that is largely similar to “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”, though the songs themselves are a fair bit simpler and less touched by late 80s death metal influences. Meanwhile, Enslaved basically throws in a whole bunch of ideas that are fairly uncommon in other bands of this scene, particularly the vintage string orchestra and percussive sounds that draw up images of heroic Vikings speaking in tongues while channeling the will of Odin.
The interesting thing to note is that although Enslaved comes from a much more complex and developed side of the equation, their production quality is actually rawer and more low fidelity than their straightforward companions. The drum production is pretty dry, while the rest of the arrangement is so loaded with reverb that it sounds like the band is playing about a quarter of a mile away. Even on the slightly higher in quality production bonus song “Enslaved”, which actually showcases some riffs that are highly similar to the same early speed/thrash influences that are more present on Satyricon’s end, all of the arrangement sounds like it is occurring in the middle of a violent blizzard. “The Night Of The Triumphator”, which is the other bonus song not found on any other releases, showcases Satyricon at their strongest, as the production value is heightened and the riffs taken on an all out Thrash feel, not all that far from something that could have been heard on “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark”, including the vocal performance, which is lower sounding and closer to a death/thrash vocal bark.
As far as any split that has ever been done between two members of the same musical scene, this one arguably has the greatest level of stylistic tension. Even a novice newcomer to the 2nd wave’s music would not be able to mistake these two bands or these two albums. Later on both of these outfits would change very drastically and become something completely different from what they were at this time, which may have been inevitable given the highly progressive and exploratory natures of both bands. Far from being the cult of dogmatic copycats that some claim these bands to be, this music had a strong level of differentiation, even between bands that came from the same country. This is definitely an essential pickup if you can find it, as you essentially get two rare releases in one, as well as 2 songs that can’t be found anywhere else.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 24, 2009.
Satyricon and Enslaved are two bands with a similar history. Both bands began their career with classic black metal that has secured them a legacy in the genre. This was true, under-produced, and beautifully golden music that has been embraced and remembered by fans of the early black metal scene. Now Satyricon and Enslaved make more accessible music with catchier riffs and choruses and very crisp production. This release concerns the two bands’ early days. Very Early days. This split release contains Satyricon’s second demo, The Forest Is My Throne and Enslaved’s second demo, Yggdrasill.
Let’s start things off with Satyricon. The Forest Is My Throne has a very similar sound to the bands first album. Raw production and fast yet melodic music. It opens on a very sinister note with battering war drums and deep horn instruments. After this short intro we hear an explosion of thunder and Black Winds kicks off into a fast, shredding black metal tune. Frost doesn’t seem as confident as he does on later albums and definitely isn’t as fast as we hear him on Nemesis Divina but his mid paced blasting is far from amateur. The title track features some awesome riffs from Satyr, as do all of the songs here. This track picks up where Black Winds left off, leading into a nice and fast piece of work. Min Hyllest Til Vinterland would later appear on Satyricon’s Dark Medieval Times debut but this version is a little longer. This gloomy passage was the conclusion to the original pressing but for this split re-release they recorded another song, The Night Of The Triumphator (which isn’t a real word). The first 50 seconds of this track opens with a sample that sounds like a woman experiencing an orgasm, suddenly Satyr gives out a cold shriek and the song erupts with some nice blastbeats and fast riffs. In the album sleeve Satyr explains that this song is dedicated to ‘the old bands of the genre’. The lyrics are also included in the inside cover and they seem to mostly concern killing Christians. Awesome.
The latter half of this split consists of Yggdrasill by Enslaved. Like Satyricon, the sound is not unlike their debut album which would come out two years after this release. The production is significantly poorer on this demo though, nearly to the point in which it effects the music, but instead I think it adds to the overall sound. This is considerably lengthier than Satyricon’s portion, clocking in at just over forty minutes, it’s a wonder they didn’t release this as an album. The chaotic sound and production takes some getting used to. This definitely isn’t a good starting point for black metal, try some early Darkthrone and see if you can handle that first. However once you are able to appreciate the music, it is more than rewarding. Enslaved waste no time, and open with some drum rolls and then some buzzy guitar riffs whisk you away on an epic adventure to the northlands. The speed on this release (Heimdallr, for example) is quite impressive for such a band that was so young at the time. This is especially showcased on some rapid guitar solos featured on almost all of the seven songs. A notable exception is the interlude, The Winter Kingdom Opus I: Resound of Gjallarhorn which is a short and melodically beautiful piece of work which leads nicely into what might be the strongest offering here, interestingly titled Enslaved. This is a nice reflection and summary of what this demo was; fast, brutal, and relentless black metal for true Vikings!
So what we have here is a real treat. A great chance to get your hands on some hard-to-find demos that were the starting points for two great bands. If you’re a fan of true, raw, and blasphemous black metal I strongly recommend seeking out this split. I highly doubt you will be disappointed.