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It's a curious twist of fate that Satyricon's sophomore, in its quest to come off as a more cohesive effort than the album it closely trails, ends up the inferior of the pair. Not that The Shadowthrone is by any means a reproachable attempt at maturation, just that the flow of riffing here seemed inherently predictable even when there were so few bands of this sort in the field, when second wave black metal was still a relatively novel undertaking. Gone might be the juvenile cover art, but its minimalist, oblique replacement is none the better. Gone might be the somewhat disjointed songwriting of the debut, but this more consistent material is hardly all the rage. 1994 was not to be the year of Satyricon, not even with two full-lengths, as the masterworks of Emperor and Darkthrone, and strong releases from Burzum, Gorgoroth and Enslaved would seem to preclude that possibility...
That macro-reality aside, however, The Shadowthrone is essentially a good album, just not one that can stack up song for song with its nearest siblings Dark Medieval Times or Nemesis Divina. As I hinted, the album is quite consistent in its pacing and structure. Where there were moments on the debut that felt hammy and slapped together, all the joints here seem better oiled, and the transitions pulled off more smoothly, even if they're not that exciting. Like its predecessor, the band incorporates lush passages of acoustics and a lot of synthesizers to create a grandiose, epic atmosphere, best felt in the bridge of "Woods of Infinity", the closing moments of "The King of the Shadowthrone", or the pompous martial barrage that inaugurates "Dominions of Satyricon". Stand-out riffs are few and far between here, though I favor the mid-paced might prevalent on the middle of the album ("Vikingland", "Dominions...") to the faster, more emptied gait of "In the Mist by the Hills" and "The King of the Shadowthrone".
In fairness, most of the songs have at least one compelling riff. The 8-9 minute duration of tunes like "Hvite Krists Dod" and "In the Mist by the Hills" doesn't create the same one-two combo of "Walk the Path of Sorrow" and "Dark Medieval Times", but they're competent enough, and the symphonic elements are far better matched to the charge of the guitars. Frost turns in a solid foundation, though I wouldn't dub it his most impressive drumming by a long shot. The vocals and lyrics also seem to be more cohesive and enduring than those of the first album, and of course the production is a step beyond in clarity and consistency. But honestly, this just wasn't and never will be one of the better Norwegian black metal albums of its era, and I'd place it alongside Gehenna's Second Spell or Dimmu Borgir's debut For All Tid in terms of lasting impact and total quality. It lacks the screaming, nocturnal ambition of Emperor's opus and the infinite, raw appeal of a Burzum; The Shadowthrone just sort of meanders along, providing a good landscape for the imagination, but few of the ambitious characteristics located elsewhere in Satyricon's scene.
I'm not going to beat a dead horse and cry "oh Satyricon sold out, blah blah blah". The facts are the facts, and if they chose to move towards a more commercial style, then that's part of their evolution and I ain't losing sleep over it. What I can say is the early years of Satyricon did have four majestic cult releases that set a fire under the ass of many a metalhead, making arm and neck hairs stand on end and causing goose bumps aplenty. Yes, Satyricon has that effect on me every time I listen to them, especially "The Shadowthrone", which would be Satyricon's second full length. Most will say "Nemesis Divina" is their best and I'll say it was their high point, but atmosphere-wise "The Shadowthrone" beats it by a mile (or kilometer). In this review I will go by my favorite songs rather than the dreaded track by track.
First things first, the cover art is well-fitting and is simplistic in the fact that it pretty much describes "The Shadowthrone" by a picture of what appears to be a tree in a darkened forest and is on the back of the tray as well. A picture of Satyr taken by Fenriz on their mountain trip is on the back of the actual cover, inside is Samoth with a backdrop of ice-covered mountains, and Frost is decked out in corpse paint with a totally black background. The last page of the booklet is one of my all time favorite paintings (my first is Darkthrone's "Transilvanian Hunger's" "Ferdasyn") of a dark forest at night, the purple sky reflecting off the water and a Viking overlooking all of this. Why talk about all of this, you may ask? Well, the art is just as important to the music as the instruments are and the problem with a lot of "today's music" (cliche) is artists don't take enough pride in this alone.
Opening song "Hvite Krists Dod" is a akin to a blasting furnace with the fury contained therein. The icy coldness of Satyr's vocals, the frozen riffs played by both Satyr and Samoth (who handles bass as well as guitar), and the thunderous blasts of Frost's drums make this track a great way to open "The Shadowthrone"; nothing else will do. You really can hear the evolution take its course from where "Dark Medieval Times" ended and see why this alone makes "The Shadowthrone" a winner. The choir at the end of the song fits perfectly and doesn't sound corny, but dark and menacing. Also, the grand piano synchronizes with the riff extremely well so much so that still to this day I haven't heard better.
"In The Mist By The Hills" opens with a memorable riff which repeats constantly throughout the song as the tempo changes at times faster and others slower. Here is where we really see Frost shine through as a talented skinsman that no lie shall I utter and the blasts on this song destroyed my speakers in my Sentra, seriously. This is a very catchy song and it may take you only one or two listens to memorize the lyrics word for word.
"Vikingland" is my next favorite track at number four, and to some this is their least favorite. It is a rather short song for Satyricon, but it makes up for length in sheer power. Satyr's choir is present here just like "Hvite Krists Dod" and again is used sparingly yet enough to make an impact on the listener. Obviously "Vikingland" is Satyr's description of Norway and does have a very archaic feel to it. The point of these songs is to create pure Norwegian atmosphere and here it is definitely present.
My next pick is the next track, "Dominions Of Satyricon", and is one of my favorite Satyricon songs ever. The synth alone here is powerful enough to stand by itself and the opening riff follows it on point. The samples of wind also have an impact as well and again we witness the intensity of the fallen angel named Frost. This is one of the most epic songs by Satyricon and definitely the most epic on "The Shadowthrone". A very memorable song indeed.
The songs "Woods To Eternity", "The King Of The Shadowthrone", and "I En Svarte Kiste" are also very, very good songs and hold merit to me. "I En Svarte Kiste" is a great instrumental to end "The Shadowthrone" with and just as "Hvite Krists Dod" would be my only choice to open this album, this instrumental would be the closer. Well, here we have it, one of the best funeral synth and black metal albums created and, in my opinion, Satyricon's best album ever. If you're new to their work and would like a starting point, then start with "The Shadowthrone" as each Satyricon album sounds different and is a progression of their evolution. One of the many great Norwegian black metal releases anno 1994, "The Shadowthrone" is a keeper.
I’m not entirely sure why Satyricon is regarded in the MA as Black Metal solely, when they actually went from Black Metal, to this kind of Viking (lyrically and musically) outfit, to the raw version that were Nemesis Divina and Rebel Extravaganza, to the rock oriented version we have today. The thing is that in all cases, given the talent of the two members Satyr and Frost, Satyricon always manage to stand out, always.
The Shadowthrone begins with some surely not so kind words by Satyr, and what follows is a nice piece of Black Metal riffing with some Viking influences here and there. Don’t get me wrong, this is not Viking ala Thyrfing, no sr., this is Black Metal with some influences, some keyboard melodies and intermezzos that give this atmosphere. This and the darkness that the production values add make this album essential for any Norwegian Black Metal lover.
The songs are long and have a lot of changes, and the speed is not pure blast beats, Satyr and Frost took their time to write and arrange each and every riff. The piano moments are like ghostly and magic, they fly here and there and the overall result is great.
As usual, Frost delivers an excellent job, and the vocals are splendid, fitting perfectly the mood of the album.
Another thing that is worth checking is the work of the acoustic guitars also present in this album. They are not a constant in each and every song, but they are present in the correct moments. A special mention is the intermezzo in the song Woods to Eternity, beautiful moment.
In a few words, this album reflects all the quality that this duo has (I know Samoth played bass, but I doubt he had something to do with the song writing) for writing and playing Black Metals with some Viking moments. This is by no means the best effort that BM has to offer, even, is not Satyricon best, but is a nice listening, full of surprises made by two of the most talented musicians in the Norwegian scene.
If you ask me, get this album right away!!!
Ah, Satyr, you wide-eyed youth, hope setting your blackened heart a-patter as visions of a loving scene and nubile, busty wenches kneeling before you dance and whirl in your brain. Did you imagine in 1994, in all your wildest and most private cogitations, that you would soon discover the boons of cocaine and flashy cars? Did you dream of driving a Farari down the Autobahn under the smog-obscured stars, cigar clamped resolutely beneath your teeth as your older brother Fenriz sprawls in the passenger seat, giggling inanely after washing down the Ecstacy pills you gave him with some shots of well-aged Cognac? Were you excitedly writing letters to Varg Vikernes in his prison cell, telling him about all the great albums full of Odinist pride you were going to write, and about that hot makeup artist you just hired? Did you actually manage to craft a good album during all that wild mental activity?
While Satyr isn't here to answer the other questions posed above, he's left us some evidence among the baggies, condoms, fast-food wrappings, spoons, makeup kits and other detritus for me to take a stab at the last one. A good place to start might be to describe why "The Shadowthrone" is so obviously ahead of its predecessor, "Dark Medieval Times". Let us be frank about this: Satyr is a terrible song-writer and always has been, but this blight was at its absolute worst on the debut, which admittedly has a certain charm but suffers from exuberantly pasted-together songs with no sense of cohesion or flow. It's the sort of slapdash construction that legions of metal fans often lambast Opeth for, but the Swedes at least have a heavy musical background from which to draw upon and even at their worst never really conveyed the immaturity and misplaced zeal that Satyr often did. We should give him some leeway as he was obviously rather young and inexperienced, even by the time of his second album's release, but this problem never really went away entirely for him and perhaps the praise (and the blow jobs) got to his head and gave him something of a justification for resting on his laurels all these years. However, there are surprisingly tasteful transitions on "The Shadowthrone", and while many segues still seem awkward and ill-advised, a couple of these songs even manage to carry themselves forward on the momentum of some nice riffs and a very pleasing, if typical, early/mid-90s Norwegian black metal production with barely a seam showing. There is more speed on this record than could be found on the previous one, and sections are often drawn out to more natural lengths so that the music appears less spastic. The acoustic guitars have been relegated to a couple of brief interludes on a mere two tracks, and what do you know, they sound a hell of a lot better, even though these are apparently played by Satyr this time and not by Samoth.
"Hvite Krists Død" opens in a rather arresting way as Satyr rasps out some hateful invocation against the white Christ for a few seconds before the instruments join the fray to drive his point home. The song is still a live favourite today, and one can see why, as it's clearly one of the band's strongest pieces. Satyr's voice is no longer the unhinged, barely-pubescent shriek of the debut, but has settled into the mid-range, somewhat dispassionate approach that he mostly still uses today. I like a lot of the riffs in this song, and while I could definitely do without the cheesy synth and spoken interlude, the menacing simple riff accompanied by the tinklings of a grand piano near the end sounds really good, especially when considering what band it's coming from. The guitars have a really nice mid-range graininess to them and are very clear, and the drums are huge-sounding, especially those toms, which positively rumble forth with war-like bombast on a good sound system. There's no doubt in my mind that, in terms of sound production, this album beats the much-acclaimed "Nemesis Divina" right from the first note. Oh, and there's a gong used in "Hvite Krists Død", and any black metal band that successfully employs a gong wins some praise from me!
"In the Mist by the Hills" starts off in a very memorable way, with the slowly picked notes of a single chord reminding me very much of Burzum, before things pick up speed and we're treated to a very catchy, vaguely folk-ish riff that is the sort of template for much of both this and the previous album's music. Things move along nicely for a bit but about half-way through the song something bad seems to happen to Satyr's brain and inexplicably everything stops being memorable and the piece meanders. The damn song is a few seconds shorter than the first track and yet it feels every bit as lengthy as it is possible to stretch out eight minutes in the mind of a listener. The opening riff returns to close off the song at least, so it's not a total writing disaster. On the other hand, "Woods of Eternity" is one nice piece of Satyricon music ... at six minutes it doesn't overstate its welcome, Frost's drumming is thunderous (the man can really command battle legions when he's not wasting his talents on endless blastbeats), almost every riff seems to fit with its neighbours and the acoustic section is without a doubt the best Satyricon ever came up with (there's even a little understated solo over-top of it).
"Vikingland". The song's title conjures up some pretty hoky and overdone imagery to be honest, and ooooh boy, this is where everything really hits rock bottom, and I have trouble articulating just how utterly vapid and, yes, gay-sounding this song turned out to be. Is this supposed to be drinking party music? One jolly and mid-paced rudimentary folk riff, accompanied by Norwegian babble and ... oh the horror, a Viking choir! But it's all Satyr, and he can't sing, and although this "charming" addative was also thrown into "Hvite Krists Død" it was only used sparingly at the end without any harsh vocal interjections, and didn't detract much from the music. Here though, it's a sort of dialogue between grim-voiced Satyr and layered, chorused Satyr, the latter being completely tone-deaf in the worst possible sense, so that even though all the voices are supposed to be singing the same melody, they are actually working against each other. Then everything stops, we get some wind noises and grim-voiced prattle from Satyr, who is presumably angry because his raucous attempts at singing got him kicked out of the party he was attending and into a blizzard. Aha, but there's another riff! This one is supposed to be majestic and, I guess, battle-hungry, and now the choir is making stupid "uh-uh-uh-uh" noises, which makes me think of that movie "Excalibur" where the drunken knight is pathetically trying to shag his woman while dressed in full battle armour.
The massive "Dominions of Satyricon" takes some steps toward returning to the grandeur of the first track. The gong makes a welcome re-appearance even if it follows some obnoxious synthesised orchestra-hit sounds, and there are some proud riffs here, including one that should be familiar to any black metal fan, that being the glorious triumphant centrepiece riff to Darkthrone's "The Pagan Winter". I won't lambast Satyr for pilfering a riff from a superior band, because the two groups were clearly fairly "tight" and Satyr and Fenriz have worked on projects together and so on and clearly share inspiration. I will however criticise the stupid fade-out that makes you think the song is at an end before there's an ill-advised synth-only passage that consists of a few descending broken chords before the metal flops back down like the weighty thighs of a crusty old whore. Ah, Satyr, you really are more at home making cock rock, aren't you?
I'll add an extra point or to to the score for the ending synth piece, too, which is still poorly constructed, but hey, at least all the disparate parts are in the same key and the last patch Satyr uses is a grand-sounding pipe organ one. It's hard to fuck up majesty on a pipe organ and well, this is a pretty simple but picturesque final impression to leave on the listener. I also can't be too hard on the album because it was one of my first black metal purchases, so there's a certain affectionate fondness for it in my heart that I can't allow for any other Satyricon recording, even "Dark Medieval Times", which I gladly gave away years ago.
SO, there it is ... the most worthy recording from a decidedly third-rate band. The best things I can really say about it is that the production is great, Frost's drumming easily gets the head nodding (and great gods, that tom sound), and taken individually a lot of Satyr's riffs are suitably big and maybe even played with some conviction. Nevertheless, music should be more than just a collection of melodies, and Satyricon are not constructing any kind of story or cinematic landscape with their songs, as, for example, Sigh might try and do. Actually, I find mid-period Sigh somewhat distasteful at times because the juxtapositions are simply too random and nonsensical, and that band are arguably verging on musical genius. Satyr, though, is just a cocky kid.
Even if Satyricon are one of those bands that you might hear people calling “sell outs” today, you certainly cannot deny that their early work was not only hugely influential to future black metal music, but also some of the best black metal in history. With the massive debut Dark Medieval Times taking the Norwegian black metal scene by surprise with it’s original and innovative new sound, The Shadowthrone does more than pick up where the first one left off. The music seems more mature, hateful, and aggressive than past and future work of Satyricon. Many would call this, including myself, their finest hour.
The album opens with a rasping war cry from Satyr with the live favourite Hvite Krists Død. This is soon followed by an explosion into grim black metal that will have you head banging until the acoustic breakdowns partway through, ending with chanting choirs. Just when you think they won’t be able to live up to the opener, they do. In The Mist By The Hills is definitely among my favourite Satyricon songs and it makes no sense to me why they don’t seem to play it live. Starting off with epic sounding guitars leading into a painful shriek from Satyr and then into full blown fast paced black metal. We get to hear Frost with his ferocious speed on this track as well. Woods To Eternity sounds similar to Dark Medieval Times in that it features a lot of acoustic guitars. In Vikingland we get to hear some more choirs in the form of Viking chants-awesome. The album becomes more epic and orchestral with the following two tracks and wraps up nicely with the instrumental I En Svart Kriste.
Every black metal fan knows that you don’t buy a black metal album for just the music. The atmosphere is just as important. Thankfully this is something that Satyricon have always been able to achieve better than most, if not all other bands of the genre. There is just something about the excellent musicianship that creates an aura of darkness while listening to the music.
The Shadowthrone is just one of those albums with amazing replay value. Each song is it’s own and there are no repetitions or fillers. If you are a fan of black metal and do not already own The Shadowthrone by Satyricon, I cannot recommend more that you add it to your collection as soon as possible.
This album is a progression from their debut. It's very much like that, with similar sound and some ideas added. And I like it! It still has some things to show the listener, even if he doesn't care for the lyrics. This time the work is easy, though, because the lyrics (expect for the first track) are English, and are easily available.
The music hasn't changed too much, but it's something else in a way. There's keyboards and a choir singing in the first song, and at the end a Vikings' fight can be heard. Throughout the rest we've got as much atmosphere, as on "Dark Medieval Times" - but of some other kind, not so much into the forest, and more into the sea.
It's a very, solid, logical continuation of the ideas created by the band in their previous releases (demos and "Dark Medieval Times"). If someone did enjoy the previous one - pick up this one fast. It's clear that it hasn't been done for a commercial success (what is commercial success for a band like this!) but as a work that should fit right in place in the discography.
It's not as popular as the debut, maybe because there's (despite some new things) much similarity between them... But I think it is different, and should be appreciated in its own way.
"The Shadowthrone" is the second offering by the legendary black metal elites Satyricon. This album is often looked down upon compared to their acclaimed debut, "Dark Medieval Times.” I cannot really compare the two of them since I have not yet listened to "Dark Medieval Times" so I will review the music for what it is.
This album is a fantastic, tight black metal release and is almost perfect. What I like most about this album is that it is consistent and seems to flow, something you find lacking in many other black metal releases. Satyricon create a standout release by combining grim, sonically abrasive guitars and blast beats with epic undertones using an array of instruments (all of which were used extremely effectively). Also worthy of mention are Satyr's vocals. His malicious rasp is incredible and meshes perfectly with this album. Not to mention he has incredible talent on the guitar.
The first track "Hvite Krists Dod" is a major highlight. It kicks off with superb ascending riffs that build up to Nordic chants and swirling piano/guitar melodies. A truly epic masterpiece in itself. "In The Mist By The Hills" although far from filler, does not stand up to the opening track. The first four minutes consist of one mediocre riff, but midway through brings in the synth which adds many melodic textures to it. "Woods to Eternity" is another favorite of mine. The first two and half minutes contains ultimate neck breaking riffs with Frost's incredible drum work. The song then takes a twist with a soft acoustic interlude. The song finishes off with some really great guitar work that is a hybrid of melodic riffs and black metal chaos. "Vikingland" is no standout, but good nonetheless. It incorporates lots of Viking chants and pounding rhythms which create a very epic atmosphere. "Dominions of Satyricon" and "The King of The Shadowthrone" are more of the same that you would expect from this album, but are not the least bit boring. "I En Svart Kiste" wraps up with some nice synthetic melodies and use of samples, but isn’t exactly mind-blowing. Overall, the compositions of these songs are dense and complex which result in sometime the guitar getting drowned out. It isn't really bothersome and doesn’t take away from the album.
"The Shadowthrone" is certainly a black metal hallmark and belongs with the essentials
The members of Satyricon varied themselves as musicians from their initial release of demos till the their debut "Dark Medieval Times." They are a band which wanted to constantly alter themselves from album to album in their recurring span, but here's the first case of where they jumped forward or progressed too rapidly. Although, even with the number of attachments on "The Shadowthrone," it is still evident that you're listening to Satyricon. Maintaining some of the more infamous and well-known Norwegian coined black metal sound along the lines of Immortal, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Gorgoroth and Emperor.
The keyboards are a big driving force behind this second album's anatomy. They use a few of the same sampled sounds from the debut as well as add piano, choir and other symphonic elements ranging anywhere from classical-esque to medieval inspired. The guitars, being lower in the mix and less prominent, blend some similar modes of playing from "Dark Medieval Times." However, they have tendency to add more higher tremolo picked melodies, and one of his signature riffs on this album during the mid-paced sections is to use these down stroked hits while working his way up the neck of the guitar. There are a few catchy ones of the melodic type that might pop up and can be hummed right along. During some select areas there are acoustic guitars akin to the folk-like elements on the first. Some of the techniques range from simplistic to somewhat layered and complex, with even a few of the more involved guitar lines bleeding through that will be more evident on the next album "Nemesis Divina."
Satyr's vocals are mostly dry from lack of an abundance of reverb, which is usually the treatment for black metal vocals, but it sounds as if there is a slight amount of distortion effect added to them. His primary vocal patterns are pretty spot on to their last but way more up front in the mix; instead of being spread out and getting you from all sides, it is more direct and almost one on one, so in that respect it can sound different. There are a few areas of clean vocal lines that range from narrative to almost a chant. In some areas it sounds fitting and with a natural feeling and intensity. However in other areas, like the beginning of "Vikingland," it sounds forced and awkward, partly due to it opening up in the beginning of the song as an alternate to Satyr's contradictory roughened vocals. The last fuel to the fire is Frost's drum patterns, which are mostly a driving force to get that head banging of yours. His beats aren't the most technically sound but he plays extremely consistently. He still does those characteristic beats where the hi-hat and bass drum are hit at the same time, then the snare; something like early Immortal was doing. Some of the rapid double sticked hi-hat/alternate snare hit beats, along with the more distinguishable sound quality on the drums, can make the atmosphere go to an upbeat realm that's warmer than the frigid temperatures we're used to the band embracing us with.
The composition here isn't as cut and dry as saying "this isn't an album, but a collection of songs" or "their compositional skills are night and day, therefore they clash." It is on the way to those sentiments but not fully defining them entirely, or else this could've been worse off. The song writing can jump from dark, upbeat, epic, headbangable to introspective, but all the while not being on top of it all, as if they're putting elements into a particular song at different times. For a good chunk of this the song writing is something like: write this part and play it repetitiously, now include this part and play that section for a duration, and so on and so on till the song ends. Except sometimes without the smooth glide or lubrication in between. I mean there are general elements used in an attempt to connect the dots, such as similar returning vocals, certain drumming patterns and guitar techniques. It's like the ability is here to create a certain section, but when putting that piece with another and another, the fundamentals of flow and timing can throw the listener off. Yes, this has a lot of variety and it does have areas where things align from section to section, but then there are others where the mood is supposed to be steady, the evolution growing and evolving, though I'm compensating from getting pulled out of the hold or "trance" they might have got me with because the entire experience doesn't consistently add up or effectively transition into the next stage.