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A Better Sound - 78%

Blasherke, December 23rd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Napalm Records

Satyricon return to the scene, as always with a self-declared masterpiece. I expected it to be more aggressive, as the studio reports suggested. From what I've read, after Satyr recovered from his life-threatening illness he wanted to play a different - less aggressive - type of music. I respect that, but still prefer their faster output.

On the other hand, compared to the predecessor the sound is way better: the Jethro Tull sound was discarded and replaced by a production similar to the Nero-era. Some song structures are very reminiscent to Nero as well: the opener Midnight Serpent has the same (un)balance between blasts and slowpaced parts as did Commando.

Both Satyr and Frost are quite in shape and some songs really stand out: Blood Cracks seemed like fun for Frost, the title track is an excellent piece of metal, Black Wings sounds better after each listening and Burial Rite is a killer closening song.

Don't expect too much black metal though: it's black 'n roll at best, with good songs (see above) alongside poppy (Ghost of Rome), awkward (Dissonant) and dragging (Brethren) sidesteps.

Compared to the predecessor this is a step up, but the true brilliance of Satyricon is the ability to combine harshness, darkness, melody and a unique own sound. There's no such combination to be found here.

Altars Burn: We Celebrate! - 90%

Hell_is_Empty, November 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak)

Following Satyricon is not for the faint of heart. This band has pushed the envelope for over 25 years and they always went exactly where they wanted to go. Not necessarily where their fans wanted or expected them to go. They were the first black metal band to mix the TNBM sound with a medieval atmosphere back in ’93-‘94 with Dark Medieval Times. They continued by taking the atmospheric black metal sound to what’s arguably been the pinnacle of that subgenre with Nemesis Divina. Then, fed up with gothic black silliness in the late nineties, they brought a cold, hard, industrial curve-ball in the form of Rebel Extravaganza to the masses. The masses were not amused. Their loss: the album still stands as a unique, unrelentingly aggressive and intelligent album which, though a bit long, rewards everyone who’s willing to put in the listens. Swimming against the stream was no longer sufficient though. With Volcano, Satyricon left the stream altogether by playing an original, minimalist form of black-and-roll with a lot of room for dark atmospheres. Now, Diabolical went even further with catchy hooks and admirably effective song structures. And all throughout the masses, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Age of Nero took things slightly back with a more aggressive approach. Finally, with their self-titled album, we were again in curve ball territory. A strange epic and melancholy sound permeated the album. Original and intelligent but not altogether successfully executed. The album lacked power and aggression. Not in the least due to a weak production but there was certainly also an issue with strong song ideas not carried through properly. So with such a roller coaster of a discography, what’s to expect from Deep Calleth Upon Deep?

Not to worry. This is a more than solid album. As a matter of fact, I think there’s even a chance the band will win back some of those masses. Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a very strong and focused output, more in line with the Age of Nero than with their self-titled. This is arguably Satyricon’s most aggressive performance since Rebel Extravaganza with Frost showing up in a very prominent role doing what he does best. Nice examples of this are opener Midnight Serpent hitting you in the face with blunt force and Blood Cracks Open the Ground keeping you on your toes with some interesting rhythms. Things go even slightly back to the good old days with some speedy dark atmospheric black with a slight Immortal touch in Black Wings and Withering Gloom. Frost must be happy with this literal change of pace. So are we.

And Satyricon have again succeeded with their effective minimalist song structures. The title track I predict to become their third “anthem” next to Mother North and King. The song sounded incredible live with both a similar epic drive as King but with goosebumps moments thrown in the mix as well. And closer Burial Rite, my personal favorite of the album, never ceases to make me want to punch something and start thrashing the place. “Heads bow mourning: it's the Burial Rite!” (Followed by chairs kicked around and all matters of flying debris)

A final stand out aspect of the album is the strong production. It’s massive, dark, but still let’s the music breathe. Don’t take my word for it: listen to the album right after you listened to Volcano or The Age of Nero and you’ll hear what I mean. And for The Horned One’s sake, listen to the album on a good set or with some great headphones. There’s plenty of neat little sounds and things to hear behind the main music up front. You can certainly hear that the recent live album played with an orchestra has left some marks on the overall sound of Deep Calleth Upon Deep.

All killer, no filler. The album clocks in at 43 minutes and will give you 43 minutes of Satyricon’s best aggressive, catchy-yet-intelligent, atmospheric black & roll. If you hated the previous four albums, you probably don’t have to bother. But for anyone else we have a highly recommended release here. Satyricon strikes back hard after a slightly disappointing predecessor with their strongest output yet in the band’s own unique style. Be sure to catch them live as these songs are made for sweaty jam-packed venues with like-minded masses screaming and banging away...

Great BM. Breaks the BM mould for better/worse. - 90%

MrMetalpants, November 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak)

First off, I need to say how much I hate the album art. I appreciate that it's old artwork from 1899 called "Kiss of Death" by Edvard Munch. I just wish it looked better in every way. Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the experimentation here. This album is somewhat hard to pin down due to the use of so many varieties of black metal being used here. "Blood Cracks Open the Ground" sounds like something from the first wave of black metal with it's clearly defined heavy metal riffs and distinguishable growls. "Dissonant" has a saxophone solo. I don't think it worked, but not for a lack of trying. There are plenty of non-traditional instruments I could see on a black metal album as an experiment (Tuba, didgeridoo, dulcimer, bandura, flute), but not a saxophone. It's a small enough part and they get points for pushing the boundaries. You have a more melodic black metal sound with "To Your Brethren in the Dark". "Midnight Serpent" picks up the tempo for a more traditionally modern black metal sound. The song "Ghost of Rome" offers a little more up-beat blackened rock, if you will.

Not only is the mixing of style unique, but so is the writing. With the style in such flux, the album offers diverse song compositions. There are pieces of music here that are rarely done, and even more rarely work so well. Examples like the beginning of "Deep Calleth Upon Deep", that lead over "Ghost of Rome" that'll embed itself in your ear, and the chorus from "To Your Brethren in the Dark". That song has some beautiful lyrics with a great message that I enjoyed. With all this going on, I have to say that there is some up-beat feeling and at times even an air of silliness. I can't help but mention almost every song individually in my review because each song is truly their own beast and there are so many strings tying them all together.

The instrumentation is great here. It's not all that technical but, as mentioned before, very unique. Each instrument has so much life in them you start see them with their attitude and character. Pay attention to the bass because it will often ride up high in octave with the segmented chords on the guitar. That's always a treat. The drums don't ever get too fast for their own good. Even in the slowest of songs they still have interesting beats. The guitar work is where this band really shines. The rhythm chords that evoke such emotion and the lead licks aren't just copies of vocal patterns but are truly their own beast and have their own tune. This is the kind of album we can get over and over again because of how much variation and we wouldn't get bored.

Best Tracks:
--To Your Brethren in the Dark
--The Ghost of Rome
--Blood Cracks open the Ground
--Black Wings and Withering Gloom

Technical Skill: 79% Song writing: 94% Originality: 92% Album Structure: 87% Production: 82%

The deep call of a Satyr - 70%

LefterisK, November 5th, 2017

On September 2017 Satyricon released their awaited ninth album Deep Calleth upon Deep on Moonfog Productions/Napalm Records. After 2013’s polarizing self-titled release which was specially celebrated with the well-documented concert with Norway's National Opera Chorus, many wondered what the next step of the Nordic duo would be. The album Satyricon saw the band departing from the sound they established during the 2000s –even more so from their 90s output– opening the doors to different musical explorations and sounds, explorations the band seems quite proud of. Given that fact, it is not surprising that this new album feels strongly connected to its predecessor, though it certainly comes along as a stronger and more focused effort.

Kicking things off with “Midnight Serpent”, the album is off a thunderous start, in a song that fuses speed and blastbeats with slower, spaced out parts in a very natural way. The pace changes completely halfway through with the appearance of a characteristic Satyricon riff featuring a(n almost) chromatic progression, followed by an atmospheric, tremolo-picked, middle part that is highly reminiscent of "Mental Mercury". There is also a brief section with a syncopated, dissonant chord riff which gives a faltering nod to Rebel Extravaganza, but that is pretty much the only direct influence of their 90s output. Despite the abundance of riffs, the (undoubtedly memorable) chorus ties the whole thing together in a coherent whole. “Blood Cracks Open the Ground” comes up next, presenting yet another face of the band. An energetic number with melodic parts that are counterbalanced by a strong rhythmic element, it is an interesting song that is quite progressive in structure, especially by Satyricon’s later-era standards. With “To Your Brethren in the Dark”, we return to the musical pathways of the self-titled album in a song with a subtle folk essence, that focus mostly on building up atmosphere.

The next two songs are, to me, the weakest songs of the album. The title track in particular is sturdily based on a main theme, which essentially originates from the opening riff of the song, although it uncurls in various ways throughout its length, leading up to the characteristic melody of the chorus. While the songwriting is aptly done, the whole song is based on a riff that comes short, and that certainly is not going to make it a standout number in any way. It still works well as a bridge between the choruses but is not a strong opening riff. “The Ghost of Rome” is a song driven by strong melodies and a song that articulates Satyr’s hard-rock influences the most. Although there are various black ‘n’ roll moments in most of the songs, this one feels quite different from the rest of the album, as it follows a simple, rock structure. At this point, I have to mention that these songs are quite lacking in the lyric department as well, as they seem rather generic and with trite metaphors. Despite the (overly) simple writing (that applies to all the songs more of less), the lyrics are not devoid of meaningful content and work well with the music.

Moving forward to “Black Wings and Withering Gloom”, we are presented with an interesting piece which is certainly one of the highlights of the album. Lyric-wise, it presents an existential look at the primal essence of war, a soldier’s sacrifice and will to stay alive, inspired by the Norwegian resistance to the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. Of course, that very rush of anxiety portrayed by the lyrics is strongly supported by the tremolo picked riffs and the blasting drums. While there are tangible black metal moments in almost all songs, “Black Wings”, together with “Midnight Serpent’s” chorus and middle section, is the most (straightforwardly) black metal offering of the band in a long time, even if such black metal riffage is not akin to the relentless and hateful approach of Nemesis Divina.

There are also some discreet experimentations to be found in this new album, such as the use of classical instruments, operatic vocals, and saxophone. These embellishments do enhance certain parts without being in the forefront of each part. The production of the album, courtesy of Mike Fraser, is also noteworthy, maintaining the organic sound presented with the self-titled, albeit with a punchier edge to the sound. All instruments sound amazing and perfectly balanced in the mix. The only thing to be mentioned critically would be Satyr’s vocals which sound fatigued and spiritless; they would have certainly benefitted from the layered approach he used in the past (which produced his distinctive “venomous” vocals).

In conclusion, Deep Calleth upon Deep sees the band continuing progressing their sound even further. It is neither as dark as Volcano or Now, Diabolical, nor features the powerful wall of sound of The Age of Nero, but it still pertains that conquering nature Satyricon is precisely known for. Although mid-paced and seemingly uneventful for the most part of its length, a certain element of aggression seems to have returned to the band’s sound, especially in comparison to the “toothless” self-titled album, and that is something that is always welcome when we talk about black metal music. Deep Calleth upon Deep is definitely the most melodic the band has been; a solid effort that summarises what Satyricon is about in 2017.

Lefteris Kefalas