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"Úlfhéðnar, bare-chested for Mother North" - 97%

Qayn, January 14th, 2015

Generally considered one of black metal's greatest albums, "Nemesis Divina" presented various elements that were generally uncommon within the black metal scene at the time. This made the album a quintessential stepping stone on the road that would make Satyricon one of the most enduring black metal bands of the 90's and would make black metal make its next step. Satyricon's expression is in constant motion in "Nemesis Divina" and looking back on the release, it is evident that black metal found its turning point on the new elements of this record.

Released by now defunct Moonfog Productions on the 22nd of April 1996, "Nemesis Divina" was Satyricon's third full-length, after classics "The Shadowthrone" and "Dark Medieval Times". "Nemesis Divina" was recorded by Satyr (Sigurd Wongraven) and Frost (Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad) featuring also a new addition to the lineup, Kveldulv, better known as Nocturno Culto (Ted Skjellum) of Darkthrone. The album also had guests Nebelhexe (Andrea Meyer) performing the spoken part on "The Dawn of a New Age" and Geir Bratland performing all synthesizer and grand piano sections we hear on the album. The whole group of musicians already had released several works, so this would be an album comprised of musicians that, not only had created some of black metal's most memorable albums but also had their minds set on creating something that would re-define the genre that they had pioneered years before. It should also be noted, lyrics for "Du som hater Gud" were written by Fenriz (Gylve Nagell) also of Darkthrone.

The first element that would set "Nemesis Divina" apart as something new would be its cover art - no longer do we stare at a "rorschach like" frame of black and white imagery. Corpse paint is no longer featured in the cover, there are no poses being made in a wintry landscape amidst a forest in flame's hue. Rich with color and symbolism, the artwork designed by Halvor Bodin and Stein Løken was breaking new ground, setting Satyricon on a path that would set them apart from black metal's well-established niche well before the potential listener would even ear the album.

Black metal by this point wasn't all about Satanism. The previous year, Satyricon's "The Forest Is My Throne" was featured in a cooperative released with Enslaved's "Yggdrasill", containing lyrics glorifying Norway's landscapes, myths and heritage. "Nemesis Divina" continued this tradition, not only embodying its cover art with symbolism but also making several statements during the course of the whole work, affirming glories from the north's past and enflaming anti-Christian mottos - "Nemesis divina splinten i øyet på jehova sager, Nemesis divina kniven i hjertet på guds sønn" can be taken from lyrics of the title song "Nemesis Divina".

Indeed the music within the album embodies a divine sense of retribution and a wrath beyond that possessed by any common man. Nemesis, is usually connoted to the concept of an arch-enemy, however it is also according to Greek mythology, the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to arrogance before the gods. Most practitioners of black metal implied that Christianity had impacted the Norse gods and traditions with extreme arrogance, and this usually fueled the anti-Christian themes of most of these acts, this release was no exception. "Nemesis Divina" truly stands as a beacon to these sentiments. Úlfhéðnar are described as "Odin's special warriors", men that were mad as wolves, these slayers of other men that were neither hurt by fire nor iron, these were berserker (now know as berserks). Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet and historian that lived in the XIIIth century, believed that these mens' connotation as berserker, were associated with warriors that went into battle bare-chested, or "without armor" as men of Odin, and Satyricon truly stand bare-chested in their defense of Mother North.

The production values of the album also differs from what was common in the "Norwegian scene" of the time, no longer is the listener faced with a constant "hum" that would permeate the whole record, everything is clear, however keeping an aesthetic sense that is undeniably black metal in its aspiration and intent. The recording was made in Waterfall Studios, where Storm's "Nordavind" and Wongraven's "Fjelltronen" were also recorded. This previous experience has surely influenced the new approach that was taken in "Nemesis Divina". The same studio would later record Satyricon's "Intermezzo II".

From the furious blast-beats of "Mother North" to the piano sections of "Du Som Hater Gud" and the industrial elements found in "Transcendental Requiem of Slaves", "Nemesis Divina" provides its listener with a lesson on the defining aspects of black metal to that point, and hints on the future of the genre and what black metal would evolve to in years to come.

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