I’m not sure why, but in recent years I seem to have gotten a soft spot for black metal. This is a genre that I have more or less hated since the first time I heard about it. When I was a kid, black metal was played by bands like Venom and Mercyful Fate and back then, we’re talking early 1980’s, this was the hardest and most mean and evil music you could ever imagine. Today when I listen to these bands, I only hear heavy metal – and I really like them both, especially Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. Black metal today is a totally different beast and the only real common thing that black metal of today has with the 80’s stuff is that they are all satanic. Still, when I listen to the early 90’s stuff and the more hardcore and not so liberal bands, I have a hard time finding any melody or nuance at all. But the fact that I really like bands such as Watain and Dimmu Borgir (at least their more recent stuff) made me more and more interested in the Norwegian act Satyricon as they have now released a new, self titled album. I once saw half a gig with them at Sweden Rock, but back then, I wasn’t really ready to embrace the whole black metal scene. Here’s the deal – I want melodies, I want something catchy, I want something memorable – and the reason I dig Watain and Dimmu Borgir is that they both provide me with all of that. Now, I read somewhere that Satyricon are also one of those bands who have had some criticism from black metal purists for being sell outs and that they are straying away from the “true” black metal sound and explore new areas. That’s enough for me for making me want to check their stuff out. Said and done, let’s see if I can find anything likeable from this lot as well.
The band formed in 1991 and in 1994 they released their debut album Dark Medieval Times, but it wasn’t until 2006 and the Now, Diabolical album that they started to get the criticism for being too liberal, which of course means that they have started to use more unorthodox arrangements and instruments like strings and keyboards. As a band, Satyricon are more or less the same thing as Satyr (Sigurd Wongraven), who writes and plays almost everything on Satyricon’s albums, but we shouldn’t forget about Frost (Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad), the drummer who has been in the band since 1993. Still, it’s Satyr who gives all of the interviews as well, so it’s not strange that most people equals Satyr with Satyricon – hell, even the names are almost the same. Any chance of me getting into yet another black metal band then? I would think so, yes, because all the elements that I crave in music are here – and the songs on this album are all bloody good. The album starts with a 2,5 minute long instrumental intro song called “Voice Of Shadows” that has an awesome melody and a darkness that creeps under your skin, but somehow still very catchy. “Tro Og Kraft” (means Faith And Power in Norwegian) is a real powerful song, but it is sung in Norwegian and there is something very contradictory with evil music sung in Norwegian. I don’t know, maybe it’s only because I’m Swedish, but if you have ever heard Norwegian, you’d know that the language sounds so… happy. Like it’s always spoken in major. And to me, black metal is minor music. It’s really, really hard to sound evil when you sing in Norwegian – at least I think so. That said, I think the song is great, but I would have preffered it to be in English. “Our World, Tonight It Rumbles” is a metal track, although dark, but it’s very melodic and almost hummable, “Nocturnal Flare” is a very heavy tune, it’s dark and evil and I really like it, “Phoenix” has clear vocals and is so melodic it’s almost poppy and has a gothic touch to it and “Necrohaven” is great, melodic black metal with some catchy riffs and melodies. Another song sung in Norwegian is “Natt” (means Night) and the same problem occurs there, it’s hard get the evil vibe on the vocals. On the other hand, the song’s arrangements are really scary and the song’s darkness and venomous melodies makes the song sound like a really horrifying horror movie – and that I love.
The production is both raw and somewhat slick. The usual black metal elements are all there but it’s mixed up with a more mainstream (yes, I know it’s a horrible word, but here it’s a compliment) way of thinking. Also, I love it when artists think outside the box and especially in a genre like black metal where there are lots of conservative purists. So anyone who gives those conservatives something to sink their teeth into gets thumbs up from me. Satyricon is a band who, apparently, likes to blow limits up and go wherever their art leads them, who couldn’t care less what anyone thinks but themselves and I believe that’s an admirable way to look at music. This is the first Satyricon album I have ever heard, so I guess I need to go back and see if I might appreciate some of their earlier stuff as well.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
01. Voice Of Shadows
02. Tro og Kraft
03. Our World, It Rumbles Tonight
04. Nocturnal Flare
06. Walker Upon The Wind
08. Ageless Northern Spirit
09. The Infinity Of Time And Space