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Posted on October 13th, 2013 (9:20 am) by Ben Welton

Certain sub-genres and musical movements seem destined for short shelf lives. Punk rock comes to mind, and so too does black metal. Both have found ways to reform and rewrite the rules for acceptable behavior, but in both cases, there are miffed purists. For black metal, this is an especially onerous occurrence, for many of those who constantly demand only the truest of trve kvlt also have a disquieting nostalgia for the movement’s history of crime and terrorism. Besides longing for the days of church burnings, singer suicides, and inter-band murders, these black clad and corpsepainted fundamentalists also demand that black metal never reach beyond its original design - blast beat drumming, high-tuned and fuzzy guitars, shrieking vocals, and terrible production. Anything other than this is guaranteed to be lambasted by black metal mouth-breathers hunched over keyboards.

Satyricon, who were part of the original Norwegian black metal onslaught in the early ‘90s, have often been in front of the fundamentalist firing line. In part, this is due to the band’s popularity in Europe. Similar to Dimmu Borgir and England’s Cradle of Filth, Satyricon have traded in their older, grittier sound for a cleaner, more socially acceptable brand of heavy metal. Despite how this trade off sounds, Satyricon have maintained their black metal chops and have even made some brilliant records post-Nemesis Divina, the height of Satyricon’s trve kvlt era. For my money, 2006’s Now, Diabolical is a classic blending of black metal and atmospheric rock and roll that contains two of the best songs in the band’s entire catalogue (“K.I.N.G.” and “To the Mountains”).

For the most part, the same type of of people who decry the fact that most black metal bands have abandoned the suffocating confines of the genre’s initial blueprint also hate Now, Diabolical. With Satyricon, the latest release from Satyr (Sigurd Wongraven) and Frost (Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad) this abuse is sure to continue. Satyricon is a black metal release that places a greater emphasis on different colors, contours, and moods rather than just simply “Walking the Path of Sorrow.”

As much as the purists will hate and dismiss “Phoenix,” the record’s fifth track, because of its clean, poppy singing and its digestible goth rock, they should take some time and reflect upon Satyricon’s first and third records. While The Shadowthrone is pretty much everything black metal is expected to be, both Nemesis Divina and Dark Medieval Times have classical music interludes and passages wherein acoustic folk and pagan flutes reign. Even though they were around when Varg Vikernes still had a clean criminal record, Satyricon were never an entirely kvlt black metal band.

Satyricon shows this background and shows it well, for throughout its ten songs, Satyricon never fully embraces primitive black metal. Although there are moments of ferocity (“Ageless Northern Spirit” and “Walker Upon the Wind”), Satyricon is far from the band’s heaviest production. Songs such as “Voice of Shadows,” “Tro Og Kraft,” and the aforementioned “Phoenix” showcase the band’s more rock-orientated chops and mature songwriting. Unfortunately, these songs do not coexist well with the others, and Satyricon’s indecisiveness makes Satyricon a boring record. Gone are the days of moody forest scenes and high classical ambiance, and gone too are the days when “Satyricon” meant sexy and sexualized black metal (go watch the video for “Mother North” to see what I mean). Satyricon is a surprisingly bland release that almost makes one believe that both Satyr and Frost have grown tired of their own baby.

While that is probably not the case, anemic tracks such as “The Infinity of Time and Space” and “Nekrohaven” make it hard to get enthused about this record. However, there is one moment of glee here, and it just so happens to come at the very end. “Natt” is a dark instrumental that reminds us all why we love Satyricon in the first place. Satyricon, like Emperor, are always at their best when they focus on the mood of the music, not the particulars of song structure, lyrics, or time signature changes. Sadly, “Natt” alone cannot save this middling release. Unlike Darkthrone, the other famous Norwegian black metal duo, Satyricon no longer seem interested in exploring the different possibilities inherent in heavy metal. In fact, if Satyricon is any indication, then Satyricon have grown tired of heavy metal completely.

Track List:
1. Voice of Shadows
2. Tro Og Kraft
3. Our World, It Rumbles Tonight
4. Nocturnal Flare
5. Phoenix
6. Walker Upon the Wind
7. Nekrohaven
8. Ageless Northern Spirit
9. The Infinity of Time and Space
10. Natt

The latest from Norway's Satyricon
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

59 / 100
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