By Kyle Harcott
Patience is a virtue, goes the old saw, but it’s an adage rarely applied to attention-deficit heavy metal, especially in its blacker forms Satyricon, fresh from not particularly giving a fuck what black metal thinks, have made an album which further still progresses their sound away from their roots. If you’ve been following their progression since Volcano, and you’re still interested, Satyricon may come off as quite the push forward. Satyr & co. appear to have long had their eye on the bigger picture, and it shows on much of this record.
The hemispherical nature of Satyricon (the self-titled record: death knell for metal bands?) requires serious patience for anyone expecting the instant gratification of previous albums. Case in point: Their last two records, 2006’s Now, Diabolical and 2008’s The Age of Nero, kicked off with door-splintering immediacy – opening with the blitzkrieg of “Now, Diabolical”, and “Commando”, respectively. This time, though, they’re going to make you wait for it, with a record whose front half is the band at their most experimental yet.
We begin with an ominous instrumental intro, “Voice of Shadows”, a doom march which seems like it should be building toward the kind of blackblast hellstorm of a “Fuel For Hatred”, but instead we’re led to the plodding thunder of “Tro og Kraft”, and though it sure-as-shit sounds like Satyricon (those Sascha-Konietzko-guitars are front and present, and Frost’s double-bass is in fine form), the track just kind of slinks along for six minutes. Sure, it’s moody in places, but ultimately as an opening track it sets the pace for the rest of the album.
“Our World It Rumbles Tonight” brings us back to the martial territory we are more familiar with, the verses showcasing that latter-day ferocity from Satyr, but just as it gets good, the choruses are dropped back to mid-pace. And that’s ultimately the frustration I find in most of the record. So much of it seems to be based around the theme of the intro track; I keep hearing that same quadtone riff throughout the first half of the album.
“Phoenix” also starts out mid-paced, and you’re expecting more of the same, but all of a sudden, in comes a clean vocal, courtesy Sivert Høyem (from popular Norwegian rock band Madrugada), and it’s a surprising juxtaposition: the track will be completely love-or-hate divisive amongst Satyricon fans. To the song’s credit, I found Høyem’s vocals, and the deft hooks of the chorus, entirely enjoyable. In fact, “Phoenix” is the most exciting part of the album’s first half, because it is so unexpected after twenty minutes of very similarly-riffed and paced songs.
But, luckily, the back half of the record is complete and utter frostbit redemption – especially, that is, if you’re a fan of the black’n’roll of the last few Satyricon albums. “Walker Upon the Wind” is the sturm-und-drang venom of the last two records smeared righteously across your speakers. It’s the song I’d been waiting for when I first pressed play. Dripping with that snarling, KMFDM-flavored attack in the guitars and smothered in Satyr’s laser-wrath vocal, it cuts right to the bone. Same from followup “Nekrohaven”, this album’s “Black Crow On a Tombstone”. “Ageless Northern Spirit” slices with hunter-killer efficiency, easily wielding the most menace on the record. And “The Infinity of Time and Space” is a grandiose exercise, at times the band blending their scorn-filled svartmetal with the tribal drums of Killing Joke, at others dropping the song down into a gentle break before roaring back to that S&D, scorched-earth chorus. The album closes with “Natt”, a black waltz of highest order, and a fitting –if plodding- summation to an album of dichotomies such as this.
Satyricon took a chance when they first ventured into black’n’roll territory on Volcano, and many of us were ecstatic. Nothing made more sense than the ceilingless fury of black metal put to driving, Motörhead pace. It made instant converts of many. Now Satyricon seek to further push that envelope, a phoenix once again reborn from its own ashes.
Satyricon will be released September 17th in North America on Nuclear Blast.