Review Summary: Satyricon remind the world they are still black metal and still relevant.
It's been 4 years since Satyricon released their self titled album, an album which further pushed the band away from their black metal roots and in to more progressive and melodic metal territory. This wasn't something new from the band, it's a road in which they've continued to progress down since 2002's Volcano
album, and including 2006's Now Diabolical
and 2008's Age of Nero
along the way. But the difference was that the self titled album from 2013 was a bit of a dud. Where as albums like Volcano
and Now Diabolical
thundered along in a new "black and roll" groove, the self titled affair merely plodded and meandered along, save for a couple of decent tunes. So this begs the question, where are Satyricon at in terms of their sound, style and craft in 2017? Also, in a scene that is shifting and gaining momentum, are Satyricon relevant anymore?
The good news is that this album is a far superior beast to the self titled album and showcases what could be an interesting new era for the band. Straight off the bat this albums delivers with intent, opener "Midnight Serpent" delivers exactly what had been missing previously. Satyr spits soundbites rather than lines and Frosts pummeling drum fill at the halfway mark should serve as a reminder as to why he is one of the best drummers around. Although the track does overstay it's welcome slightly as it drifts and wanders towards a close, anyone who has been put off by the recent output from the band should still be left satisfied. The pace quickens as "Blood Cracks Open the Ground" follows up, a song which incorporates an almost folk metal riff and is possibly the showcase song on the album if you came to hear Frost's drumming, the man takes centre stage in a song which is possibly short of a memorable hook.
A criticism which has been rallied at the band in the not so distant past is the lack of "black" metal left in the bands sound, something which I could have agreed on after the self titled album. But it seems that the recent unearthing and celebration of the bands classic album Nemesis Divina
has fueled the icy northern souls once more. Fans looking for another "Mother North" won't necessarily find it on here but the tools of the trade are certainly at show. The sombre and glacial "To Your Brethren in the Dark" echoes the frosty black metal of old, although I feel this works better as an idea rather than on paper and it ends up being ploddy and slightly repetitive, it's still refreshing to see the band take on that aura once more. But the highlight of the album has got to be the gigantic "Black Wings and Withering Gloom" which has Nemesis Divina
stamped all over it, once more we get to hear Frost's blast beats at their thunderous best and the opening riff is full of black metal goodness. Satyr's vocals come scorching in at their venomous best and it's great to hear him sounding so vicious after his recent health scare.
Elsewhere on the album the band return to their "black and roll" sound with the title track, which has found it's place on the album and sits comfortably on here with it's up tempo pace, skipping cymbals and toe tapping rhythm. Also lending a more catchy melody for the listener comes "Ghosts of Rome", which is a gothic stomper complete with operatic vocals. Some listeners will find the more basic nature of these 2 tracks almost offensive in comparison to the old Satyricon sound, but we need to accept that the "dark" days are very much gone for this band and we should embrace the band they've become.
The band they have evolved in to is a technically brilliant progressive black metal band, they are certainly still black metal in my eyes regardless of the criticism aimed at them. But they should be judged on their current output as a clean slate and not constantly compared to the albums of 20 years ago. Deep Calleth Upon Deep
is a strong statement of intent from a band that are not only legends in their field but also forging ahead with an exciting sound. Whether the band dip in to more avant garde jazz territory like at the start of "Dissonant" or remind the listener that they can pummel like the old days on the aforementioned "Black Wings and Withering Gloom", Satyricon are always interesting and are always relevant.