Still taking risks and reinventing their sound

Satyricon are one of the founding fathers of Norwegian black metal, and they’ve promised that ninth album Deep Calleth Upon Deep not only lives up to their past classics, but is the beginning of a new era. A bold claim, one which this reviewer will examine.

Album opener ‘Midnight Serpent’ begins at a controlled pace, entwining a foundation of crusty black metal with a prominent doom metal influence. Satyr’s voice is in fine form here. Sparing use of keyboards provide this one with a bit more atmosphere to contrast the desolation created by the main riff. A fine album opener, if a little too overlong.

‘Blood Cracks Open the Ground’ opens with a little more urgency, featuring a little more of a black metal-based riff set, with an occasional dalliance into what sounds like a Middle Eastern influence. Picking up in pace and intensity in the second half this track ends on a better note than the album opener.

A pessimistic atmosphere prevades ‘To Your Brethren in the Dark’; it has more of that typical Satyricon sound. Some great drumming from Frost carries the track, and gives Satyr a solid foundation on which to put in a commanding performance. The title track has a swagger to it and I could see it being a favourite in the live arena. Satyr’s vocals lend an almost anthemic quality and the use of almost-choral backing vocals, classical and wind instruments lend an impressive air.

‘The Ghost of Rome’ has an almost doom/death quality to it, filtered through a Satyricon lens. That said, it’s not a funeral march but it does have that typical doom/death crunch. The backing vocals reappear here to good effect.

‘Dissonant’ features prominent use of saxophone amid solid, driving rhythms. There’s an almost-driving stomp that propels this one. The genius here is the contrast this provides to Satyr’s vocals and the aforementioned sax. Frost’s drumming is as solid as ever here, as well.

‘Black Wings and Withering Gloom’ features an intriguing set of riffs, and is perhaps the track that most resembles the traditional black metal blueprint. Like album opener ‘Midnight Serpent’, it overstays its welcome a little and might have been better served with a little more variation, or a briefer running time.

Closer ‘Burial Rite’ makes for an odd track; perhaps in any other position on the album, it’d work. But as the closer, it feels a touch more underwhelming. The riffs are solid, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

On first listen, Deep Calleth Upon Deep could seem an underwhelming offering, since by Satyricon standards, it genre-hops quite a bit. With that said, that is where the genius of the album lies. In crafting such disparate tracks, Satyr and Frost have managed to weave them together in a way that ensures each track has its own identity, yet the album flows as one. It’s not necessarily so experimental as to alienate their fanbase, but it shows that Satyricon are still happy to take risks and reinvent the bedrock of their sound. Some of those risks pay off better than others, but all of them show a band comfortable enough in its longevity to take a chance.

1. Midnight Serpent
2. Blood Cracks Open the Ground
3. To Your Brethren in the Dark
4. Deep Calleth Upon Deep
5. The Ghost of Rome
6. Dissonant
7. Black Wings and Withering Gloom
8. Burial Rite