A mostly pretty dull listening experience

To be honest,  I haven’t properly listened to Satyricon since 99s blistering and constantly underrated Rebel Extravaganza.  

Since then, the band has released several albums with a more “black ‘n’ roll” sound pleasing some but often infuriating others (myself included) who still long for the days of a more familiar Satyricon sound pioneered on landmark albums The Shadowthrone and Nemesis Divina. 

September 2013 saw the release of the band’s self-titled eighth album which did little to please the haters while being warmly received by the group’s core legion of fans. It even managed to debut at number one on the Norwegian VG-lista album chart so they’re obviously doing something right in their home country at least.

It was hard to approach this release without feeling just a little bit cynical but the instrumental opener ‘Voice of Shadows’ does all the right things and ticks all the boxes as far as metal album  intros goes, with just the right amount of riffage to spark my interest for whatever was to come.

This leads pretty much directly into the underwhelming ‘Tro og Kraft’ which a plodding slow burner that doesn’t really go anywhere interesting and sounds similar to much of what they’ve done in recent years. ‘Our World It Rumbles Tonight’ is a little better featuring the familiar rumbling, double-kick drumming of Frost and a very catchy main riff propelled by Satyr’s snarling vocals. I must add that the average length of the songs at this point are around the six minute mark so they do tend to drag on and the riffs become monotonous very fast.

Mid album track ‘Phoenix’ is a chin-scratcher, if I can find anything good to say about it. It starts with a short and catchy musical interlude before clean melodic vocals come from left field, featuring Norwegian artist Sivert Hoyem of the rock band Madrugada. If I’m being completely honest, it’s this track that marks the point where I no longer consider the band anything remotely near the realm of the black metal genre even with the constant pummelling of double kick drums throughout.

However, it’s as if the band expected a similar kind of backlash and just to prove doubters like me wrong, the following song, ‘Walker Upon the Wind’ is as close as they’ve come to the relentless brutality of  Extravaganza in many years. ‘Ageless Northern Spirit’ and ‘The Infinity of Time and Space’ continue the more heavy direction of the album but both feature an increasing amount of quiet and experimental moments, particularly the latter seven-minute song.

Yes, there are moments you’ll find yourself nodding along too but all in all it’s a mostly pretty dull listening experience. No doubt some will love the mish- mash sound they currently have but if you’re an old fan,  you’ll no doubt find yourself pining for the days of mid 90s Satyricon, particularly in the few blast beat/black metal riffing sections on the album which display the potential the band still have at crafting world class black metal.

Satyricon isn’t sure what kind of album it wants to be and I think that is also true of the band itself. Do they alienate a whatever is left of their fan base and go full blown experimental metal, once and for all à la Enslaved and Agalloch or is it a better choice to return to their black metal roots and what worked for them in the first place?

Voice of Shadows
Tro og Kraft
Our World it Rumbles Tonight
Nocturnal Flare
Walker Upon the Wind
Ageless Northern Spirit
The Infinity of Time and Space