Satyricon/Enslaved - The Forest Is My Throne/Yggdrasil
Moonfog Productions
Black Metal
11 songs (1:04:13)
Release year: 1995
Moonfog Productions
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Splits are one of the most highly-regarded forms of musical expression for bands, yet all too often the best ones are lost to the mysteries of time, ignored by fans who naturally follow the order of albums rather than picking into the delights between. And who can blame them in these modern times where a lot of EPs, demos and splits are cynically designed to appeal to collectors and are barely worth listening to even then? It wasn’t always thus, however, and back in 1995 two of Norwegian black metal’s most famous bands came together to offer up their rare moments for the ears of the underground metalhead. Enslaved and Satyricon each contribute a demo and a new song, making for a release that represents value for money at well over an hour. It’s perhaps a little unfair that Enslaved get a big forty-minute chunk of proceedings, enough for their ‘half’ of the split to be an album in its own right. Yet all in all, the two bands acquit themselves admirably, and as a snapshot of brilliance-in-waiting each has much to offer whether to the diehard fan of either band or to the devotee of the era.

Starting with Satyricon, then, the 1993 demo The Forest Is My Throne is a fearsomely raw buzzsaw blade of sound, first track Black Winds going for your throat with guitars wailing uncontrollably and raucous percussive backing – it sounds suspiciously like modern Darkthrone at its most punkishly unhinged until Satyr’s demonic screech appears. The vintage Celtic Frost/Hellhammer influence is loud and proud, stomping along angrily and taking your neck muscles with it, and you’ll probably barely notice the transition into the title track, although the introduction of keyboards partway through and surprisingly epic forays into blasting ambience are quite stunning. Min Hyllest Til Vinterland forms a sort of outro, acoustic plucking over a howling wind reinforcing the wintry forest setting. After this, The Night Of The Triumphator feels a little out of place, quite obviously the newest piece with feminine gasping and distinctly more technical riffage leading into a still very enjoyable bit of blastbeat-driven black metal.

It’s all too easy to forget, listening to Enslaved’s artistic grandeur today, that once they made music as warm and pleasant as an ice pick in the head, and Yggdrasil pulls no punches. After a drum roll, Heimdallr proves itself even more vicious than the Satyricon material as a low-fi rumble pierced by screaming, before folky keyboards start banging away. Even as raw as it is, it’s still clearly very experimental and is slightly more interesting structurally than Satyricon’s more straightforward tracks, shooting away atmospherically in the latter half of the track and hypnotically driving the riffing into the ground, backed by the band’s then-signature organic-sounding drumming that always sounds like they just bashed bits of wood together to me. Fans of early Enslaved in general will find themselves in familiar ground, Allfaðr Oðinn appearing on the Hordane’s Land EP and the sound in general fitting in better with their forward-looking Viking savagery of the times. There’s not a great deal of variety, but Hal Valr and Niunda Heim kick significant amounts of ass, and the new track Enslaved fits in with the demo tracks, all raging guitars and throat-scraping screams.

True, Satyricon and Enslaved aren’t the most obvious pairing, now or at that early stage of their careers when they had released The Shadowthrone and Frost respectively. It was a fine time for them, however, each in the midst of their individual genius, a gripping feral savagery revealed in the early material showcased. The demos of established bands are, of course, far more interesting when seen in retrospect, and as a fan of the entire discography of both bands here there’s a lot that appeals. Don’t expect to find much to love if you prefer your Viking Metal to have plastic swords or think of Hellhammer as that guy with the nice hair from Arcturus – oldschoolers, meanwhile, will probably already be familiar with this.

Killing Songs :
Satyricon - Black Winds, The Forest Is My Throne
Enslaved - Heimdallr, Allfaðr Oðinn, Hal Valr, Niunda Heim
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