Satyricon - Satyricon
Roadrunner Records
Blackened Metal
10 songs (51:12)
Release year: 2013
Satyricon, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Coming after 2008's The Age of Nero, the latest in a string of releases that cemented Satyricon's reputation for catchy songs formed from a particularly unique form of rhythmic, grooving black metal, Satyricon is a real surprise. The obvious thing would have been to continue along the same road, and it's to Satyr and Frost's credit that instead they went away for five years and re-thought their approach to black metal. What results is puzzlingly low on that groovy infectiousness; this album contains no Fuel for Hatred, K.I.N.G. or Black Crow on a Tombstone. Instead, the band have slightly toned down both black metal and groove, decreasing the catchiness and seemingly aiming instead for a kind of progressive meander, atmospheric rock with a blackened approach. In interviews, Satyr has stated that Satyricon would demand a lot from the listener, but it would grow on you and that he thinks that it's a record that will, quote, help the black metal movement perhaps find a new way for the future, unquote. So, cynically reading between the lines, he means that you'll be disappointed at first, but give it a while and Satyricon will be seen as a milestone in the black metal genre...

We'll have to wait awhile to see if he's right about the latter (I'm sceptical to say the least...) but he's not wrong about this album demanding a lot from you. This is far from an exciting listen with immediate results; indeed, it's downright boring at first, with tracks seeming plodding and repetitive, the first half especially aiming for atmospheric impact and missing wildly. It shows none of the effortless songwriting ease of the past couple of albums (even if you hate them, you have to admire their catchiness) and nothing with the atmospheric impact of the previous album's My Skin is Cold or Den Siste. After brief opener Voice of Shadows, Tro og Kraft rolls in, a dull mid-paced pounder with oddly melodic riffing that devolves towards the end into minimalistic percussion and acoustic strums before building back with riffing; not leaving much of an impact at all. Our World, It Rumbles Tonight seems strangely neutered, repetitive and struggling to find a riff catchy enough to hold the song, focusing on a chorus hook that doesn't quite hold up. Nocturnal Flare builds up before launching into a nicely prog-tinged instrumental meander, although it doesn't really head anywhere or have enough atmospheric effect.

The best song on the album, Phoenix, is the least like Satyricon, having the signature guitar tone and expert drum rumble but reminding me more of devilish rockers Ghost – guest vocalist Sivert Høyem (also of the now split-up Madrugada, not a band I'd heard of previously but apparently huge in Norway) helping the band repeat Watain's recent trick of throwing a completely different track into the centre of the album to wrongfoot you. It's a brilliant song, a pagan hymn to the sun with just the right mixture of progressiveness and melody in the structure and riffs, a great hook with the chorus and an excellent performance from Høyem. I could have heard several tracks like this and been fine with it, if it was to be Satyricon's new direction... Yet there's a notable shift on the second half back towards the style of previous albums, which suggests that the experimentation was half-hearted and the band are more comfortable with what they know. It's certainly better as a whole than the first half of the album! Walker on the Wind is the fastest thing yet with a galloping pace and a touch of the classic venom in the thrashing riffs and an effective mid-track doom section, the energy making it stand out here where it perhaps wouldn't on a better album.

The following Nekrohaven comes close to excellent, a classic groovy track with something approaching a catchy chorus that will probably go down incredibly live. But Ageless Northern Spirit spoils this good run by slowing things down and being utterly forgettable, and although The Infinity of Time & Space makes a good effort at an atmospheric rumble at first, coming over as a nice blend of the band's usual style with a touch of Enslaved-esque progressive blackened metal, Satyricon spoil it rather by dropping down to minimalistic spoken sections and ruining the energy, but make up for by being the most black metal track on the album later. It has no business being nearly eight minute track, either. Closing piece Natt is a throwback to the medieval days at first, strange whispering and a folky keyboard tune interposed with riffing closing what is ultimately a rather strange album. Stick with it after the disappointing opening, and Satyricon just about holds up, although it's a real disappointment. It's one of those albums that you'll have to listen to repeatedly to really come to enjoy it, although why anyone but a truly manic fan would do that is beyond me. Then again, only truly manic Satyriconistas will rate this album highly...

Killing Songs :
Phoenix, Walker on the Wind, Nekrohaven
Goat quoted 60 / 100
Other albums by Satyricon that we have reviewed:
Satyricon - Deep Calleth Upon Deep reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Satyricon - The Shadowthrone reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Satyricon - Dark Medieval Times reviewed by James and quoted CLASSIC
Satyricon - The Age Of Nero reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Satyricon - Rebel Extravaganza reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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