Apr 252011

Satyros is a three-piece German band established in 2005. Initially, the focus of their musical endeavors was black metal, the style reflected in their 2007 self-titled debut. However, they made significant changes in their style as they began to write songs for the second full-length, Riven. That album has now been released, and the band has chosen to make it available for free download. In a word, it’s stunning.

More than a few music industry observers have been opining that as consumers increasingly get their music by way of digital downloads (both legit and illegit), CDs will become a thing of the past, and albums will, too. Their forecast is that the current trend of people buying individual songs in digital form will strengthen, and that the recording of full albums will eventually wither away, not being worth the time or the money.

These forecasts may prove to be accurate in the case of many musical genres, and even in the realm of metal, it does seem that more and more bands are releasing EPs in lieu of full-length albums, in part because that enables bands to keep their fans engaged by presenting new music more frequently than if they waited to amass a full album’s worth of new songs. It’s also tough to deny that most albums don’t contain a full album’s worth of great songs. Sometimes bands would better off by releasing an EP-length collection of good material rather than straining to fill a full-length with an uneven compilation of music.

On the other hand, albums like Riven make me hope those industry forecasts turn out to be wrong, at least for metal. Riven is approximately one hour in length, encompassing 12 songs, and every song is strong — all killer and no filler. The album takes the listener on a journey, as good albums should, and this is a journey that’s well worth that hour of your time.  (more after the jump . . .)

The music on Riven is much closer to melodic black metal or even melodic death metal than traditional black metal. The production is clean and clear, the songs intricate and often epically sweeping, with extended instrumental passages, and many of the songs include Eastern melodies. What remains of Satyros’ black-metal roots can be identified most easily in the vocals — the kind of Nordic-style, banshee howls and agonizing shrieks that can strip paint from the walls — though deep roaring growls reminiscent of Johan Hegg make appearances, too.

What makes the album a journey, and such an engaging experience despite its length, is the variation among and within songs. Some albums, even good ones, contain songs that sound essentially the same. Not so with this one. For example:

“Purify” is fast, with a chug-fest of an intro, galloping riffs, and a memorable melody woven by a clean guitar lead. “Sardonica” begins more slowly, with a solo guitar and isolated pounding from the drums. It ramps up to a hammering tempo, and the last half is an extended instrumental that includes keyboards. “Eyes of Eternity” is probably the most blackened track on the album, a seering wave of intensity loaded with blast beats, but balanced with sweeping guitars and a ringing melodic guitar lead that will stay with you.

“Wermode’s Fall” is part stately lament and part Amon Amarth-style stomp, also with folk-metal influences. “Ataraxia” is one of those songs with a pronounced Eastern ring to it. It spins and whirls to the melodies of what sounds like a violin or other stringed instrument, but includes pauses of silence, a dreamlike mid-section, and guitar arrangements that would be quite at home on a prog-metal epic. Soaring keyboards appear on “Traumhallen” along with a delicious layering of guitar melodies and anthemic riffing in its multiple distinct segments. “Lost in Grey” includes rock beats, Scandinavian-style riffing, spoken-word vocals, and an extended, echoing guitar solo that perhaps has more in common with power metal than with melodic black metal.

The long closing track, “In Dialogue With Time”, starts with a stately, mid-tempo, folk-metal style intro, but also includes pounding riffs, judiciously used keyboard enhancements, interludes of clean vocals (including a feminine voice), passages when the bass takes the lead, and a head-spinning guitar solo.

If forced to call up references, I’d say the music is part Insomnium, part Melechesh, part Amon Amarth, and that wouldn’t exhaust the list. The musicians are excellent, the vocals riveting, and the care and attention given to the song construction and the execution obviously consumed tremendous energy and time over a period of years. I’ve been listening to the album off and on for more than two weeks, and with every listen I grow more impressed. What’s amazing to me is that this monumental effort is available for nothing but a few clicks of a mouse on-line.

Here’s one part of Riven‘s journey for you to check out:

Satyros: Eyes of Eternity

Riven can be downloaded for free at the Satyros Bandcamp page. The download includes not only the music in digital form, but also a file containing a beautiful accompanying booklet with art and lyrics. If you’d like to learn more about Satyros, here are links for their online pages:

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19 Responses to “SATYROS: RIVEN”

  1. byrd36 says:

    This sounds pretty damn good.

    Personally, I’ll most likely go crazy if bands start releasing only singles. That or I’ll have to begin seriously digging through older albums again.

    Off to download this gem now!

    • Islander says:

      I don’t suppose there’s any way to be scientific about this, but my feeling is that, at least compared to most “pop” music fans (the ones, for example, who determine the best-selling singles on iTunes), metalheads are more serious students of their music, and will want full album-length records. I suspect the same is true of fans of jazz.

      Of course, that begs the question of how metal labels and metal bands are going to make enough money in this new world to continue creating and distributing music. On that subject, this is a very interesting interview of Scott Alisoglu and Ryan Ogle, who run Clawhammer PR (I’ve been meaning to do a full post on this some day):

      http://blog.haulix.com/post/Success-With-Digital-Promos-Clawhammer-PR.aspx

    • Phro says:

      I’m totally with you on this. I buy almost all my music digitally and listen to it exclusively digitally, but I listen to albums almost 98% of the time.

      Even with bands where I have all their albums, I don’t listen to only the tracks I like–I listen to albums I like.

      I wouldn’t necessarily look forward to long form concept albums (they very rarely hold up in my opinion), but I do like that albums have themes that tie the songs together.

      • byrd36 says:

        I still listen to CDs in the car and work van but for the most part it’s all about the ipod. Even though I have over 20 meticulously constructed playlists, I rarely play them. It’s an artist and album at a time, usually. The songs that I find myself skipping, which are few, I just leave off the ipod. Then when I hear them on the CD it’s like having a new song again 🙂 EPs are OK too, but I find singles pretty useless.

  2. Ray says:

    HAHAA YEAH!!! That was really great, right in my favorite style, and it was free. Plus the band was kind enough to recommend three more good listens. Just got back from a track meet in Bankok and damn, I have a ton of homework to make up just from missing 4 days. I’ve been looking for good full-lengths to listen to while working 🙂

    • Islander says:

      Dude, track plus music plus school? You got your hands full!

      • Ray says:

        oh yeah, tell me about it… and it’s even more than you think it is. Private school in Taiwan? That’s insanity, plus in the local culture A=average, B=bad, C=crap, and D=death. So you can see, no one get’s F’s because they get killed by their parents or commit suicide when they reach D, or in some cases B.

  3. Utmu says:

    I hope full albums don’t become a thing of the past, I enjoy collecting them. I mean I do listen to the music 7/10 times on my iPod (that doesn’t include YouTube, which I use to find more bands), but I enjoy CDs, it’s like a badge, or something like that. Plus if your computer goes kaput, then you have the CDs to back up the music you lost.

    • Islander says:

      As I’ve said before, I’m the same way, and for basically the same reasons. I like having physical CDs. I usually buy them even when I’ve got review copies in digital form. I like having physical artwork and lyrics (even if I can’t hear them) on the booklet inserts, and I have a lingering distrust of computers. A complete meltdown hasn’t happened to me yet, and I do back up the music, but I’d still rather have the CD collection as a safety net. On the other hand, I make good money and can afford the luxury of collecting CDs, and I know many people can’t.

  4. Rob K. says:

    Kick ass! Between this and Mark Hawkin’s Solo album, I know exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow. Lots of music to catch up on from just this week. Gonna sit back with some coffee and chill to music.

    I think the EP vs. Full-Length is a double edged sword. Sure we won’t have to wait as long for EP’s but that’s half the fun of Full-Length releases. The band dangling the carrot (so to speak) giving us teasers of songs, or set a very limited amount of time that they’ll allow a stream. I agree very few bands have albums you can listen to all the way through without skipping songs. But EP’s leave a bit to be desired, in my opinion. I wanted Beneath the Massacre’s Mairee Noir to be a full-length. It kicked ass, but I scoffed at Elliot and Justin for putting out such a cock tease of brutality.

    • Islander says:

      I go back and forth on the EP v LP thing. If I really like what a band is doing, then I’m greedy enough to want more of it (a full-length’s worth of music). On the other hand, I’m an impatient fucker, and so I like getting new music faster from the bands I like. More frequent EP releases, or at least EPs in between LPs, are one way to pull that off. And on the third hand, as I said in the post, I think some bands just don’t have enough good material to fill up a full-length but stretch to do it anyway.

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