(Andy Synn presents yet another list of his favorite things that come in fives.)
With the recent news that Satyricon frontman Satyr has been diagnosed with a (hopefully benign) brain tumour, I felt now was as good a time as any to wax poetic about my love for the band, and pick out five of my favourite tracks from across their back catalogue.
Once again I’ve tried to stay away from the obvious choices, so you won’t find any mention of “Hvite Krists død” or “Mother North” here, and likewise you’ll also note a distinct absence of the big singles like “Fuel For Hatred” and “K.I.N.G.”.
Still, it’s a testament to the band’s longevity and songwriting prowess that it’s just as easy to pick out any number of other songs that hit the same heights, from across the length and breadth of their creative catalogue, as it is to focus in on their most famous numbers.
“Forhekset” (from Nemesis Divina)
To my mind, and I know full well I’m not alone in this, Nemesis Divina is the album where Satyricon truly set themselves apart from their peers and simultaneously took their first steps on the unique (if divisive) path that they’ve followed ever since. And as much as I love both the preceding albums (and I do), it’s clear that 1996 was the year the band truly started to come into their own.
To me this is nowhere more evident than during the four-and-a-half minute rampage of “Forhekset”, which ditches the “archaic” vibe of the band’s earlier work in favour of a less-typical, but more targeted, stripped-down approach indicative of the band’s newfound brand of groove-heavy, riff-focussed Black Metal menace.
“Filthgrinder” (from Rebel Extravaganza)
Oh, how I love this nasty little gem of a song, drawn from one of the band’s most underrated albums (in my opinion anyway). It’s one of their most outright aggressive and chaotic compositions, always teetering just on the edge of collapsing into complete pandemonium, but kept from falling apart seemingly by virtue of its sheer forward momentum and utter, seething venom.
Absolutely pulsating with Satyr’s signature disharmonic guitar hooks, and with Frost pushing himself almost to the brink of combustion, it’s a shame this one doesn’t get a live airing more often!
“Possessed” (from Volcano)
Remember how I said I like my Satyricon riffy? Well “Possessed” is the band at their guitar-heavy, rifftacular best, make no mistake, even throwing in a knowing wink towards Kill ‘Em All-era Metallica part way through.
“To The Mountains” (from Now, Diabolical)
To me, “To The Mountains” absolutely sums up the band at their most insidiously hypnotic, with the slow unfurling coils of its thick and powerful riffs speaking volumes about the cold, predatory intent behind the song. Satyr’s bleakly menacing vocals, part-spoken, part-snarled, positively drip with poetic poison, and from about one-third of the way through, the song just starts to build and build into an absolute monolith of grim, groove-laden riffage, complete with that irresistible “Ignite – to the mountains!” closing refrain.
“The Infinity of Time and Space” (from Satyricon)
I realise that not everyone was as… effusive… in their appreciation of this album. I have one friend in fact who swears blind that he quite literally tossed the CD out of the window of a moving car, that’s how disgusted he was (hi Matt!). But lyrically and thematically it’s a statement by the band that one era of their career is over, while a new one is just beginning. And this is epitomised by the proggy, introspective intensity of “The Infinity of Time and Space”, reflecting a band looking inwards, more than outwards.
It helps of course that the transformation embodied by this song reminds me a lot of the similar journey first taken by Enslaved so many moons ago, and even more so that it’s still packed with the same sort of brooding, grimly infectious riffs and hooks as always, all tinged with the band’s instantly recognisable black magic touch.