(We present Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Satyricon.)
Back in 2013 it seemed as though I was one of the few people – at least of the ones I knew and regularly interacted with – who genuinely enjoyed and appreciated Satyricon’s self-titled opus.
And although, in the years since then, I’ve seen more than a few of them come to appreciate the album’s proggier, more introspective, charms, it remains a divisive and frequently (though not always fairly) criticised entry in the band’s extensive catalogue.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not also a vitally important one.
As a matter of fact, I said at the time, in light of lines like “the stage is yours / I can no longer rule”, that the album was either going to mark the end of the line, or the beginning of a new age, and that only time would tell which was true.
Well, four long, hard years later, we finally have our answer.
Much like the upcoming Enslaved album (expect a review for that to follow in short order), Deep Calleth Upon Deep finds its creators revitalised and re-energised in a way that, just a few years back, would have been almost impossible to predict.
And while the self-titled album seems now, with the benefit of hindsight, to have been an attempt to collate all the disparate eras of the band into a singular retrospective so as to draw a neat line between what was and what will be, Deep… is the sound of Satyricon pushing resolutely onwards, with a fresh understanding of their purpose, by taking elements from all (or practically all) of their previous albums, smelting them down to their molten core, and reforging them into something new.
As a result of this, everything here – from the production, to the arrangements, to the individual performances – feels just that little bit bigger, that little bit bolder, and that little bit more confident.
Satyr’s signature riffage in particular is simultaneously burlier and more melodic in tone – his playing busier, but also sharper, with more hooks, more venom, and less of a reliance on simple groove – while (outside of his time in 1349 at least) Frost hasn’t sounded this vigorous behind the kit in years.
However, it’s the songwriting – tighter, more focussed, yet also more ambitious – which betrays the biggest changes and improvements, drawing ideas and influences from across the length and breadth of the duo’s discography without falling into the trap of trying in vain to recapture past glories.
Fans of the group’s early/mid period will no doubt appreciate tracks like storming opener “Midnight Serpent” and the malevolent “Dissonant”, which channel both the grit and grime of the oft-unappreciated Rebel Extravaganza and the menacing vibes of Volcano, and probably do a serious double-take when they hear just how much “To Your Brethren in the Dark” and “Black Wings and Withering Gloom” conjure shades of both The Shadowthrone and Nemesis Divina without sounding like a desperate rehash of either.
By the same token, however, the group’s more recent years aren’t neglected in this process of creative consolidation. “Blood Cracks Open the Ground”, for example, comes across as a more aggressive, more intense, interpretation of the hook-fuelled hate anthems found on Now, Diabolical, while (stuttering start aside) the title-track fuses the grim grooves and moody melodicisms of The Age of Nero with what I can only describe as a greater sense of “true” Black Metal spirit.
Even “The Ghost of Rome”, ostensibly the album’s weakest track, has some new and interesting things to say about the proggy, more melodic styles with which the band experimented on their last album.
It all culminates in the massive, almost Metallica-esque strains of “Burial Rite” – which, considering the comparisons made before between Satyr’s declamatory vocal style and rhythm-heavy approach to riffing and that of Black Album-era James Hetfield, shouldn’t come as a major surprise – that doesn’t sound linked to any one particular era… unless, perhaps it’s the future… but which is clearly designed to defiantly, and definitively, state that Satyricon are not done just yet.
Easily their strongest album in over a decade, it seems that rumours of the band’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Deep Calleth Upon Deep will be released on September 22 by Napalm Records.