Norwegian black metal royalty, Satyricon, released their self-titled record in 2013 to the continued sound of a different beat than what most of their earliest material would attest to. This record would continue with the more traditional style of metal, married to black metal, that the band had been experimenting with on more recent records. Named after the ancient Roman literary work thought by most to have been written by Gaius Petronius Arbiter, this band has gone on to achieve legendary status within the realm of extreme metal, specifically black metal, a comfortable space occupied by relatively few bands in the overall scheme of the scene.
The record opens with the brooding instrumental piece, “Voice of Shadows”, instantly showcasing the band’s continued experimentation with classic metal elements. In fact, of all of the presumed ‘true’ black metal bands, Satyricon is more than likely the most classic of them all. Immortal? Too entrenched in thrash elements. Gorgoroth? Far too blatant and forthcoming with their own extremity. Burzum? Too experimental, particularly later on. Satyricon, of all of these bands, have unquestionably the most subtlety and restraint in their arsenal. This instrumental piece feeds into the sonic onslaught of the following track, “Tro og kraft”, showcasing the great juxtaposition of the band. On one hand, they’re refined, subtle, and classic; on the other hand, they maintain all of the primal, animalistic rage and fervor that black metal has long been famous (and infamous) for. With this being said, this particular record sees the band branching out even further than one has come to expect from them. The track, “Phoenix”, the undisputed highlight of the record, for example, features Sivert Høyem from the Norwegian alternative rock band, Madrugada, on vocals. Further down the record is the track “The Infinity of Time and Space”, which features a heavily blues-influenced base for the song and wouldn’t sound out of place next to a track like “Catch the Rainbow” by Rainbow. This, of course, is even further testimony to Satyricon’s recent obsession with all things traditional metal. The next track, the closing track, is “Natt”, with an opening dreamscape that perpetrates the kind of wonder reserved for the most magical of instances.
As listeners have come to expect from this band, this is yet another solid record. The band are a quite consistent metal institution that, to their undisputed credit, is persistently capable of injecting new and varying musical ideas into their already well-established foundation. The only legitimate complaint that can be waged against this record is that some of the tracks that aren’t quite so exhilarating and fresh tend to serve no purpose other than to act as bridges to the good that will follow. In other words, there a couple of filler tracks in the mix. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this band is that they’re capable of experimenting and expanding on their black metal foundation without having the hordes come after them and accuse them of abandoning the sacred roots of the genre’s more conventional traits. There is an extremely thin line that black metal bands have to constantly walk with the fan base between what is considered acceptable and what isn’t. Whether it’s a deliberate attempt to discredit this sort of mentality or if the band just doesn’t think about the possible consequences of their musical adventurousness is a question one could ask. The thing that remains certain, though, is that Satyricon know how to appeal to us all. Well, those of us who exhibit an air of tastefulness.