Satyricon has long been one of my favorite black metal bands. Say what you will, their albums always spoke to me of an 'elite' consciousness of their own place in the world (and to a lesser extent, the Scandinavian) black metal scene. They took upon themselves the burden of being innovators. My favorite Satyricon album (and one of my favorite albums of all time) will always be 'The Shadowthrone', drenched as it is in esoteric medievalism and folk melodies. To a lesser extent, as well, I would place 'Nemesis Divina' among the highlights of the Norwegian scene in the '90s, and only in a lesser role because of the fact that it hasn't aged that well: on certain listenings it sounds like a prop for 'Mother North', the material besides that song not standing up to the single.
One thing I know about Satyricon: their music sounds better in the Winter. It's just a necessity for me. In a serious listening of their music an entire web of evocative influences is created to bewitch your mind with its black spells. What better way to give in to that enchantment than place yourself in a suitable locale or environment for the ultimate reception?
What we have here on this album is a deliberate intent on the part of Satyr to bring his music kicking and screaming into the late 20th century. Gone are the elaborate and dreamy Norsk folk melodies, gone are the lyrics dealing with medievalism or 'fantasy' subjects. What we have here instead is a new palette for Satyricon to paint from, filled with the harsh monochromatics of modern life instead of the lush and colorful sounds of ancient ages. This album looks to the future instead of the past.
With that in mind, and not expecting any of the melodic elements that I had come to love, this album is a worthy exercise in Black Metal, Millenium style. The guitar sound on this album is that cold hissing Satyricon/Darkthrone epic grimness, the drums are pounding and amazingly fast (if Frost didn't employ a little 'help' here I would be very surprised!), and the melodies, if not up to par with their former work, are still catchy and accessible.
So what is limiting my enthusiasm here? It's just that I expected something more given the immense delay between Nemesis Divina and this album - to tell you the truth, I expected something miraculous. This is a solid black metal album, but one that feels out of place sitting next to their earlier works. I don't really understand the shift to 'modern' topics, or the decline in the use of entrancing folk melodies. So all I can say is 'What's next, Satyricon?'