When I think of Satyricon, the first thing that comes to mind is a funny conversation I had with a rather enthusiastic and boisterous New Yorker outside of an Immortal show a couple years ago. We were having the typical waiting-in-line-talking-about-metal deal when Satyricon came up and in his strong New York accent the guy bellowed, "Satyricon is da best yo! Satyr! Satyr is my fuckin' BOY YO!!!" Fair enough.
So, before I talk about the rest of the album, can we talk about how awesome "Phoenix" is? In a brilliant and clever move, Satyricon has taken the risk of creating a haunting, catchy, and melodic song right in the middle of their album. Though I wouldn't necessarily call it a "Black Metal Power Ballad", as MetalSucks characterizes it, it's definitely a departure from what purists would expect from most early-90's Norwegian Black Metal bands.
Not that melody is anything new to the genre, as it was Emperor who used it to perfection on "With Strength I Burn" on their classic Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. But I have to say this track totally caught me off guard and I then found myself listening to it a second time, then a third, and so on. For me, it resembled what Satyricon would sound like if they made an album with My Dying Bride. It also reminded me of "Valkyrie", the Misfits-esque track off Darkthrone's new album, The Underground Resistance. I still can't (and don't want to) get that chorus line out of my head:
The Morning New, The Morning Red,
The Fiery Promise,
Made Swirling Smoke Wheels Round her Head.
To the Queen of Souls,
Her Lost Disciples,
And When the Fire's Work is Done,
The Phoenix now Reborn
Ok, so now that I've gotten that out of the way, onto the rest of the album. Unfortunately, much of it is rather predictable. I'm not complaining about their sound itself of course. Though they've had a more polished hard rock side to their music for a long time now, people still like to complain about how they abandoned their old-school sound. Honestly, anyone who does this needs to grow up. One of the (many many many) reasons Dark Medieval Times is so awesome is because they didn't try to just remake it over and over and over again. But the lack of TROO-KVLT aesthetics is not the problem with this record.
The problem with this album is not that it takes too many risks, but that it takes far too few of them and sounds like a less inspired rehash of The Age of Nero. A slightly less glossy production would be a nice change, as some of this record could have used a more raw and dirty texture to make it more interesting. This may also have allowed the riffs to stand out a bit more as well. If anything, the success of a song like "Phoenix" should encourage the band to continue taking risks with their sound, much like Enslaved has done. Sure, the album has a few other highlights, and the album flows nicely from end to end. But once you reach the end, you tend to find yourself more moderately pleased than blown away.
Favorite Songs: "Nocturnal Flare", "Phoenix", "Walker Upon the Wind", "Ageless Northern Spirit"