By Mike Delano
Satyricon‘s 2013 self-titled record is another strange chapter in their modern discography. After the Norwegian black metal crew streamlined their sound with 2002’s Volcano – which incorporated a rock ‘n’ roll vibe along with a slightly more polished production – some fans cried foul, yearning for an infinite continuation of their scorched earth black metal attack of old. Volcano and its follow-up were great records, though, and they continued with their new approach through 2008’s The Age of Nero. Save for some highlights, though, the band’s mid-paced tempo was starting to wear a little thin by that point, and that staunch dedication to sparseness and simplicity is what sinks much of the new record. The first half of Satyricon often feels like a slog. At first, “Tro og Kraft” is intriguing in its plodding, mechanical pace, but by the time four songs have rolled by, all stuck in first gear, the effect is numbing. The clean guest vocals from Norwegian singer Sivert Høyem on “Phoenix” are a welcome curveball, but despite what seems to be a heartfelt song about death and rebirth, it comes off as a less forceful, less intriguing QOTSA track.
Then, from out of nowhere, there are back-to-back stunners. “Walker Upon The Wind,” with its classic Satyr snarl, headfirst aggression, and creeping menace, feels like it parachuted in from another album, while “Nekrohaven” is simply a perfect three minutes in the catchy, carefully formed mold of “Fuel For Hatred” or “Black Crow on a Tombstone.” It’s back to the regularly scheduled grind after that two-fer, unfortunately, until the album peters out with a whimper. I kinda get why Satyricon would slap the self-titled on this album, since these ten tracks are both rather bold (the inclusion of clean vocals, the surprisingly slow and methodical pace of the first half) and they touch on many aspects of the band’s sound from over the years. Ultimately, though, it’s inconsistent (in an unsatisfying and frustrating way) and fails to provide either a representative look back on their past or an interesting tease of their future.