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Satyricon - Deep Calleth Upon Deep (Album Review)

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Black metal is regressive. Far from the antagonistic, counter-culture beast it was upon its inception, it’s become so stringently adherent to its own rules that it’s now nothing more than a sea of people in facepaint croaking about how terrible religion is.

A few bands have broken the black metal barrier and become institutions in their own right, though. Acts like Samael, Mysticum, Emperor, Arcturus and more have done grand, ludicrous things with the genre, spinning it on its head around the pentagram. Norway’s Satyricon, now almost three decades into their career, are one such collective and ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ is a mightily interesting record.

Purists might like to call Satyricon sell outs, but this album isn’t close to being polished. In fact, it sounds like it’s been recorded in an actual forest.

Frost’s snare is surely just a twig hitting a stray crisp packet, while Satyr’s vocals are less fuelled by hatred and more a strangled impression of Abbath from Immortal. This isn’t Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir.

The band’s black ‘n’ roll, hack and slash guitar style resurfaces after diminished usage on 2013’s melancholy eponymous LP, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s what makes Satyricon stand out. It’s a hip-swingin’, foot tappin’ good time: a soundtrack to sip Kool-Aid to as the world burns.

The title track, in particular, epitomises that, its 4/4 chorus embellishing Satyr’s groans as subtle operatics slither around him. He doesn’t possess the piss-draining scream perfected on ‘Rebel Extravaganza’ back in ’99 anymore: this is a rough-yet-regal bark.  And that’s fine – it suits these mostly mid-tempo, hulking grooves as much as it does Dissonant’s double-bass blasts. It’s an unhappy medium.

Yet, somehow, despite its raw nature, ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ remains a classy affair. The strings and choirs are never overplayed – they’re underused, if anything – and when the heinously catchy, melodeath-tinged The Ghost of Rome hits, it punches a warbling backing vocal in a mutually complementary fashion. Satyricon have learned from their ‘Live At The Opera’ release and are putting it into practice on record – Burial Rites’ Black-Sabbath-featuring-a-violinist mid-section being a case in point.

But, while Black Wings And Withering Gloom’s epic, peak-traversing progression is mightily impressive, this band’s strength remains in the primal interplay between Satyr’s riffs and Frost’s drums. It’s such a unique relationship, with the title track and Blood Cracks Open The Ground evoking a tribal atmosphere as Frost’s bass drum drills into the earth’s core, or something equally metal.

And no, this is not a classic Satyricon release. While most of the tracks stick, it’s nowhere near the sprawling ‘Nemesis Divina’, the filthy and definitely-not-industrial ‘Rebel Extravaganza’, or the black metal biker collection that is ‘The Age of Nero’. It ticks the boxes: trees, dragons, leaves and all that shit. It’s Satyricon.

It’s a rock ‘n’ roll record. It might not be trve black metal, but this is what Satyricon sound like now. If you want something a bit different, a bit easier on the ear while still retaining that complexity, then you could do worse than ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’.

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