Friday, 22 September 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Satyricon - "Deep Calleth Upon Deep"

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/09/2017
Label: Napalm Records

 ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ is something of a spiritual successor to ‘Rebel Extravaganza’ in that the goal appears to have been to take an established sound and create the weirdest, artsiest version of it they could and there is evidence of a sweeping creative resurgence throughout the album as a whole.

‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Midnight Serpent
2. Blood Cracks Open The Ground
3. To Your Brethren In The Dark
4. Deep Calleth Upon Deep
5. The Ghost Of Rome
6. Dissonant
7. Black Wings And Withering Gloom
8. Burial Rite

The Review:

For most of you reading this; Satyricon requires no introduction. The band was among the most popular in Norwegian black metal dating back to the mid 90s. Opinions, as is often the case, vary as to where the band peaked creatively. For some, it’s their second wave black metal period from ‘Dark Medieval Times’ through “Nemesis Divina”. Others prefer the forward-thinking mania of ‘Rebel Extravaganza’ or the stripped down black n’ roll approach of the last 15 years.

For the purposes of this review, it’s worth pointing out that I believe their creative apex to be the period from ‘Dark Medieval Times’ through ‘Rebel Extravaganza’, with ‘Volcano’ being hit and miss, and everything since then being thoroughly middle of the road; accessible at the cost of any idea that might be exciting or interesting. While the band have never made a bad album, they’ve settled for “fine” for three straight albums, to the point that even the band themselves acknowledge that a change of direction was desperately needed. In the press materials for ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’, Satyr spoke to the need for the band to move on:

"Approaching this release, what I always kept in mind is that either this is the beginning of something new or it's gonna be my last record. If this is going to be the last, then it needs to be something special.”

If nothing else, it’s fair to say that this mindset has resulted in the band’s first truly exciting album in the last fifteen years. Contextually, ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ is something of a spiritual successor to ‘Rebel Extravaganza’ in that the goal appears to have been to take an established sound and create the weirdest, artsiest version of it they could. “Rebel Extravaganza” mutated and distorted 2nd wave black metal into something wild and wholly unique. Here, Satyricon twists the much more plain style of the last decade-plus into a truly engaging black n’ roll freakout. In fact, calling ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ “black n’ roll” feels like selling it short. While I may not have found the last several Satyricon albums all that interesting, they’d still cultivated their own unique sound, and each album was immediately identifiable as Satyricon. That identity remains intact here, despite forgoing the tropes and formula they’ve settled into over the years.

A sweeping creative resurgence is evident all throughout the album. Album opener “Midnight Serpent” runs a gauntlet of ideas, ranging from the conservatively black metal opening moments to the sprawling dissonant atmosphere of the song’s 2nd half. “The Ghost of Rome” is about as close as a black metal band has ever come to crafting their own version of late 60s psychedelic pop, or more recently, Queens of the Stone Age's “Another Love Song”.

The point is; it’s more evident than ever that Satyricon will never truly journey back to a conventional black metal sound. Waiting for bands to tap into whatever your perceived peak era for them might be is a recipe for disappointment. Some bands manage to pull it off, but they’re the exceptions. In Satyricon’s case, they’ve finally arrived at a new sound that’s as well-worth exploring as their early glory years. Progress for a band is a good thing, when it works. The road to this point wasn’t a smooth one, but they’ve gotten to where they need to be. They’re very different from the band we knew 20 years ago, but they’re every bit as interesting as they were back then.

‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ is available digitally here and on CD/LP here.

Band info: Facebook