|Title:||Deep Calleth Upon Deep|
Writing about the new Satyricon's full-lenght is no easy task. First because I usually avoid talking of controversial acts and albums; it is not – as you may believe – a pose to show how I deeply care for the underground; instead I find discussions around the most historical bands often sterile and without points of interest. The second aspect to consider is that I belong to the people who appreciate – more or less – any release recorded by the Norwegian band. Before you ask: yes, I can point out redeeming values even in "The Age Of Nero", behind its unavoidable flaws.
Now, let's put the past behind us and focus on the present, the ninth album published by the Satyr-Frost duo, follow-up to the acclaimed – even by some of the band's most ferocious critics – "Satyricon". "Deep Calleth Upon Deep" builds on the foundations of its predecessor, without negating or altering what Satyricon have proposed in the past fifteen years. It is their personal path, hard to replicate and pursued with conviction, the band remaining oblivious of the listeners' changing habits and opinions.
The opener "Midnight Serpens" flaunts a cutting riffing, combining heavy metal influences, acid mid-tempos – the ones you first found in "Volcano" – and the yob movements they endorsed in "Now Diabolical". What emerges immediately is that Satyricon seem to care more about personal stimuli (financial or artistic, it doesn't really matter) than audience's approval. The second track, "Blood Cracks Open The Ground" exposes the first issues: the song sounds pretentious, bloated with useless virtuosity and doomed by a lack of cohesion and an array of ideas that don't really mesh well together. Contorted and convoluted, the composition earns its spot as the weakest piece on offering.
As to prove the first critics wrong, "To Your Brethren In The Dark" – the second single published to promote the album – blasts from the speaker; a funereal ballad, it offers melancholic melodies – harking back, maybe, to Black Metal's tradition – and foggy and dark atmospheres, deserving a praise for its interesting character. It would be a point for the home team if not for the following "Deep Calleth Upon Deep". Plodding and tired, it leaves a bad taste in the listener's mouth. Scenic tricks as bow instruments and the operatic voice of Hakon Kornstad count for nothing, except in the refrain.
Mr. Kornstad's contribute appears again in "Ghost Of Rome", the album's watershed, a Rock-infused track, linear and dynamic, as it was made for the radios, showing off Satyricon's penchant for writing music with a strong dance foundations. If the next "Dissonant" amazes the audience with an oppressive mood, countered by boisterous intricacies and a roller-coaster of emotions, "Black Wings And Withering Gloom" toys with reaching dizzying heights: out-the-blue I was crushed by a dramatic, moving and dejected boldness, which epic contours recall certain Black Metal, here extremely debased. The closer "Burial Rite" is a fitting way to conclude the experience, resuming what Satyricon have done in the last 5 or 6 albums; minimal but kaleidoscopic, at the same time dark, virile and anarchic. A real summa of what the Norwegians represent and have represented.
When you discuss the operate of a band active for almost 30 years that influences deeply a genre as Satyricon have done, before entrusting our judgements to the paper, it is crucial to accept that some of the wild expressiveness that made "The Shadowthrone" great is gone forever. Considering the album will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2019, it comes hardly as a surprise. Moreover, today's Satyricon do not find a certain kind of Black Metal interesting anymore. Consequently, the audience will always split in three categories: the ones unable to go further than 1999, the ones that don't give a damn about what Satyricon are doing, the ones that try to appreciate (sometimes more, sometimes less) the most recent works.
In my opinion, even if I tried to be as impartial as impossible, I can't conceal my affinity with to the last of those three categories could have influenced my analysis. "Deep Calleth Upon Deep" is a strong album, composed by experienced musicians, multifaceted and inspired, beyond its moments in which the music misses the mark.
After having written this river of words, the conclusion seems easier than what I firstly thought. If you, dear readers, belong to the orthodox and fundamentalist faction that considers shit everything that was published in the 00's, just skip "Deep Calleth Upon Deep"; same thing if you consider Satyricon's opus in the last 15 years as barely remarkable, because your opinion would remain as it is. To contrary, if you think the Norwegians have done something right after "Rebel Extravaganza", it is possible you could be delighted.
Everyone has their own truth, but please remember that the artwork by Munch depicts the Death's kiss and – you like it or not – "Deep Calleth Upon Deep". Always.