By Liam Toner (@tonerliam)
Norwegian Black Metal outfit Satyricon have been biding their time. Their ninth effort Deep Calleth Upon Deep is coming off the heels of a four year recording hiatus. Yet despite this sabbatical and the group’s overall tenure (Satyricon now being an active band for 25 years), this new album manages to sound interesting and fresh.
When it comes to Satyricon there are two general eras: the mysterious and raw sounding ’90s Norwegian Black Metal sound whose atmosphere hearkened back to ancient and medieval times and later, the more rock driven approach to Black Metal which favours mid-tempo arrangements and catchiness. Deep Calleth Upon Deep seems to combine both of these two styles together very naturally and we can clearly see how the band have successfully matured on this release. Whereas both of the band’s previous eras were polarising for different camps of fans (old school patrons tended to shun the rock driven and more commercial 2000s era of the band), DCUD seems to have something for every fan.
Frost‘s drumming on this tends to stay away from the intense, hypnotic blastbeats typical of Black Metal and instead sticks mostly to mid-tempo rock grooves. However, that’s only the bare bones of what Frost brings to the table on this release. Though he experiments constantly on basic patterns, Frost does so without being too flashy and overshadowing the songwriting. This variation and experimentation adds another layer of interest to the songs that rewards the listener on multiple listens.
Satyr‘s vocals on the early Satyricon output tended to be high shrieking screams, but on DCUD the vocals are more of a mid-register snarling bite which is more decipherable than the former and gives the vocals a more powerful sound. The guitar work on this is very eerie and switches between dissonant riffs and chords to more melodic riffing which together create a strange, unsettling atmosphere. A lot of the guitar work on this seems heavily influenced by the dissonant angular style riffing of Thorns‘ Snorre Ruch.
The album starts with Midnight Serpent, in which a syncopated dissonant riff plays on top of one of the few blast beats on the album and then falling into the creepy metal grooves that dominate this album. The song changes in a few different directions throughout, not keeping with a familiar structure. The lack of traditional structures continues throughout the run time of the album, making each subsequent section of the music often a surprise. The track near the end falls in to an upbeat rhythm where a melodic lead comes in and creates a very strange evil circus vibe. To Your Brethren in the Dark starts with an exceptionally eerie, crawling riff which follows into a atmospheric dirge of chilling minor chords. This main riff creates a great backdrop for Satyrs’ vocals to shine through the mix, and the combination makes this one of the most memorable songs on the album.
The title track introduces classical singer Håkon Kornstad, whose haunting vocals and use of strings add an extra layer of darkness to the already spooky mix. The central riff in this song proves to be quite catchy while also making this song stand out as an anthem on the record. It becomes immediately clear why the band chose it for the single release.
The Ghost of Rome has a very driving beat throughout and Frost‘s drums really carry this track with his use of fills and the way he tends to use every piece of the kit to make the arrangements pop a bit more. Like the eponymous track, Rome also features the vocals of Håkon Kornstad, giving the song the ghostly sound to fit the title.
The track Dissonant heavily features saxophone, which works amazingly for all the wrong reasons, but makes you recognize the saxophone as an instrument for its expressive capabilities in any genre.
Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a fantastic return to form for Satyricon, one that will probably impress old fans and new fans alike and only seems to get better with each listen as you dissect its many layers.