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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Satyricon

Volcano

Review by Mike Korn

This has taken a while to get a proper release in the States, but better late than never. "Volcano" is an album that takes some effort to appreciate, but if you take that effort, you may be able to understand why Satyricon is one of the top black metal bands in Europe, if not the world.

While many black metal bands focus either on glossy pageantry or primitive speed and blasphemy, Satyricon takes a multi-faceted approach to their music. Speed is not the primary focus...in fact, most tracks here are very deliberately paced...but instead the band is striving for a very cold and bleak feel. That feeling of chilliness pervades every track on "Volcano", regardless of tempo or structure. There are also some industrial elements on the record that increase the distant, evil feeling of the music.


Ranging from rock-based cuts like "Fuel for Hatred" to traditional black metal belters such as "Possessed" and finally culminating in the monstrous 15 minute monument of frozen sludge that is "Black Lava", "Volcano" is an aural adventure into a stark and icy wasteland...one whose beauty will not readily be appreciated by everyone.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
With Ravenous Hunger
An ominous conglomeration of industrial sounds and Russell Crowe's already over-used quote "At my signal, unleash hell" serve as a kickoff to this powerful barrage of frozen fury. Frost's double bass drumming is relentless and makes the track seem faster than it is. This is very traditional sounding Satyricon to start, with Satyr's awesome croaking vocals fitting it to a tee. The track slows down to a spooky crawl in the middle before returning to the original tempo.

Angstridden
Angst usually denotes nervousness and sure enough, this track has a very twitchy feel to it. Again, the icy tone of the guitar makes the song sounds like something oozing out of the ground. There's some pretty fast picking here, making it one of the faster songs on display. I'd say the riffing owes as much to industrial as it does to black metal. The female vocals come almost as a shock when they suddenly appear, and while I'm tired of this side of black metal, I will say that these have a much different sound than the sort of overwrought operatic stuff you hear from Cradle, et al.
Fuel for Hatred
The "rocking" sound of this track will have some black metal purists grumbling about "selling out". It's true, this is not traditional Norwegian grue with its catchy hooks, but it does have the requisite "cold" feeling, and Satyr's vocals are as throat-destroying as ever. If you are going to write a catchy song on an underground album, you might as well make it REAL catchy and this sure has its moments, even if it is too commercial sounding for Satyricon.

Suffering the Tyrants
With its tribal drumming and creeping tempo, this is a bit of a challenge. The structure and pattern here is really unorthodox, and you can toss "verse-chorus-verse" out the window. The riffing is actually simple, but the riffs combine in odd ways. It's a very depressing, claustrophobic track.

Possessed
I think every black metal band must have a song called "Possessed". This one is refreshingly straightforward and blazingly fast, which provides a good contrast to most of the other material. They can't resist a bit of a slowdown in the last third, but this is overall a cool injection of old school black metal.

Repined Bastard Nation
"Do we need another bastard nation/another force-fed disgust?" asks Satyr venomously as this one kicks off with more "rocking" metal before switching over to a very cold, classically black riff. Like "Angstridden", this one doesn't stay in one place for too long and combines a number of styles and motifs. Fast and slow, industrial and no-frills...you can find it here.
Mental Mercury
This twisting labyrinth of a cut is a pretty good attempt to put classical Norwegian black metal into a progressive framework. Some of it has that very traditional Norwegian sound but in true Satyricon, it squirms and warps into some unexpected detours. Keyboards are minimal yet add depth to the cut. The female vocals appear once again and are even more ghostly than before. It seems Satyricon takes the opposite route from most extreme bands, who start slow and end fast. These guys start fast and end up doomily. This is quite dark and oppressive by the end.
Black Lava
Clocking in at a massive 15 minutes, this droning, doomy hymn exemplifies a sound I call "frozen sludge". Satyr sees this track as more of a meditative exercise than a commercial one. How much you can tolerate will be up to you. It starts strongly and rather traditionally with a crunchy mid-tempo lurch that's kind of catchy. As the cut moves along, it devolves into a very simple frigid riff that is repeated with little variation. The chilly drone will induce either a state of hypnotic contemplation or a burning desire to shut the CD off. It really is something completely different for the black metal genre.
 
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