Norwegian black metal icons Satyricon need no introduction. Neither do they need any approbation from critics like me. Indeed Satyricon drummer Frost, in an interview with Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams said this on the band’s position in 2017:
“The day that we start to worry about what people think of our songs is the day that the band can no longer exist”.
This is a statement which cleverly renders the band essentially impervious to criticism. The inference being that they will cease operations if they have to pander to the general public. And so they plough on, grimly. Creating music for themselves yes, but also for those open-minded to go along for the ride. Satyricon fans, they feel, must be as open-minded and open hearted as the band to reap the true reward of their art.
So Deep Calleth Upon Deep – the band’s ninth full-length album – is an album bolstered by this no-compromise design for living. It isn’t unlistenable. Even the most under-committed appreciator of black metal will find music that appeals. A song such as The Ghost of Rome is one of the most listenable songs the band has ever released (in a prosaic, mainstream way of thinking). Yet it is supplanted in the track list by Dissonant. After the pleasing …Rome, this track comes complete with atonal John Zorn-inspired saxophones. The band again reminding the listener that they are in charge, and not the other way around?
Dissonant is one of the best tracks on the album, alongside Black Wings and Withering Gloom, which really does cause memory of the band’s classic early catalogue to flicker across the listener’s consciousness, if only for a few minutes.
If you cling staunchly to Satyricon’s early output, as many do, Deep Calleth Upon the Deep is not the album to bring you back to the fold. Similarly if you only like the band’s later output you may find this record frustrating. That’s just how the band like it, obviously. But the final verdict for this album is perhaps the final verdict for all of Satyricon’s albums. And that is that they’ve put out the absolute best album they could at this time. Take it or leave it.
Satyricon release Deep Calleth Upon Deep through Napalm Records on September 22nd.