Review – Satyricon: Deep Calleth upon Deep

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  • Bio: "Formed in Oslo in 1991, Satyricon made an immediate and enduring impact when they emerged from the flourishing Norwegian black metal scene." - Press release
  • Label: Napalm Records
  • Release Date: September 22nd, 2017
  • Genre: Black Metal, Melodic Black Metal, Hard Rock
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Satyricon has become one of the most polarizing acts in the black metal world since dropping their initial approach for the black ‘n roll style we’ve come to expect as of late. You either embraced the new approach, or you scorned it while longing for a return to the early days. After a small stint on Nuclear Blast Records, and one effort through Roadrunner Records, we find the duo of Satyr and Frost signed with Napalm Records to unleash their ninth full-length effort Deep Calleth upon Deep. With a notable change in attitude in the air, and a cover art that seems out-of-place for the group, fans and desenters anxiously await this next coming. But will it be one to appease all walks of metaldom, or will it be yet another fluke to further segregate those loyal?

Deep Calleth upon Deep is intended to be more of a raw album that, according to Satyr “[…] is a totally different record. This is day one of a new chapter,” which, really, could sum up every new album following 2002’s Now, Diabolical and the continued exploration of black metal combined with hard rock. While the approach that has adorned the last three albums (favorably or not) is indeed present, the duo does branch off into some other directions amidst the barren, sometimes uninspiring audio world being thrust upon the listener. Even though the tones and environments can be enjoyed, the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired, presenting a low-budget demo more than a full-fledged full-length follow-up from such legends in the metal world that carries itself as if it’s just another mundane day at the office.

“Dissonant” does have a catchy rhythm to it once you get past the rather rich introduction, but the song itself is so barren that the potentially hypnotic gypsy-like hooks are more effective as a sleep aid thanks to the simple guitar distortion one can liken to a sixties or seventies rock ‘n roll album without the analog support or additional instruments to fill the void. Even when things get a bit distorted towards the end it all just sounds like something an amateur two-piece recorded in their parent’s garage after a few months of learning their instruments with a drum presentation that can come off as a lifeless programmed drum machine with less complexity than the patterns found on King Diamond‘s House of God album.

“Black Wings and Withering Gloom” at least brings some life to the drum presentation, especially at the very start. The furious introduction sets up the expections of a high energy track, then rips them away like Roman Reigns’ entrance theme following Finn Balor or Shinsuke Nakamura in the WWE the moment the muffled guitar melodies kick in. Even when the pace slows approaching two minutes in, the additional bass presence before things pick up to a surprisingly epic level of melancholy really help grab your attention and wake you from the coma the prior slab of performances had to offer.

SatyriconAs for some of the better offerings found in this new effort, there’s “Burial Rite” and it’s stronger bass presence. Infected with both mystical auras and hints of permafrost, this piece hits you with one infectious groove and hook after another, bolstered with rich strings and a strong drum presence even at its slowest around three minutes in. “To Your Brethren in the Daek” creeps along with a similar darker tone enhanced by the more dominant bass guitar backing up the gloomy melodies that scream classic melodic black metal akin to Dissection or even a less grandiose I.

“Midnight Serpent” manages to balance a thick output from the instruments while jumping between coming off cold and intimidating, channeling precisely what made most of Now, Diabolical so memorable for the first few minutes. That album comparison can also be made of “Blood Cracks Open the Ground”, though around the half-way mark you can pick up on a hint of avant-garde, or at least some progressive black metal influence to the timing structures. And finally there’s “The Ghost of Rome” which feels more like a Sigh composition than one by Satyricon, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Comparable to melodic death metal counterparts Deceased and the thrashier Halloween 31, this horror punk-esque track is infectious beyond belief, but that tamer audio quality definitely holds back some of that impact by leaving it a bit too muffled in a clearly crisp studio environment.

The best way to sum up Deep Calleth upon Deep is to consider it a mixture of classic and modern Satyricon with a heavy punk or silent film influence from time to time. The problem is that the audio ends up a bit too barren for a good majority of the release that its hard to get wrapped up or invested when even the band sounds bored while performing the material. When Satyricon focuses more on mood and tone, there’s no denying the power this two-piece still possesses. Deep Calleth upon Deep is far from one of the better modern outings of the band, but when given time the pros begin to stand out over the obvious cons, though some of them are just flat-out inexcusable following the success they found on their self-titled effort back in 2013. Had there been a better mastering job and some much needed layering, this could have been one of their strongest endeavours to appease the fans of old and new at once.

SatyriconDigital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records vis Freeman Promotions.