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Sunday Old School: Satyricon

Photo of Satyricon

Band Photo: Satyricon (?)

Given the somewhat hostile reaction of many people to Sunday Old School’s coverage of Christian rock superstars, Stryper last week, it seemed like a good idea to go in the complete opposite direction for the next column. So today, we will leave behind the sunshine of Orange County, California for the frostbitten plains of Norway, as Sunday Old School examines one of the most commercially successful black metal bands, Satyricon. The band began life in 1990 under the name Eczema, before deciding to adopt the black metal sound and style the following year and changed their name to Satyricon. Shortly after this switch, the band, consisting of founding drummer Exhurtum and bassist Wargod recruited vocalist and guitarist Satyr to the fold, although Exhurtum would be fired after the recording of their first demo, "All Evil," due to him being perceived as more interested in girls than kicking down grave stones, while Wargod departed to become a United Nations soldier. Satyr, along with fellow guitarist Lemarchand soon added a new member to the ranks in the form of drummer, Frost, who made his recording debut with Satyricon on their second demo, "The Forest is my Throne," which would be the last recognised recording Lemarchand made with the group before being fired, although he did record the guitars for their first full length album, "Dark Medieval Times," which was released in 1994 through Moonfog Records.

The record received a very favourable response and was quickly followed by a second album, "The Shadowthrone" only a few months later, which likewise was regarded very highly. The sophomore effort was also seen as a harsher approach to black metal, shedding the acoustic guitars and medieval influences of their debut and was also notable for Emperor member Samoth handling the bass guitar duties, although this would be his only contribution as a fully fledged member of the band. Since his departure, Satyricon has remained a duo in principle, consisting of Satyr and Frost, with a number of session musicians brought into to perform live and record, some of which have been quite high profile, such as Darkthrone member Nocturno Culto, who contributed guitars to the third Satyricon album, "Nemesis Divina" under another pseudonym, "Kvelduv." The third outing continued to see praise roll in and helped raise their profile as one of black metal’s highest quality acts.

After five years as a band, Satyricon released their first EP in 1997, entitled "Meggido," which consisted of one remix, one re-recorded song, one live track and a cover of the Motorhead classic, "Orgasmatron," in an attempt for the group to try something a little different. They would release another EP, "Intermezzo II" in 1999 which included a cover of the Sarcofago track, "I.N.R.I." It was designed as an appetizer for their next album, “Rebel Extravaganza” but the two products seem to be quite different, not least for the latter’s inclusion of industrial elements into their music, although Frost has stated since that people have made too much of this. The album wasn’t received as well by critics and fans but Satyricon were soon playing to some of their biggest audiences yet, when they hit the road as a supporting act for Pantera, whose frontman, Phil Anselmo, is a noted fan of black metal.

They followed "Rebel Extravaganza" with "Volcano," which was a much more successful album both in terms of reviews and recognition, as it earned them numerous awards, including a Norwegian Grammy for Best Metal Album and two Alarm awards for best album and best song, "Fuel For Hatred." Despite the acclaim, the band soon found themselves in very serious trouble, when live members Obsidian Claw and Steinar Gunderson were arrested in Canada on suspicious of drugging and raping a woman, forcing the band to drop off a tour with 3 Inches of Blood, although the charges were later dropped.

It would be a further four years until Satyricon released another album, which came in 2006 in the form of, "Now, Diabolical." The return of the band was greeted with something of a fanfare, with the release of the album being heavily publicised and seen as an evolution from their previous album, although some hardcore black metal fans were very harsh towards the record. Nevertheless, it peaked at number two in the Norwegian album charts and sold very well in other countries, particularly Finland and Sweden.

Their next release came in 2008 with their third EP, "My Skin Is Cold," which featured the title track (a new song) as well as two re-mastered songs and two live tracks which saw the band perform with an orchestra. "My Skin Is Cold" served as a good prelude for their next full length album, "The Age of Nero" which also hit the shelves in 2008 and entered the charts around the world, included a top twenty spot on the Billboard Heatseekers charts and a top five place in their native Norway. The band are now on the road in Europe in support of their latest and eighth album, "Satyricon," which was released in September of this year through Nuclear Blast Records. It has so far received something of a mixed response, but was still able to top the charts in Norway for the first time in their career. Where the path the band follows will take them remains to be seen, but it promises to always be one draped in darkness for these masters of the macabre.

Satyricon - "Dark Medieval Times"

Satyricon - "Mother North"

Satyricon - "Fuel For Hatred"

Satyricon - "King"

Satyricon - "Black Crow On A Tombstone"

Satyricon - "Phoenix"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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