Satanic Warmaster

Filthy Finnish stalwarts Satanic Warmaster are back with fifth full length Fimbulwinter, with 8 more songs about wolves, snow, Satan, and their usual mix of everything that makes underground black metal both great and simultaneously cringe inducing.  If you haven’t ever checked them out, the name alone (either the best or worst name ever) might make you think of Bestial Warlust and the bands spawned from their bestial bloodline.  The music though has always been firmly planted in tr00 kvult low-fi trebly demo tape tones .  Something must have gotten slipped in the native rivers of vodka and sadness though.  Much like the musically similar minded Sargeist shocked everyone with the warm tones of Let the Devil In, this record sounds great!!!  WHAT???!!!  These guys?  Consider me completely shocked.

Satanic Warmaster has always been something of a cult phenomenon in underground black metal.   They have  maintained and groomed a devoted fan base, to some derision and head scratching among those who never quite got what the hype was all about.  The band never struck me as terrible, with some good songs, but never all that good either.  Band leader Werwolf may have made a smart marketing ploy in this recording choice though.  There is a level of nuance on this record I hadn’t gotten from listening to the bands older material. When going back to revisit those albums after being shocked by their updated sound, I noticed more details that were overlooked previously.  While this record is a standalone statement, the accessibility also acts like a key to unlock some of the dingy melodies lurking in the murk of their earlier recordings.

“Fimbulwinter’s Spell” opens the record up in the standard early 90’s black metal fashion you would expect.  Not bad, pretty good, but nothing that particularly stands out and catches the ear too strongly.  After a few minutes though, follow up “Funeral Wolves” though grabs you with a sickeningly catchy bridge full of midpaced hooks and a touch of keyboards to mix into the tried and true blasting and tremolo formula.  “When Thunders Hail” starts off really promising, and is one of the most well writing songs on the record, but hits what could be a divisive bump in the chorus.  The vocals change from the typical black metal rasp into grunted homage to wolves, and a lorn palace…  and it comes off as pure cheese.  But it’s a sincere cheese.  It kind of makes you chuckle, but you kind of like it, or tolerate it, because by Satan, those are the things we sometimes put up with in black metal.

“Nun-Gaer-Faun” is the real highlight of the album and wraps all the bands strengths up in one track.  Starting off with a slow meandering melody that captures the essence of the early 90’s perfectly, it gives way to a section of black metal two step before an epic two chord exercise in musical tension and release.   It’s surprisingly made it into what has been one of my most played and favorite black metal tracks of the year.

Overall this is a solid release.  That being the case black metal purists find satisfaction with in this record as long as they aren’t going in with great expectations.  Like grandma’s meatloaf, or your favorite burger joint, it gives you what you know, but does it well enough, and with just enough individual character, that you keep going back again and again even if it’s not doing anything all that different from anything anyone else is doing or has done before.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Dan Wrathburn
January 24th, 2015


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