Satyricon
My Skin is Cold EP

I remember seeing some pretty wretched reviews for Now, Diabolical when it was released – claims that Satyricon had finally deconstructed and dumbed-down their sound to a simplified parody of their once-feral greatness. I didn’t think so – sure, it was minimalist, but not toothless – it still seethed in the right places, and rocked in others. Call it black n’ roll, post-black or whatever – it still sounded like Satyricon to me. And the fact that Satyr and Frost could still conjure up the alien other-ness that’s always marked their output, but with much less ornamentation, was impressive.

This EP (released only on 7″ with a companion CD) seems like a forerunner to their unannounced new album. It’s still in line with the sound that Satyricon has been cultivating since Rebel Extravaganza (the title track is the only completely new song here), but there are hints that they may be ready to step out of their self-imposed minimalist box as well – although very slowly.

“My Skin is Cold” will be instantly familiar if you’ve heard the last few albums – simple riffs and Satyr’s raspy, venom-spit delivery. It bashes along, slightly above mid-tempo, and like many of the tracks on Now, Diabolical, it’s got a decent groove to it, although it’s nowhere near as arresting or malevolent as any of the band’s earlier works. It gives the feeling of a graying, battle-scarred wolf – too weary to prowl and fight as it once did, but it can still tear your throat out if you get too close.

“Live Through Me,” which was originally released as a bonus track off Volcano, oozes with more menace, especially when a theremin-like keyboard is brought in midway for an eerie call-and-response above the grinding riffs. Here, and also on the surprisingly bluesy/stoner-rock “Existential Fear-Questions”, we start hearing some more textural and atmospheric elements beginning to rise out of the murk. “Existential” also features two things I’ve never heard before in a Satyricon track: Hammond organs and guitar solos.

Satyricon is obviously coming late to the 70s psychedelic party – their countrymen Enslaved have been skillfully blending elements of that sound into their expansive post-black metal for going on ten years now. So none of this is fresh – but it is welcome. Dark Medieval Times and The Shadowthrone, with their folk interludes and misty Viking mystery, were illustrative, rich and hypnotic. So maybe just the presence of these elements suggests that the band is tiring of their stripped-down sound and is ready to start stretching out a bit more. And I can understand the need to do it slowly and carefully – you throw too many new elements into the mix and suddenly it becomes trimming and tinsel, rather than an integral part of the atmosphere.

The final two tracks on the album are live versions of “Repined Bastard Nation” and “Mother North,” both with orchestras added in. On the former, the symphonic elements are subtle – a horn blare here and there, that’s it. It’s neither as bombastic as Dimmu Borgir, nor as tacked-on and muddled and Metallica‘s S&M show with Michael Kamen (which I was at, meh), but feels more in line with the minimal flourishes and accents used in the other tracks presented here. “Mother North,” which has always been pompous in its own right, starts off with a blatt of horns and falls somewhere between the opening of “The Trial” from Pink Floyd‘s The Wall and a trollish high school marching band. As with the entire EP, it’s entertaining and worth a listen for longtime fans, but by no means essential.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
July 5th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: swampthang

    ya know whats funny? i have never even listened to anything by these guys before. def gunna have to check em out.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    start at the beginning (Dark Medieval Times, Shadowthrone, Nemesis Divina) and work your way forward. There was a massive shift in their sound after Nemesis – it’s cool, but I (and most other people, I think) far prefer their early work.


  3. Commented by: axiom

    And I thought I was the only one on the planet who liked Now, Diabolical. I love the earlier “true BM” stuff, but that last full length would have been heralded if released by another band. Know what I mean?

    Anyways, good review and let’s see what they do in the future.


  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I have all their albums. They definitely changed completely but I still liked their stripped-down, minimalist, more rocking approach to black metal. Kind of the band Khold always wanted to be, but it was just out of their grasp. They still have that clinical, alien feeling down pat, like you said, Gaba. Still, I would recommend starting with Dark Medieval Times but keep in mind Nemesis Divina is their best work. My 2 cents.


  5. Commented by: swampthang

    thx gabaghoul


  6. Commented by: MrDerp

    I think there was Hammond organ on “Havok Vulture” from Rebel Extravaganza, but you’re right “Existential Fear-Questions” is different than anything they have done in the past.


  7. Commented by: Kyle

    Fear not Axiom, you aren’t the only Volcano lover here.


  8. Commented by: Dimaension X

    I’m also a fan of Rebel Extavaganza and on – actually, RE was downright progressive – imagine Robert Fripp Playing Black Metal. I like the minimal sound – and it ROX! Who says you can’t bang your head to pure evil??


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