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Interview: Frost (Satyricon)

Satyricon

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Satyricon have always perfectly walked the line between symphonic and cult. Their grinding, riff-driven brand of vitriolic black metal has always been aided by orchestral moments, but it was never so overt to be flowery or romantic. Old-school fans will always rep Dark Medieval Times, but it’s their material from the mid-Nineties and onward that defines them. Nemesis Divina is massive, if only for housing “Mother North”; and the two black albums, Volcano and Now, Diabolical, are landmarks of the genre. Their most recent record, 2013’s self-titled album, is a strange distillation of the band’s sound, and has thrown some fans for a loop. Now, Satyricon are releasing Live At The Opera, a new DVD of their September 2013 live performance with the Norwegian National Opera Chorus at Den Norske Opera & Ballett in Oslo.

Frost is the band’s drummer. Many remember him from his appearance in Until The Light Takes Us. Gracious and thoughtful, he describes playing the opera house as inspirational and ceremonial. “That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he tells IO when we call him. “It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to go on being a musician.”

— Scab Casserole

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Why now for this collaboration?

Why now… It’s always a good question. The thing is, you cannot just be in a band in a very extreme genre and decide at any given point that you would like to incorporate a national opera choir and perform a full show with them at an opera house. It requires quite a lot, not the least of which is a boldness on behalf of the band to go ahead with something like it. I think in a band, you need to be in a position where it feels natural to go ahead with it. And then you also need to have a choir that actually wants to work with your band. For us, we’ve had ideas of doing something of this sort for a long time, but they didn’t come about until this point. Satyricon had to be ready to take this upon itself as a band. It was now that we could finally realize it. We had actually performed one particular song with a choir, hence we were in touch with the national opera chorus, and so the link was established. And when the choir and the band sounded amazing together, we liked the idea of a full show. It took a couple of years, finalizing the whole thing, and then voila, there came the magic moment.

Did you sit down with the choir and arrange the accompaniment, or did they come in with music they’d written for Satyricon?

We were taking part in the process. Kjetil Bjerkestrand, who wrote the arrangements, has a deep understanding of Satyricon’s music, and really knew where he wanted to go with this project. Since he understood our music so well, both musically and spiritually, he was able to write fantastic choir arrangements for it, and we didn’t have to alter our songs in any way.

The song list spans the band’s whole career. Was there an era or an album that was especially aided by the accompaniment?

Well, I guess it’s quite obvious that some songs, like “To The Mountains,” would sound excellent with a choir because of the nature of those songs. They are very grand, very epic, so that makes them especially fit for a choir arrangement. I think all of the songs that the band and the choir were bringing together sound fantastic with those arrangements. Then again, when we were choosing songs from Satyricon’s history, we were very careful to pick songs where the choir could help intensify the feelings and energy. It’s not like we selected at random.

Are there any songs that you think the fans might be surprised to see you left out?

Possibly. We’d picked plenty more songs that would sound really cool with those arrangements, but you have to draw the line somewhere. The show can’t last for ten hours. It’s quite telling so many of Satyricon’s songs would work so well with the choir.

The night of the show, when you went onstage to play, did it feel very different from playing an average show?

Absolutely. It felt significantly different. When I was sitting there, performing in the opera house, feeling the expectations and feeling the passion of the choir next to me, it was very solemn and ceremonial. It gives you an electrical sensation. There are feelings of something really grand and meaningful going on. I felt very privileged to be there and be able to take part in something so amazing and inspiring.

The last Satyricon album sounded very different than your previous efforts. Was that the point? Where does that stand in your progression of sound?

I think that this was the album where we finally started to get in touch with the true dynamics, where our music started to come alive in a deeper sense than what it has done on any other album. And that made it sure that this was going to be the self-titled album. Because on this album, we feel that everything that Satyricon is about has a significant place. The last piece of the puzzle that we found during the creation of the album was that dynamic. We found the place to take everything down and do very mellow, low-key stuff, and strip the music of everything intense or violent or extreme, and take it down to something very calm, with very little movement. It was really fantastic experience to us, almost like a revelation, that we can bring this into the band. It sounded as it should, it made sense. That album has a real journey to it, where you can hear the sound of Satyricon unfolding. There is daytime and night, there are all the seasons, and everything.

That’s interesting. I like the inclusion of both light and dark and all the seasons. It felt like a fully formed idea of Satyricon, if that makes any sense.

I understand you, and I even agree. Somehow, I think those contrasts also make the darker parts even darker and more menacing, because somehow, you know, it all comes so alive. And something that is more alive is even more menacing. How can you feel a true darkness, or a true menace, from something that is dead? Something that is not able to live?

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