Satyricon’s Constant Motion
When a shark stops moving, it dies. I suppose many know that fact, be it from the neurotic narration in Woody Allen's Annie Hall or flipping to a random page in a trivia book, but most do not consider the futility of the shark. Lacking a swim bladder, the shark cannot fully sleep for fear of death. The apex predator is flawed, but it compensates with constant motion. It is hard to be a shark. Always swimming, always consuming, and it can never fully stop. There is no rest for this machine.
Satyricon is a shark. They have been in constant motion from the beginning and have yet to stop. From their dual debut albums in 1994 to their constantly evolving musical approach, the duo of Sigurd "Satyr" Wongraven and Kjetil-Vidar "Frost" Haraldstad have defined their lengthy career with wild motions and stylistic backflips. Could Rebel Extravaganza have been made by the same band who created The Shadowthrone? Certainly so, and there has never been a sign of stopping. Not even a brain tumor could slow this creature of the deep, opting for perseverance over sinking. Satyricon's most ambitious album, Deep calleth upon Deep, is slated for a September 22nd release on Napalm Records. Frost discussed creativity, constant movement, and, of course, this new album's controversial album art with us, which you can read below.
Deep calleth upon Deep can immediately be recognized as a definite departure from, or at least an extreme amending to, the more rhythmic, rock-oriented direction in which Satyricon has moved across your last few albums. What led to such a wildly different approach?
Satyricon is an organism in constant motion. At this point it felt right to make a diverse, creative, open and deeply spiritual album. The quintessence of Satyricon is anyway of a spiritual nature, and not a formula or set musical expression.
Diversity and creativity certainly dominate the album, and, though I'm sure people will concentrate on Satyr's songwriting creativity, there is a greater expansion on what people would consider to be the "typical Frost approach" to the drumming. You tap into a deeper vein of rhythmic intrigue and a type of progressive "groove" which people would consider atypical for Satyricon. How did moving outside of your perceived comfort zone feel, and how did it help shape the album as a whole?
The material itself demanded a progressive and bold approach. I tried to connect fully and deeply with it and move with the flow of energy in the songs. Satyr also guided me as to what kind of rhythmic solutions he wanted his compositions to have. The whole album project was a huge learning process for me. Sometimes very rewarding, sometimes really challenging and sometimes terribly frustrating. The album no doubt benefited from all the hardship, though. Conventional solutions simply wouldn't have cut it.
Your previous, eponymous album experimented with a clean-voiced ballad ("Phoenix", sung by Sivert Høyem), but Deep calleth upon Deep eschews that song-type entirely. Was that ballad a one-off experiment, or is it something which will resurface on a future album?
I do not in any way consider "Phoenix" to be a ballad. Rather do I find it to be classical Norwegian black metal with unconventional vocals. The song is brilliant in my opinion – but as you may have figured out we don’t enjoy repeating ourselves, so if we were to do a clean-voice song again it would be something quite different from Phoenix.
There is a definite textural element to the new album, with brass, synthesizers, and operatic voice used as tools of expanse and intrigue. What inspired the more consistent utilization of larger textures?
We felt that the songs had space for various textures and that the album as a whole could potentially benefit greatly from it, and I certainly believe that the different textural elements have added depth to the songs. Sometimes enhancing the ambience, sometimes raising the excitement, sometimes emphasizing core melodies or elements. But never dominating the songs. A good band playing good songs – that’s what the album is about more than anything else.
Satyricon has historically been a two-piece band, at least as a creative and recorded entity. How has that dynamic changed over the last almost-thirty years?
In that sense, if no other, we have found a formula that works for this band – Satyr functioning as the creative leader of the band and I working to rhythmically support his ideas and compositions. Over the years, Satyr’s composing skills have developed, deepened and matured, while I have tried to enhance my intuitive understanding of the compositions and worked to adapt accordingly. Our musical communication has also improved considerably. This has resulted in a constant evolution that still takes place, and – hopefully – a band that keeps getting better and better.
Though, as you've said, Satyricon follows its set formula, Deep calleth upon Deep still carries a remarkably different sort of atmosphere that fans who have become "used to" the more rocking, structured Satyricon sound might not expect, compared to more weathered fans who will be able to catch various references from across your discography. How do you feel, or hope, the album will be received?
I imagine that people will perceive of the album as soulful, atmospheric, inspired - they will understand that it is the real deal. I hope it move the listeners on a deep level and that they feel it’s nerve.
The Edvard Munch piece, what press releases are calling an "obscure [pencil] drawing from 1898", used in the cover happened to draw a lot of attention upon the album's initial announcement. While a stirring piece of art in and of itself, much like Ved Buens Ende's Those Who Caress The Pale demo, such a minimal cover was unexpected. What drew you to this piece? How does it fit in conjunction with Deep calleth upon Deep?
Satyr was lucky to get access to a wide range of Munch works, many of which being relatively unknown to the public. As Satyr stumbled across this one drawing – “The Kiss of Death” – he immediately and instinctively connected with it, realising this had to be the cover for Deep calleth upon Deep. A superb and striking visual reflection of the expression and dynamics of the album.
How do you feel about and approach the band now as opposed to 1994, when your first two albums were released? Is there a sense of familiarity and similarity, or do you think, even though the band revolves around the two of you, it has become something different?
As we have been in constant musical motion since the beginning, we have necessarily come a very long way over the years that have passed. Which is definitely a good thing. We have always been in touch with our roots and fundamental spirit, though. Even when you hear Deep calleth upon Deep, which sounds like nothing else we’ve done, there is still no doubt about it being Satyricon. To me, that tells about a band that is guided by it’s own spirit and ideas rather than external influences and forces.
Where do you think this maturation of style from both Satyr and you will lead to? Will there be a furthering in this more intricate sound, or, as you've said before, will Satyricon avoid repetition and try something new?
Satyricon will continue to move along into new territories for as long as we exist. That is our call and our nature. Exactly where that might lead to not even we ourselves now -- but it will for sure be somewhere exciting.