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Album Review: SATYRICON Deep Calleth Upon Deep

Posted by on September 22, 2017 at 5:18 pm

If ever there was a time not to judge an album by its cover, hoo boy is this fucking it. In 2010, Decibel magazine reviewed Satyricon's classic Nemesis Divina, singling out the unusually sophisticated album cover as "ground breaking" at the time. It's hard to fathom that same praise being leveled at the macaroni fridge art-level pencil shavings that adorn this year's Deep Calleth Upon Deep, but that $5 napkin drawing may well be the only fault any serious Satyricon fan finds with the album.

But let's back track a bit: for many fans – notably those of the fundamentalist black metal stripe – Nemesis Divina was the demarcation point after which fandom became indifference if not hostility, with future records from Rebel Extravaganza (a true kvlt album title if ever there was one) to Volcano showcasing a streamlined, increasingly accessible sound that saw many former acolytes now writing them off as the black metal version of In Flames or Entombed. Fair or not, Satyricon embraced their newly polarizing stance and just kinda went on about their day, slowly but steadily pumping out new records at anywhere from two to five year increments.

While selling OK, it's probably safe to say that in 2026 – assuming the band are still around – there is unlikely to be much demand for a 20th anniversary tour playing Now, Diabolical in its entirety. The band's most recent album, 2013's Satyricon, presented a minor comeback in the sense of greater immediacy and consistency in songcraft, but four years later Deep Calleth Upon Deep takes that sure-handedness and accumulated proficiency to another level.

"Midnight Serpent" is the first of a nonstop series of single-worthy tracks, effortless fusing loose strands of old black metal with more prominent strains of doom tempos, fleeting glimpses of goth metal tropes, and a central guitar riff that – given a different tone and a makeover in contextualization – would make for a hell of a deathcore tune. "To Your Brethren In the Dark" exists somewhere in the Venn diagram between old post-punk, doom-laced goth rock and guitars out of a low-key sludge tune. If that all sounds like a horrible combination, well, the genius of this album is in Satyr's and Frost's ability to weave seemingly contradictory, polyglot musical genres into a coherent whole. Nothing really jumps out as super progressive, but that's not just because the songs here aren't brazenly experimental but, even more so, that they're all designed to be catchy as fuck while still throwing enough curve balls at the listener to keep them on their toes.

Really, every song here is a winner, but a few stand heads and toes over others, and in addition to the two already mentioned you really need to hear the 90's doom death spin off "The Ghost of Rome", the epic black & roll of "Black Wings and Withering Gloom", and the deconstructed stoner-rock-with-sax of "Dissonant". Bonus points: Satyr's voice is often mixed on this album similar to Ron Royce's vocals on Grin, if there are any latter day Coroner fans in the house.

Satyricon aren't reinventing the wheel here, but what they are doing is sourcing the spokes from as many musical milestones as possible. Often that kind of overreach results in a well-meaning if altogether bloated mess, but the sheer avoidance of anything close to self-indulgence is exactly what makes Deep Calleth Upon Deep a sort of quiet masterpiece.

Score: 9.5/10

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