By Rebecca Bulnes
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It's hard to overstate the influence of the Norwegian band Satyricon on the world's extreme heavy metal scene. Its tenacity alone is amazing — the core of the band, frontman/songwriter Satyr and drummer Frost, has been together continuously since 1992. On albums and tours, an all-star cast of supporting musicians has come and gone, but the band's arresting musical alchemy lives in the back-and-forth between these two.
Entire subgenres have sprung from single Satyricon albums. Its 1993 debut album, Dark Medieval Times, for instance, is credited with birthing so-called "medieval metal." But, driven by a truly Scandinavian work ethic, the band's sound has evolved with each new release, its sound becoming more technically and thematically intricate.
The arcane world of Norwegian black metal, from which the band springs, is often seen in the United States as cartoonish and grotesque. But Satyricon might be among the best candidate to change that perception. Eschewing the obvious, cheesy satanic stuff, the band instead focuses on reality, on the dark pockets of the human spirit, translating them into haunting, moody passages whose sublime power is breathtaking. And somehow, Satyr and Frost harness these moods into real, structured songs, traversing a range of emotion in a way that can be, dare we say, almost catchy.
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On its current tour, the band is hoping to truly grab America. Diehard fans, of course, are ecstatic — the last time Satyricon toured the States was in 2004, and even then, visa problems prevented Frost from coming (among others, Joey Jordison from Slipknot filled in on drums).
The occasion is, of course, an album. The band's seventh proper full-length, The Age of Nero, was released in the stateside this past November. With just eight tracks, it is succinct but sweeping, the apotheosis of Satyricon's efforts to date. "We worked for, like, two to three years on the creative process on The Age of Nero, and at that point, we felt that this is absolutely the best Satyricon album that we've ever had," Frost says. Recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California — the same place Metallica recorded Death Magnetic — the album was produced by Satyr but mixed by famed engineer Joe Barresi, who has worked with bands such as Isis, the Melvins, and Kyuss. "From what I understand, he's quite into the more extreme types of metal music," Frost says, "and had no problems understanding our ideas. He was not alienated by the extremity of our expression."
Neither, Frost says, have the hordes of fans storming the band's shows on the tour so far. Perhaps America finally gets it. "I think here, most people lack that kind of references that we have, and they have a different foundation for understanding our music," he says. "But we decided, Fuck that — it doesn't matter. The whole point is to present something that is so unique, so powerful, so convincing. So no matter where people come from musically and no matter how they understand it, it will just hit them full force and make them turn around just because of the sheer, raw energy, and because of the convincing quality of the expression."
Read the full Q&A with Frost on New Times' music blog, CrossFade, blogs.miaminewtimes.com/crossfade.