2006 Century Media Records
1. Now, Diabolical
2. K.I.N.G. MP3
3. Pentagram Burns
4. New Enemy
5. Rite of War Cross
6. That Darkness Shall Be Eternal
8. To the Mountains
9. Storm (Of the Destroyer) [*]
Much like one of their earliest cohorts Enslaved, Satyricon have evolved over the last ten years from a traditional black metal act into something much more accessible and progressive. 2002's Volcano was a surprise hit in the U.S. and the band established a place for itself alongside commercial gothic pseudo-black metal acts like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. Four years and a rape trial later (in fairness, those involved were only touring members of the band, not full members) Satyricon has returned with Now, Diabolical, an intriguingly simple album built around singular concepts. Each song essentially has a central riff or theme that repeats throughout as the band builds a heavy groove around it. In some ways, it's not all that different from moments of their 1993 debut Dark Medieval Times, but everything typically associated with black metal has been stripped away, allowing the riffage to speak for itself.
Some of you might already be saying "But Cory, Satyricon haven't really been a black metal band for years!" and you'd be right. Even on Volcano, however there was still a strong influence, particularly in the drumming. Frost's percussion on Now, Diabolical is much slower, heavier and more deliberate. Also notably missing are the weak bits of gothic wankery. There's barely anything but guitars, vocals and percussion on this disc and it works remarkably well. Most songs break the five-minute mark and few become tiresome despite the near-constant repetition of thematic elements. It's an interesting pairing of stoner metal/doom songwriting with a little bit of black metal attitude to make something that, while not entirely original, is at least an interesting step for Satyricon. Again, like Enslaved, they've managed to change into something altogether different without completely losing their identity in the process. They even tacked on the bonus track "Storm (of the Destroyer)" that's straight-up black metal, as if to remind their listeners that the band is still fundamentally the same even if they've changed their aesthetic quite a bit.
While the record was produced by Satyr himself, it was mixed by Mike Frasier who has worked with everyone from Metallica and Hatebreed to AC/DC and Joe Satriani and he gives it a remarkable polish that their work has always lacked. Everything is mixed appropriately, the vocals are intelligible and the drums actually have power to them.
Bottom Line: I was quite surprised to find myself this enthralled by a new Satyricon album, but I can generally admire any band that is still developing after fifteen years. It helps even more that the chances Satyricon has taken with Now, Diabolical have paid off and that the record itself is a fun listen, if ultimately just a bit forgettable. They've come along way since their humble Norwegian black metal beginnings and if this record is any indication, they have a long road left ahead of them.