The Norwegian black metal institution that is Satyricon recently embarked on a club tour in their native country, which, luckily, included a visit to Hulen in Bergen on a cold and bleak Wednesday night. Not surprisingly, the gig was sold out and the room was crammed with people. Witnessing a band of this size at a small, intimate venue such as Hulen is always interesting as it allows for more interaction and banter between the band and its audience. Besides, Hulen is unlike any other venue out there. The fact that it is located inside a mountain adds a certain charm and warmth to it. So, should you ever find yourself walking the rainy streets of Bergen, Norway, do pay that venue a visit. It is well worth your time.
Following a suitably epic yet ominous introduction, Satyricon launched into the muscular ‘Midnight Serpent‘ off their excellent new record and off we went on a ninety-minute long musical journey through the darkest recesses of the human mind. Satyricon were in great shape, which is say that each member of the band was right on the money and there was hardly a bum note to be detected anywhere. Drummer Frost never missed a beat and the charismatic and strangely authoritarian vocalist Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven was a towering presence on the stage and exuded confidence and a hint of arrogance, just as it ought to be when dealing with black metal. The band‘s tunes are sharp and structured affairs in and of themselves and it was a pleasure to witness Satyricon deliver them in such a tight and disciplined manner. The sound was pretty damn decent and certainly had weight and substance to it. The ensemble plowed through ‘Our World, It Rumbles Tonight‘, ‘Black Crow on a Tombstone‘, ‘Deep Calleth upon Deep‘, ‘Repined Bastard Nation‘, and ‘Commando‘ among others. ‘Walker upon the Wind‘ was superb and full of vigor while ‘Black Winds and Withering Gloom‘ came across as spirited and moody. The wonderful melancholy of ‘Our World, It Rumbles Tonight‘ and ‘To Your Brethren in the Dark‘ was almost overwhelming. ‘Now, Diabolical‘ was ferocious and howled with anger and spite, but the inclusion of ‘Transcendental Requiem of Slaves‘ was unremarkable and never turned into anything even remotely interesting. Inevitably, ‘Mother North‘ closed the main set and sounded as pompous and irresistible as ever. The band graced us with four encores, namely ‘The Pentagram Burns‘, ‘To the Mountains‘, ‘Fuel for Hatred‘, and the mandatory ‘K.I.N.G‘. The rendition of ‘To the Mountains‘ was most definitely the highlight of the evening and sounded downright sinister and chilling not to mention majestic and otherworldly. That particular tune has a hypnotic and trance-like vibe to it that works wonders whenever it is aired live. An underrated and exceptionally stellar composition that deserves a wider audience for sure.
The performance was utterly professional and tight, but it was neither mind-blowing nor all-out brilliant, which was a bit of a shame, really. When it comes to Satyricon, there is nearly always a lot of energy and passion being exchanged and shifted back and forth between the stage and the audience, but for some reason the excitement and drama that are usually associated with one of the band’s gigs were slightly lacking on this particular night. Perhaps the band were let down by the at times lukewarm crowd and their response to the new song material, or perhaps the audience had yet to familiarize themselves properly with the latest record and therefore felt less enthusiastic about those cuts? Who knows, really? Having said that, the set list was quite varied and there were many memorable moments throughout the performance, so it was not as if it was anticlimactic or without its moments of greatness, but compared to earlier performances this one never truly reached the heights that these talented deviants are capable of. That indefinable and eerie atmosphere that Satyricon are capable of conjuring up was simply not as forceful and all-consuming last night as it sometimes is. Despite this criticism, which is nothing really major as such, the bottom line is that Satyricon are great performers and most definitely a band to watch in a live setting if possible. In fact, some of their songs are even more compelling and captivating in a proper live setting compared to their studio counterparts, which is saying something. So, if the Norwegian black metal villains play anywhere near you, do not miss out on that.