Norwegian black metal icons Satyricon return to action in September with a new studio album, Deep Calleth Upon Deep. Scott Adams caught up with the band's drummer Frost for a chat...
I shouldn’t be surprised, of course. But when we are connected on the Trans-Global telephone line I’m sitting in Sentinel Daily’s opulent Canberra headquarters, with all mod cons to hand and a cold beer on call should it be required. Satyricon alumnus Frost is talking to me from the middle of a Norwegian forest.
Diff’rent strokes an’ all that, of course, but as the temperature dips below zero in Canberra whilst we chat I’m glad to be rugged up. We’re talking because Satyricon are set to release a new album, Deep Calleth Upon Deep on Napalm Records next month, and that is an event worthy of note. The line gets a bit faint at times, but we managed to get some good nuggets of metallic wisdom from the affable percussionist.
It’s four years since Satyricon came out, and I think before that it was five years between the release of Satyricon and Age of Nero; Is it getting harder for the pair of you to make Satyricon music or are you happy for it to take as long as it takes as long as the end product is up top standard? “Yes, the latter definitely. It needs to take the time it takes. We will never compromise our material. If it takes two years, fine. If it takes four or five that’s also fine. We have to meet higher standards for each album, so that does mean that it gets a little harder. But with all our music we must be satisfied with how it feels, how everything looks… so we will probably always end up spending some years on each album given what we demand of them. Also we’re a touring band, so we will spend quite a bit of time on tour between albums; we prefer to keep our writing activity to the rehearsal studio, in an inspired environment, rather than the rather hectic environment of a tour bus. So that’s something that also contributes to the time things take”.
I’ve had the album for a couple of weeks now, and it seems to me to take elements from everything you’ve done in the past. It’s almost quintessential Satyricon. But in saying that this combination of sounds seems to point to the future, too. It’s almost a third age of Satyricon. Am I right? Does Deep Calleth Upon Deep herald a third age of Satyricon? “Yes, we feel that way. There is something about the energy and the feel, the sound, the way the songs are performed… it’s almost like a different musical being, with different qualities. It feels like we function in a more open and creative way on this album. That definitely has a lot to do with the energy in the songs. It’s a very human presence”.
If I listen to a track like The Ghost of Rome, it sounds almost – in terms of Satyricon at least – like a mainstream metal song. I don’t want to say commercial, because it really isn’t, but compared to your first couple of albums it’s a very different kind of track. Do you worry what fans who’ve been with you since those early days might think of a track like that? Or would you expect them to have grown with you over time? “The day that we start to worry about what people think of our songs is the day that the band can no longer exist. That would be commercialism, giving in to expectations and conventions. We would never do that. So as long as we ourselves are confident that a song is fully representative of what we do then of course we would release it. We do our best to ensure that the songs contain the Satyricon signature, and that is something we would never compromise on. So no, it’s a bit like you say – we’re hoping that people are able to grow with our material. We ourselves, since we were youngsters, have grown with the music we listen to. You challenge yourself, and that’s very rewarding. It’s probably the reason we became musicians in the first place. But it’s up to the individual. If there is music that doesn’t speak to some of our fans that has to be okay. We cannot be forced into some sort of relationship where everything we do has to be liked by everyone. That’s simply not possible. We will deliver a new release, and it moves those who it moves. Those that don’t like it can listen to something else. That’s always possible”.
Too true. I’ve seen you mention a couple of times in the promo interviews that were released with the album that it’s title alludes to the depth which you’ve dug into yourselves to produce this album, and the transference of that feeling to the depth that listeners will need to dig to appreciate the record. Was it really that much of an effort to create this new album? “No doubt. We definitely dug deep. We have laid down more effort on this album than we have ever done before and I think we have invested more of ourselves in terms not only of hard work but also mental energy. We’ve encountered many difficulties getting each song to sound how we wanted and both of us have gone through some hard times getting where we needed to be. But eventually it became the album that we wanted to hear and wanted to release and that’s all that matters. It also speaks to how investing a lot in something will lead to a good potential outcome, or a potential reward. And we definitely feel now that we are paid back for what we have invested so it’s all fine”.
It’s certainly an album I’ve probably enjoyed listening to much more than some of your other albums. Every aspect of the album is enjoyable. “I’m glad to hear that”.
Now, you were mentioning earlier about Satyricon being a touring band – are you still enjoying touring, or in the current contracted music industry is it a necessary evil? “I can sincerely say that I still enjoy it. Of course there are downsides to touring, there are downsides to everything. It can be hard, it’s sometimes hard to be close to other people all the time, sometimes it feels like your passion becomes more like hard work than anything else. But I feel that we have pretty much managed to stay on the right side of things. On every tour there is always some kind of experience that I haven’t had before, you maybe interpret songs live in different ways, and so the interaction with the audience happens differently, which affects the way you perform. And all of that keeps things interesting. Also I have a very sincere passion for the music, as do the rest of the guys in the touring band. So that very much keeps our spirits up. But when we feel that there’s too much at the negative end of the scale then we will just give up. There are other alternatives to doing Satyricon music, but at this point we still feel it has value and meaning”.
You’ve been doing this a long time now. We hear a lot about globalisation creeping into all aspects of life – do you find metal fans attending your shows starting to get a bit similar, irrespective of where you happen to be playing on any given night? “That might be so, but I think the differences in audiences are still very evident. Every place has it’s own atmosphere or vibe. If you compare Europe and South America, which are two territories we’ll be visiting on this tour cycle, we will definitely know that we’re touring on different continents! The South Americans tend to be very warm blooded, there’s a lot of enthusiasm and there’s a lot of wildness going on! We very much appreciate this, and we can feel that it’s a different kind of power than you get from the Europeans. And in Europe itself there’s a huge difference between North and South. And I don’t think that will ever change”.
I’m glad to hear that. If extreme metal is about anything, it’s about individualism, and it’s good to hear that that spirit still thrives. Thanks for speaking to us and good luck with the album!
Satyricon will release Deep Calleth Upon Deep on September 22nd through Napalm Records