A fitting punctuation mark to the first two decades of Satyricon’s output…
Review by Paul Castles
Release date: 5 May 2015
Merging black metal with opera may not be a fusion considered by every corpsepainted warrior to roam the dark forests of the hinterland. Fortunately Satyricon have never been afraid to stray from the path of righteousness. On September 8 2013 the Norwegian duo – singer Satyr and drummer extraordinaire Frost – came together with the Norwegian Opera Choir for a once in a lifetime performance at the Den Norske Opera & Ballet theatre in Oslo. Live at the Opera is the result of this amalgamation, a CD/DVD set that you just know won’t be gathering dust, as this dynamic dark deliverance stands as fitting punctuation mark to the first two decades of Satyricon’s output.
This is not the first time that they have merged their mysterious murky sound with operatic choirs. (At this rate Gareth Malone will be furrowing a path to their front door!) It’s fair to say though that they haven’t undertaken anything of this seismic scale before and chances are the Den Norske Opera & Ballet has never hosted a night quite like it with Satyricon accompanied during the entire set by a full orchestra and 55-member choir, rather than just wheeling the penguins on for a couple of songs.
The concept stemmed from a gig they played where the choir did support them for one song and such was the impact made that the idea to take this collaboration several steps further gathered increasing momentum. Satyricon spent around 18 months working with a composer and arranger on the choral arrangements until they reached a point in which the two musical strands started to synchronize. In many ways a surreal event with the seated audience initially unsure how to behave in such grand surroundings before being reminded by Satyr that this was still a gig so ‘get to your feet’.
The setlist should be familiar to Satyricon disciples as their 2013 self-titled release makes up half-a-dozen of the 14 numbers performed on the night, the final product of which falls just short of two hours. Following the scene setting grandeur of the opening intro Satyricon launch themselves like an Olympic diver into ‘Now, Diabolical’ the thundering title track from their 2006 album but now entering something approaching a different stratosphere with the spiritually searching soprano bringing something completely different to the table.
The soprano is the voice we hear most, second only to Satyr himself so you better like it or you’re gonna have to bail out early. On the thumping ‘Infectious Bastard Nation’ her cries and echoes come out as barks while the choral onslaught heightens both the mood and tension from the back. The most vital voice heard does remain Satyr’s own of course and a great sweeping weapon it is too. On the epic ‘Phoenix’ the frontman is given space to breathe and on this colossal number, Satyr singlehandedly commands the opera house, in a manner befitting of Nick Cave at the height of his powers. Some songs such as ‘Die By My Hand’ have always featured choirs but the full cacophony of harmonic voices is a new, and intriguing, addition to harder edged songs such as set closer ‘K.I.N.G.’
By taking some of their more nihilistic moments and coating them with the textured layers of a choir, some of the songs almost become unrecognisable from their original form. ‘To The Mountains’ hits more peaks than the Himalayas as the male and female voices of the choir intertwine against the backdrop of Frost’s irresistible pounding of his kit. ‘The Pentagram Burns’ is another aural explosion with the layers piled up higher than the handbags at the Harrods’ Boxing Day sale. His reputation as arguably black metal’s finest drummer is not difficult to acknowledge when you see him perform on this stage. Having also spent time with Norway’s equally renowned black metal acts 1349 and Gorgoroth, Frost also picked up the sticks on the new Keep of Kalessin album (reviewed here). While the Norwegian Opera Choir brings a sweeping sense of grandeur to the evening, the stars of the show nevertheless remain Satyr and Frost.
The DVD is an enjoyable addition and allows you to indulge even further in Satyricon’s mesmeric powers. Atmospherically shot, visually you gain a greater appreciation of exactly what went into making this groundbreaking night so very special.
9 out of 10
- Voice of Shadows
- Now Diabolical
- Repined Bastard Nation
- Our World it Rumbles Tonight
- Nocturnal Flare
- Die By My Hand
- Tro Og Kraft
- Den Siste
- The Infinity Of Time And Space
- To The Mountains
- The Pentagram Burns
- Mother North