REVIEW: Satyricon – Satyricon & Munch

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SATYRICON & MUNCH as an album got published on June 10th, 2022, via Napalm Records. It consists of a 56 minute-long single track, written for the art exhibition that is currently on display at the Munch museum in Oslo. SATYRICON started planning this project in late 2018 and, also due to its complexity, it took 3.5 years to come to life. Although they are pretty well-known as a band, it is worth remembering that SATYRICON is a black metal act founded in Oslo back in 1991, whose lineup went through a few changes and has eventually settled as a duo: Satyr on vocals and guitars, and Frost on drums.

It is no secret that black metal as a genre is quite controversial and not exactly well-accepted or welcomed by many social environments, so it did really surprise me to get to know that such a contentious type of music, which I do like and support, got the chance to enter a museum and become an essential element in an art exhibition. The artist in question is Edvard Munch, a Norwegian painter whose distinctive style became a worldwide known example of expressionism at its finest. I would dare to say that, speaking of Munch and his world-view, he could be considered as the very first “black metal author,” so to speak. Take The Scream, his most famous work (which was not part of the exhibition though), or Vampire, Anxiety, or even The Kiss of Death: the feelings and emotions he conveys through his art became part of the black metal “vocabulary” since the very beginning. Therefore, it is quite clear that the most authentic and typical Norwegian art did explore the darkest side of human nature way before the most extreme subgenre of metal was even born: no wonder the two things resonate and work perfectly together.

It almost feels like the paintings and lithographies cover the role of the lyrics and tell an ever-changing story, in a loop where there is no exact match between a music fragment and a specific piece of art, so the bystanders end up experimenting with various combinations at their own taste and subjective perception, while roaming the room. I had the chance to see the exhibition myself, and it was an incredibly powerful experience: music and visual art did really amplify each other on an emotional level, and it felt like there was a further dimension added to these paintings and lithographies that I was quite familiar with since schooldays.

Even if it is difficult to analyze such an unusual album out of the context it was born in, being that it is a consequence of the exhibition, it does represent a step forward for the band in their evolution, on many levels. In addition to electric guitar, baritone guitar, bass guitar, and percussion, which are always present on SATYRICON albums, many more instruments such as cello, viola, bass clarinet, grand piano, Theremin, old school analog synthesizers (which provided a lot of thickness and texture to the whole composition), but also hardanger fiddler, an old Norwegian instrument, and even a jouhikko, an old Finnish bowed-lyre, got involved in order to give the right atmosphere and vibe to the opus.

The band’s trademark sound is visible, especially in a few parts: their unique way to portray a suffocating sense of anxiety and estrangement through a simple melody is still there, and managed to take a step forward in a different yet complementary context. Dark-ambient oriented sounds took shape in the hands of SATYRICON, two of the most talented metal musicians alive, under the influence of Edvard Munch, the visual artist who, more and better than anyone, made the darkest side of human nature his highest inspiration. “I paint not what I see but what I saw” is one of the most popular quotes: his art, as painful as it can be, comes from his tormented inner being, brutal and unfiltered, and it is, nowadays as relevant as ever. The album, as already stated, is a consequence of the exhibition, but it can be enjoyed out of that context, due to its strong evocative power that transcends any possible barrier, as a proper emotional journey.

Written by Licia Mapelli

Tracklist

  1. Satyricon & Munch

Lineup

Satyr – guitars, bass, keyboards
Frost – drums

Label

Napalm Records

Links

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