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It's hard to overstate the influence of the long-running Norwegian band Satyricon on the world's extreme heavy-metal scene. Its tenacity alone is amazing — the core of the band, frontman/songwriter Satyr and drummer Frost, has been playing together since 1992. On albums and tours, an all-star cast of supporting musicians has come and gone, but it's in the back and forth between these two where the band's arresting musical alchemy lives.
Entire subgenres have sprung from single Satyricon albums — its 1993 debut, Dark Medieval Times, for instance, is credited with birthing so-called "medieval metal." But, driven by a truly Scandinavian work ethic, the band's sound has evolved with each new release, becoming more and more technically and thematically intricate.
Still, the arcane world of Norwegian black metal from which the band springs is often seen in the United States as cartoonish and grotesque. But Satyricon may be among the best candidates to change that. Eschewing the obvious, cheesy satanic stuff, the band instead focuses on reality, on the dark pockets of the human spirit, translating it into haunting, moody passages whose sublime power is breathtaking. And somehow, Satyr and Frost harness these moods into real, structured songs, traversing a range of emotion in a way that can be — dare we say? — almost catchy.
The band is hoping to truly grab America on its current tour. Diehard fans, of course, are ecstatic — the last time Satyricon toured the States was in 2004, and even then, visa problems prevented Frost from coming (among others, Joey Jordison from Slipknot filled in on drums).
The occasion is, of course, an album — the band's seventh proper full-length, The Age of Nero, was released in the United States last November. With just eight tracks, it's succinct but sweeping, the apotheosis of Satyricon's efforts to date. "We worked for like two to three years on the creative process on The Age of Nero, and at that point, we felt that this is absolutely the best Satyricon album we've ever had," says Frost. Recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California — the place where Metallica recorded Death Magnetic — the record was produced by Satyr but mixed by famed engineer Joe Barresi, who's worked with bands like Isis, the Melvins, and Kyuss. "From what I understand, he's quite into the more extreme types of metal music," says Frost, "and had no problems understanding our ideas. He was not alienated by the extremity of our expression."
Neither, Frost says, have been the hordes of fans storming the band's shows on the tour so far — perhaps America finally gets it. "I think here, most people lack the kind of references that we have and they have a different foundation for understanding our music," he says. "But we decided, fuck that, it doesn't matter. The whole point is to present something that is so unique, so powerful, so convincing. So no matter where people come from musically and no matter how they understand it, it will just hit them full force and make them turn around just because of the sheer, raw energy and because of the convincing quality of the expression."
Read the full Q&A with Frost on CrossFade, New Times' music blog, at BrowardMusic.com.