Sound — 7
I am admittedly, not a big fan of straight up black metal. Bassless, trebly toilet quality recording aside, the riffs and song structures are, for the most part, perversely repetitive, so much so that I'm almost insulted by it a lot of the time. Plus, I hate the snow and I'm generally not into the whole Satan thing.
Satyricon were one of those bands for me for a veeeery long time, even more so when Satyr started his "dress like Bono" phase a few years back. But I'm always for a band experimenting, twisting around or simply improving on their sound and with great fortitude, I did jump into this album upon seeing that it was "band plus large choir."
Okay, so maybe it's a basic reason for jumping in, but in fairness, orchestral/classical implementation into metal has never always worked properly barring a few cases, the obvious ones being Dimmu Borgir and Septicflesh. I think it's due to how metal songs are written, you know, cuz there's this massive cast of 80 instruments that suddenly have to take a back seat for 5 relatively uninteresting ones (vocals included). The joy of just the choir in this case is that they fill in a large, searing chunk of unused mid and high-range that Satyricon has an abundance of in this live mix.
Yeah, the choir works. It definitely works. And it sounds amazing. It is as every bit as apocalyptic as the idea appears: the soaring voices lighting up the sonic spectrum adds so much more drive and power to the basic guitar/drums/bass/vocal setup that its a revitalized and refreshed experience listening Satyricon again.
One thing that impressed me the most was the overall quality of the recording. Everything is still the same tone, from drum kit to Satyrs' voice, as on a studio album, but its so clear and fresh sounding, I'd take this version of songs A, B or C over their original versions.
Speaking of songs, there are some really powerful results of this choir/band fusion: My personal favourite is the amped up version of "Mother North," it's every bit as a grand and sweeping as ever but the choir really makes it feel more thematic and engaging. Another big one is "The Infinity of Time and Space" which I remember at the time when first hearing that song thinking "this could do with some Opeth-style keys" and low and behold, Satyricon take it a whole step further. Lastly, "Die by My Hand" exemplifies both points, being both a strong track made stronger with the choirs harmonic layers but also its now much more interesting as a piece.
Lyrics — 7
Satyrs' voice has never sat well with me on most of Satyricon's albums. It's never really been "strong" enough, I guess. It's not particularly "grim" or "extreme" sounding. Imagine a cranky Tom Waits with a sore throat.
However, I think the live setting makes his performance go a long way, cuz now he gives narrative and flow to the backing choir who, for the most part, don't sing the actual lyrics.
Lyrically, it's about north... stuff, I dunno. Alright, alright, a lot of the songs are very anthemic. "Den Siste," "K.I.N.G." and "Die by My Hand" are the obvious ones, hearing the crowd participating in these tracks is actually a joy. "Phoenix" deserves a mention in that respect, for its cleanly sung passages by Sivert Høyem and relative intimacy compared to the rest of the set.
Overall Impression — 8
I enjoyed this. I did not think I would, but it's surprising what a simple concept like "add choir" can do to a repertoire, even more so in a live setting. A recommendation for fans of Satyricon in general or fans of sort-of-symphonic metal.
Songs to look out for: "Now, Diabolical," "Nocturnal Flare," "Die by My Hand," "Phoenix," "The Infinity of Time and Space" and "Mother North."