Satyricon - _The Age of Nero_
(Roadrunner Records, 2008)
by: Jackie Smit (
While I didn't reserve the same degree of derision for _Now, Diabolical_ that my CoC colleague, James Montague, unloaded in his rather biting review, even a hardened Satyricon acolyte had to admit that the record tanged suspiciously of a band dangerously close to running out of steam. Working to a similarly slick formula to the one that had brought them so much acclaim four years previously, it was a glaringly self-conscious outing that regularly let itself down on a number of levels. Riffs were ruminated on to the point of redundancy. Songs were regularly bloated and overlong, building to a pay-off that by and large failed to set off any real fireworks. But perhaps the record's biggest downfall came in its inability to maintain a consistent atmosphere.Not so on _The Age of Nero_, an album that makes quick work of proving that the problem didn't lie with the original blueprint, but rather in how it was executed. Indeed, Satyricon's seventh effort dances to the beat of a similar drum, so to speak, where restraint is as much a mainstay in the dynamic as the traditional opening blasts of "Commando". Which is just as well, as the haunting mid-tempo gallop of "The Wolfpack" makes a strong case for the band's heightened impact when they do slam the brakes on. "Black Crow on a Tombstone" meanwhile stands out as one their most muscular and aggressive numbers yet, even if the chorus repeats itself a little too often to retain its initial lustre.It's on the disc's second half that Satyricon really hit the high gears. Starting with "My Skin Is Cold" -- much improved since its EP airing earlier this year -- and on through the battle anthem of "The Sign of the Trident", _The Age of Nero_ morphs from impressive to sublime. The much discussed Sound City recording proves a masterstroke, highlighting the bleak inflection of each track perfectly, whilst Frost has been given a noticeably lengthier creative leash and proceeds to do what he arguably does better than any other drummer in the black metal scene. The same can be said of his bandmate; Satyr expertly delivers the album's every lyric through his now familiar gritted-teeth snarl, and though some may point out his apparent inability to pen a verse that exceeds eight words, with music this devastating as his soundtrack, he somehow sounds that much more convincing.
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