Norway’s Satyricon have become both one of the most loved and heavily criticised names in extreme metal. Moving further away from their traditional black metal roots on their 2006 album Now, Diabolical, the band were on the receiving end of a huge fan backlash for the record’s more rock-oriented, less complex nature. Now, with a new album in the form of The Age Of Nero having just been released, Spiritech caught up with drummer Frost to discuss the new record, his thoughts on the current state of black metal and his memories of touring Australia.
(Note- this interview was conducted prior to the announcement of the band’s second Australian tour in March. See the Gigs-Dates page of the site or the band’s MySpace page for more details).
Spiritech: Hey Frost, how are you doing?
Frost: I’m fine, I’m over here in India. How are you?
Spiritech: I’m well. What are you guys up to in India?
Frost: We’ve just began the world tour for The Age Of Nero and we’re actually beginning in India this time around. So we’re in new territory for us, but that’s exciting and we feel good about it.
Spiritech: Was there any reason why you chose India to kick off the world tour?
Frost: Well, it just happened to be the place where our first shows were and we have never been here before. But it turns out that we actually have a significant fan base over here, to our surprise really. We didn’t really know what to expect going over, but having played the two shows here now, we’re seeing lots of people coming and they’re responding to it and they know our material and everything, so that’s great for us.
Spiritech: Was it a similar feeling to when you first toured Australia in late 2006; that you didn’t know what to expect?
Frost: Ah yeah, kind of a similar feeling. We knew a little bit more about what’s going on in Australia because it’s a bit more similar to Europe and the United States and we knew about sales figures and all that and doing interviews for Australian magazines, other press and so forth. So I guess we had a certain idea, while here in India we haven’t really had any activity going on… we haven’t really done any interviews or anything, so we didn’t know anything about how many people would show up or how many people would know anything about the band. But then we come here and there are thousands of them coming to the shows and they’re singing along and being really responsive. So that’s really cool. But yeah, it was a damn fine experience to go to Australia for the first time and we wish to repeat that. The Aussie fans, like the people here are very responsive.
Spiritech: Great stuff. We’ll move on to the new album then. In what ways do you feel The Age Of Nero is an improvement upon Now, Diabolical?
Frost: I think it’s basically better in every way. I think that production-wise… there can’t be any doubt that it’s our best achievement and I think that the songs are the best we’ve ever made, so no matter what we compare it to our previous albums, it’s really our truly great achievement so far, with a capital “g”. I feel that the album has such a strong identity of its own. I don’t find it possible to really compare it to any of our earlier albums, but anyway, I feel this album both shows as much of the Satyricon elements we’ve displayed to our listeners over the years, but it also shows a very new Satyricon, a Satyricon that’s really not just taking a step up the ladder, but more or less taking a giant leap. There’s the new and a more spark-y feel to everything.
Spiritech: The version of ‘My Skin Is Cold’ that appeared on the EP of the same name is rather different from the version on The Age Of Nero. Was there any reason for that?
Frost: Basically when we recorded the EP, we just had to pick a song that we felt we had finished at that point. We recorded the EP while we were in the process of actually making the album, and we had several songs that were more or less ready to go but were still making a few changes to and we also had several that were pretty far from finished. And we thought that ‘My Skin Is Cold’ was pretty much there and we put it on the EP, the version that we had. But it was fine and we were satisfied with it, so (we) just went and recorded it. After the recording, we felt that it sounded good but we could still go further with that song and than perhaps we did on the EP. That we could improve the structure and reach the potential that the song had and the darkness of the song. Therefore we decided to make those changes for the better and record it for the album. There was never any reason to think that the EP version wasn’t good, it’s just a bonus to be able to hear it differently on the album.
I think that the album version became exactly what we wanted the song to be, a darker version of the song than you could hear on the EP and all the extra layers and the structural changes contributed to giving it a certain extra dimension and a creepiness that we were looking for. The new version is much more in accordance with the original idea that we had, this is the song that was borne out of a very weird and dark experience, a vision that Satyr had, a rather peculiar experience. And what he felt during that time, during his vision, is displayed to a much greater extent on the album version. But I think that recording that version for the EP was a very fine step on the way to getting there.
Spiritech: So it will be the album version that you’ll be playing live then?
Frost: Yeah, that’s the one we’re playing right now. After the release of the EP we played that version live at some summer shows, but now that we have started the tour cycle for the album and the album is out we’ll obviously be sticking to the album version. Otherwise it would be very unnatural. What do you think about the two versions yourself?
Spiritech: I would say that the album version is more polished and seems a little more…fluent I guess.
Frost: You think so? Hmmm, I think the feeling of the song is very different on the EP to the album version. I find it to be more powerful and with way better energy than the EP version.
Spiritech: Fair enough. Is that your favourite track from the new album, or does that honour go to another song?
Frost: It changes a lot for me. For a few weeks I got very, very energized by the song ‘Die By My Hand’. I really like all of the songs though and I think they are so different and work in such different ways. It’s a bit hard to compare them for that reason… there were a couple of songs that really works best when you listen to them alone. They take you on a journey, while other songs function very well as more of an adrenaline release, something to give you a kick. And on certain occasions you go for one and on other occasions the other. So yeah… it’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges. I like all the songs and just now I perhaps feel something in particular for ‘Die By My Hand’.
Spiritech: Interesting. Changing topics, Satyricon has come under a fair bit of fire for the last albums given the change in musical direction that you have made. Why did you decide to change direction and do you have any comments for those who have criticized the band for it?
Frost: If you have followed Satyricon throughout its existence, you’ll probably realize that we’re a pretty creative band and no two albums are alike at all. There are huge differences between the two first albums and we have never in our existence just stuck to a formula and just worked with that. I think that The Age Of Nero is very different from Now, Diabolical actually, they’re two very, very different entities, very different traits and feelings. In a way, with Now, Diabolical and The Age Of Nero, one is very powerful but also being tame, with the other being a wild beast. They’re hardly even comparable in my mind.
As for this change in direction that you mention, what I would like to ask is, “Why shouldn’t we change?” Why should we release albums that sound like each other and are different versions of the same album? I think some people in the extreme metal scene are so conservative, they want to hear the same things over and over again and to be predictable and that’s impossible for us to really understand or cope with. If life didn’t have an element of constant change… we have a Satyricon signature in everything that we do, but on the other hand there’s constant development and improvement. For each album, we feel that will reach the certain potential that we have at that point in time and each album is a huge learning process. What you should expect is that the band moves on, because we like to bring something new and evolve and that is what we do. I think that’s the only right thing for a band like Satyricon to do. We change and try to make each album a unique listening experience.
Spiritech: Do you have any comments for people who have bagged the band for developing the way you have musically?
Frost: (laughs) Well… as I said, most people tend to be a bit conservative and they often want to go for the same kind of predictable thing. They’ve heard a good album from a band and they want to hear that album being released again and again just with slight differences and modifications. We’re not that band at all. So of course you get some reactions… but I think the time where we got the most reactions was probably around the Rebel Extravaganzaperiod, but like then most of the reactions are actually very positive. But we encounter negative reactions from people that now want to hear Nemesis Divina again or Volcano again orDark Medieval Times again, you know? They really have a problem with us not releasing something like that, so we just tell them to stick with that but if possible they should really try out this album, because whatever Satryicon have released… The Age Of Nero, the whole Satyricon substance has never been better displayed than on this album. And I feel if they want to stick with the old albums then do that then, because it’s not going to happen, we’re not going to do version two of anything.
Spiritech: Interesting. Now The Age Of Nero is your second album with Roadrunner. How is that relationship going and did you notice the band copping any flak from black metal purists for signing with them?
Frost: First of all, I think that the relationship is working very well, due to the fact that what Roadrunner want for us and what Satyricon want to achieve is basically the same. They really want to make Satyricon go far and we ourselves want to do that as well. They provided (us) with the financial apparatus that you need and they care about what we do, so we can concentrate on music and in order to realize our potential, Roadrunner have a huge respect for Satyricon for its musical quality and furthermore, Roadrunner have huge respect for Satyr as the leader of a band and huge respect for his decisions. And because there’s a certain mutual respect there, everything works really smooth and well and it’s a very fine environment to work in. So, I would say that we are pleased to be on Roadrunner, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing we are critical to or about… but it works really well. Some people have problems with Satyricon being in favourable situations, but that has to be their problem you know… people focusing on entirely the wrong place, so why should we care about that? We are here for as long as we are able to take joy in making music and our fans are getting good experiences from the music that we play and from our shows and all that. We’re not here for those who aren’t really receptive to what we offer.
Spiritech: Moving on again, I’m sure every Australian journalist you’ll talk to will ask you the same question, but when will Satyricon be returning to Australia?
Frost: We’ll be back in Australia in March. As for which cities we’re playing I’m not sure yet, because the only thing that is really certain is the period of time that we are going over. We’re having negotiations going on, probably as we speak now, about where the shows will be and all the technical details. But we’re going to be back, that’s the important thing. And we look forward to it, because we liked it so much the first time. I think we had very good crowds in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and we’re going to go back to those places and hopefully do some more cities.
Spiritech: Great stuff. Obviously the black metal genre has been through many ups and downs during the past 10-15 years and Satyricon has been at the forefront of it all. How healthy do you feel the scene is right now?
Frost: I observe that certain bands are really offering some great music; I haven’t heard Mayhem sound this good as their last album for a long, long time. They probably did their best album in a long time and I’m very happy to see that. Also, some other older bands are having a rise in their career, both musically and in popularity. But I also… I also noticed that the bands that really do well are basically the old bands, bands that are a part of our generation, or bands that you know, that have been projects that are initiated by people from our generation. I wish to see fresh blood here and I have for many years now.
Still, it seems like the spirit of the early 90s is carried on by that generation only and that is something I would really like to see changed. But on the other hand, we haven’t been in the situation for quite a few years where we start to think that… it’s not really my business to worry about what others are doing. Our business is to bring Satyricon as far as possible and I think that we are definitely on the right track, so I feel good about that. And we have, with our work tried to lead the way and to shape the genre, or at least contribute to shaping it, the way we want and that’s our contribution. And that’s basically our scope and what others choose to do in that situation isn’t really that important. You might say that we are being a bit self-consumed and that’s not really true, but I feel it’s useless trying to be a messiah for a scene or anything like that. We have tried to lead the way a little bit with our music, but apart from that… for us to tell the scene how to be or where to go or anything… I feel that perhaps that if it isn’t really getting much help from newer bands then so be it, ’cause we’re still around and we’re better and stronger than ever. So I don’t really care too much about the scene apart from that these days. I stick to my old albums and I take enormous pleasure in that. I don’t follow the contemporary scene that much anymore.
Spiritech: Well said. Changing topics again, what is the latest on the 1349 project- is there another album in the works?
Frost: Eventually, yes. Well, it’s quite obvious that I’m occupied with Satyricon at the moment, but 1349 will be back and we’ll be back as soon as I find time for it basically, and I think that the best songs we’ve ever made are in the works right now.
Spiritech: Great stuff! Okay, to finish things off do you have any last words for PyroMusic.net readers?
Frost: Basically, we prefer to communicate to our fans with our shows. So, whatever we want to communicate with our fans we want to communicate from the stage, so I hope that as many fans as possible come and see us when we come over in March. I hope it’s as fun as last time, or even better. It’s going to be a lot of fun.