Rebel Extravaganza (Napalm Records)
Let’s be honest here. As sure as the best pocket knives come from Switzerland, the best black metal comes from Norway. Yeah, there are examples of excellent bands of the genre that came from elsewhere, but there’s something about that Scandinavian nation that breeds the very best screechy, intense, operatic and, yes, satanic metal.
Oslo’s Satyricon formed in 1991, and they were the first band of its type to sign with a major multi-national label, EMI. So when the likes of Mayhem and Burzum were off killing each other and burning down churches, Satyricon were busy focusing on their music (OK, maybe they kicked down the occasional gravestone).
This album, reissued at the tail end of 2019 by Napalm Records, was their fourth, originally released in 1999 by Moonfog and Nuclear Blast. It was, they said at the time, an album that is both inhuman and anti-human. “The lyrics are very misanthropic and I feel the album itself is quite cold and cynical,” frontman Satyr said on the band’s website at the time. “It’s not that emotional, it’s more lifeless in a way.”
It’s an interesting album, not least because it came at a time when black metal was starting to get some serious international attention. Kerrang! magazine in the U.K. had written an in-depth article, and the church-burning exploits were getting some major print space here too. So Satyricon responded with their most ambitious album to that point, and possibly ever.
Opener “Tied in Bronze Chains” is a nearly 11-minute prog epic. Elsewhere their are industrial elements on songs such as “Filthgrinder,” though those have been overstated in the years since. It certainly isn’t an industrial album, but their are a few nods in that direction.
Overall, this is a suitably nasty, hard-hitting and fun album, and it’s great that it’s been given a bit of a polish. The remastering job sounds exquisite and, while a bonus track or two would have been nice, the album has never sounded better.