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Satyricon - Live At The Opera

Satyricon Live At The OperaOn the surface black metal bands and classical musicians may seem like strange bedfellows but despite the unholy racket some bands of the genre make many are also quite symphonic. Dimmu Borgir played with a full orchestra in Oslo a few years ago and that was a perfect match as their music is so overblown. Classical musicians sawing away at their instruments while made up in corpse paint was a sight to behold. Satyricon's music is less dense, more raw than that and chosing to perform with the Norweigian National Opera Chorus makes more sense than having a full orchestra.

Opening with the spooky instrumental Chorus of Shadows the opera singers make their mark straight away. This leads us into the double wammy of Now Diabolical immediately followed by Repined Bastard Nation. Now Diabolical's solid crunch is a fine way to get the show proper underway and following it up with the pure unrestrained hatred of Repined is a masterstroke. Throughout both the chorus fill in the gaps in the music and shine when given centre stage during the less frantic moments.

The chorus make their mark on the first 'new' song from Satyricon's last, self-titled album, Our World It Rumbles Tonight adding colour and depth to this slow burner. The show progresses through Nocturnal Flare, where the chorus are relatively muted until they provide the bridge between this and Age Of Nero's Die By My Hand where their presence is strong, providing a backbone to the rapacious song.

The band continue with new song Tro Og Kraft, which is sung in the band's native Norweigian, the chorus subtly adding to the song while the main riff twists and turns. A beautiful solo female voice emerges from the chaos and the ensemble shine again before a twin guitar attack leads to the songs demise. What follows is the centrepiece of the concert, Phoenix. Satyr introduces guest vocalist Sivert Høyem and the chorus send chills down the spine commencing this six minute epic. Sivert's rich, clean vocals contrast beautifully with what has come before, the chorus giving a wonderful counterpoint. This monolithic slab of grandeur is such an untypical Satyricon composition but it demonstrates how far Satyr has come as a songwriter since the band's early days. Both a male and female soloist sing sweetly, their melodies intertwining deliciously before the entire chorus join in again, driving the song to its climax. As a spectacle Phoenix is hard to follow but the mid-paced Den Siste gives it a damn good go with another strong showing from the chorus.

The chorus, conducted by David Miwald, give the songs a grandiose touch and add an atmospheric akin to the soundrack of The Omen. Such is the skill of the choral arrangements by Kjetil Bjerkestrand that it sounds like those parts have always been there in the songs just waiting to be teased and tempted out of the shadows. It's to their credit that they never sound out of place and sometimes overpower the band sonically. The opera singers also offer a superb contrast to Satyr's gravelly rasp. It goes without saying that the band are all extremely talented musicians. Frost is an amazing drummer, flailing away like an octopus on steroids. Steinar Gundersen and Gildas Le Pape provide the twin guitar attack and Anders Odden on bass locks so tightly with Frost providing the backbone of the songs. Keyboard enhancement is provided by Anders Hunstad.

The glacial crawl of The Infinity Of Time And Space is the last new song of the evening and again shows the breadth of Satyr's songwriting ability. The chorus give subtle enhancement during the quieter sections without ever overpowering this titanic composition, although the male section are given free reign at the song's culmination. This followed by a brace from Now Dibolical, To The Mountains and The Pentagram Burns. The former doesn't really deviate much from the recorded version with minimal contribution from the chorus until later in the song. The latter a furious blast driven along by the chorus and frost's pounding drums.

The band reach back into their dim, dark history for Mother North. If ever there was a Satyricon song suited to the addition of a chorus this is it. With both audience and chorus singing the opening stanza this blackened paen to the band's homeland explodes into life as the opera singers do battle with the band on stage and pretty much come out on top. This may be an old song but it demonstrates that Satyr has always had an ear for the dramatic. The musicians and the chorus combine to make the most amazing cacophony of sound as the song writhes under its master's hand. It's remarkable to see the reception the chorus get at the end of this song when they are all invited to the front of the stage. There's a look of disbelief, joy and pride on may of their faces, almost as if they weren't sure themselves what kind of reception they would receive. They thoroughly deserve the standing ovation they get. The band end this remarkable night with K.I.N.G. As the song builds, the audience clap along, the chorus wail triumphantly and the band drive the song inexorably towards a final bow as the audience cheer, realising what a special evening they have witnessed.

My paternal grandfather was an opera singer of some note many years ago and what he would have made of this unholy union I can't guess but At The Opera is a brave and very successful experiment by Satyr and Frost that was eighteen months from genesis to performance. Being able to work with such professional, classical singers shows the esteem that the band are held in in their home country. Superbly filmed, recorded and produced this is a fitting reminder for those lucky few who were there that night and a tantalising glimpse for the rest of us mortals.

Released: 01.05.2015

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