A cursory glance through the lyric booklet of Satyricon’s newest platter, Intermezzo II , might send most black metal proponents off to scratch their heads: No longer the skull-raising, corpse-painted, spiked-armband-wearin’ trio of the “elite” Norwegian era of the past, Satyricon now approximates the appearance of jilted Marilyn Manson fans more apt to destroy souls than gender boundaries or, in turn, mommy ‘n’ daddy’s credit card. Just peep Satyr, the “cover star” of sorts, and his decidedly more devilish look — shaved head emblazoned with intersecting pentagram tattoos; lip piercings, catatonic eyes, and all — and you might be clued into Intermezzo II ‘s polarizing power. Though only a four-song EP to tide over the bloodthirsty minions until Rebel Extravaganza ‘s release this Fall, Intermezzo II is a startling, ambitious piece of savagery rarely seen since Burzum’s crowning glory, Filosofem .
But that’s where the polarizing begins — most black metallers don’t look too kindly on ambition. With nary an intro of pastoral Nordic folk or howling-wind, “A Moment of Clarity” kicks off Intermezzo II by kicking in and subsequently kicking around…all over the place, Satyricon dredging up the remnants of Mayhem’s immortal De Mysteriis Dom Santhanas , guitarist/vocalist Satyr channeling the ghost of Euronymous with similarly near-genius/near-aimless riff wandering. Satyr’s demon-screech — and his exhortations of spiritual renegade-ness — are rendered all the more palpitating by subtle yet icy distortion effects. The mind-fuck of that song hardly prepares the listener for the mind-thrashing of “INRI,” not so much a cover of Sarcophago’s proto-black metal anthem than a complete subversion of it — few things, music or otherwise, sound this uncomprehendingly violent at 251 bpm. The title track of 1996’s Nemesis Divinia receives a “clean version mix” that plays up the song’s frostbitten ambience by swathing it in lo-fi de(con)struction that’s no less — you guessed it — violent.
And if violence appears to be the overt theme at work on the EP, the duo goes and digs deep in their black hearts and abandons all previous sonic approaches by enhancing the psychedelia of the previous song. What emerges is “Blessed From Below,” a tri-themed exercise in gothtronica made all the eerier by the metaphorical resemblance to, er, Charles Manson sodomizing Trent Reznor — pretentious, yes (if not maybe), but an adventurous and logical closer to what is otherwise a non-stop skullfuck. If narcotics served as Satyricon’s creative influence during Intermezzo II ‘s recording, then maybe the Verve was erroneous in assuming that the drugs don’t work.
Granted, Intermezzo II may only be four songs. But with such immediacy, urgency, just plain soul-searing malevolence contained therein, Satyricon has set the high-jump bar that much higher for its contemporaries. Thus, Rebel Extravaganza may be all its title promises.
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