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Review for 'Satyricon - Nemesis Divina'
Satyricon need little introduction in this day and age, being one of the world's most recognized Black Metal bands and one of the distinct Norwegian pioneers of the early 90's. However, instead of being primarily recognized as one of the genre's instigators, having authored three Black Metal albums in the mid-90's that remain undisputed classics of their time, unfortunately they are currently more known within general metal circles for their commercial and radio-friendly take on Black Metal, or "Black n' Roll" as some call it. Still, while it's hard to ignore Satyricon's shift into mediocre waters over the last decade, their early works are what we love them for. These classic albums are, in chronological order, Dark Medieval Times from 1994, The Shadowthrone also from 1994, and their landmark album Nemesis Divina from 1996.
For starters, the line-up for Nemesis Divina is as follows: On vocals, bass and lead guitar is Sigurd "Satyr" Wongraven, who doesn't really need an introduction, being one of Black Metal's most distinguished vocalists and songwriters. Next, on drums is Kjetil-Vidar "Frost" Haraldstad who doesn't really require an introduction either, being one of the finest and most prolific Black Metal drummers of all time, having played with many legendary bands over the years such as Gorgoroth, 1349, Keep Of Kalessin, Gehenna and Zyklon-B. Last but not least, as guest musician on rhythm guitars is Ted "Kveldulv" Skjellum better known as Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone fame. Anyone who knows anything about Black Metal will know for certain that Nemesis Divina simply cannot fail with such a killer line-up.
This theory is soon demonstrated as fact in the most efficient manner, as right from the opening moments of the first song, "The Dawn Of A New Age", the brief keyboard introduction does a great job of setting the apocalyptic mood before all the instruments kick into place with a surprisingly crisp production, balanced perfectly by Satyr's excellent rasping vocals.
About the crisp production I have just mentioned, it comes down to the aggressive way in which the guitars themselves are played, with each chord that is struck giving off a distinct "twang" in a similar vein to the guitar sound on the Hordalands Doedskvad album by fellow Norwegians Taake. In addition to this, the drums also have a very up-front presence in the mix, but unlike some of today's modern digitalized and trigger-happy drums, Frost makes sure they sound powerful and natural throughout the whole album, and this is what gives Nemesis Divina it's character.
Following the introductory track, next up is "Forhekset", meaning "Bewitched", a fantastically aggressive song with some really catchy riffing, and a perfect way to keep up the album's momentum before arriving at one of "Mother North". This monster of a song is one of Black Metal's most celebrated and identifiable anthems, and without a doubt the most epic song on Nemesis Divina. I would even go as far as saying it is the most memorable song ever recorded by Satyricon. At least for me it is, anyway, as I sometimes find myself referring to the album as "Mother North" instead of "Nemesis Divina". It really is very, very, very good. One downside to "Mother North" appearing so early on in the album is that it practically overshadows the previous song "Forhekset", and almost prevents you from dedicating your full attention to the next song, "Du Som Hater Gud". This is a minor issue, however, as after only a couple of listens you will eventually be able take in each song's individual brilliance without falling victim to the glory of "Mother North".
"Du Som Hater Gud", which translates as "You Who Hate God", is similar in style to "Forhekset" and continues where the latter left off in terms of aggressiveness and rhythm. The next song on Nemesis Divina is titled "Immortality Passion", almost competing with "Mother North" for the title of most epic track on the album, clocking in at over 8 minutes in length and being nothing short of spectacular. It is also a stand-out track of Satyricon's career and a favourite among fans. After this comes the title track "Nemesis Divina", another great song like all the rest, played in the same style as "Forhekset" and "Du Som Hater Gud", with a curious double-ending.
Finally "Transcendental Requiem Of Slaves" brings Nemesis Divina to a conclusion in the form of a purely instrumental track, combining the albums characteristic guitar and drumming sounds but with some added mysterious synths, allowing the entire album's excellence to gradually sink in and make you only want to do one thing: Play the whole fucking album again and again. Overall, Nemesis Divina can only be described as an essential Black Metal album, a classic, and Satyricon's crowning achievment. Any other description wouldn't really do it justice.
What other albums sound similar to this?
From the first listen, you might already correctly assume that Satyricon's Nemesis Divina has so many flawless characteristics under it's skin that it will have little competition within it's specific area of expertise, with said area of expertise being a mix of traditional Norwegian Black Metal with hints of pagan elements thrown here and there, and an overall epic theme, with all three of these characteristics varying in presence from one song to the next. This, coupled with some of the finest individual performances by the musicians involved, thins down the possibility even further for finding something similar in concept and quality. In fact, there are only two other Satyricon albums worth mentioning in the same paragraph as Nemesis Divina, and they are the classics Dark Medieval Times and The Shadowthrone, both released in 1994.
After releasing Nemesis Divina, for reasons best kept themselves (No change with record label and no change in their core line-up took place during this period), Satyricon began changing their style, and the sound featured on each of their following albums is less and less related to that found on Nemesis Divina. In other words, Nemesis Divina marked the end of an era.
Don't despair, for there is one answer for all your Nemesis Divina cravings, and that answer is Taake. Taake has been around since 1993, and is one of Norway's finest Black Metal bands and is still going strong to this day, lead almost single-handedly by the talented Mr. Hoest, with five full length albums under his belt to date, each one being nothing short of a masterpiece, and four of them appearing in our Top 100 Black Metal Albums list at the time of writing this review. I suggest you begin your adventure with Taake by checking out their amazing album from 2005, Hordalands Doedskvad, which will bring you many pleasant memories of Nemesis Divina.
In a nutshell...
The simple fact that Satyricon's Nemesis Divina contains one of the greatest Black Metal anthems by itself makes it an album that is pretty much essential in any decent Black Metal collection. Of course, there are several other fantastic songs on this album which make it an undoubtable all-time classic that feels complete and of the highest quality. Nemesis Divina is a monument to Satyricon's legacy, and the crown jewel in their discography. Not only is it superior to anything else they have done, it's also probably superior to anything they ever will do, as their willingness to create top-notch Black Metal seems to have dissipated through the multiple changes in style they have suffered over the years. Truly one of a kind.
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