When it comes to pivotal moments in the evolution of heavy music, the Norwegian black metal scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s takes some beating for sheer audacity and contrarian verve. Most importantly, many of the records released during those tumultuous formative years have become established and undisputed classics in metal’s illustrious canon, and Satyricon’s extraordinary early works must surely rank among the most revered of all.
The first Satyricon album, Dark Medieval Times, was released in the autumn of 1993, through the young band’s own Moonfog Productions imprint. Recorded earlier that year, it was both instantly recognisable as the product of the thriving Norwegian scene and as something wholly distinctive within that superficially restrictive musical framework. Even more remarkable was the fact that the entire record had been written and performed (with the exception of drums) by a then 17-year-old Sigurd ‘Satyr’ Wongraven: clearly a prodigious talent with an abundance of epic and perverse ideas rattling around in his head.
Only eight months separate the creation of Dark Medieval Times and its successor, but the second Satyricon album showcased a huge evolutionary leap for its creators. Where the Norwegians’ debut had heralded the arrival of a furious new creative force, The Shadowthrone was an act of consolidation and refinement, as Satyr truly blossomed as a composer of artful extremity. Even in sonic terms, it stood apart from both tradition and trend, deftly encompassing both primitive, earthbound grit and a suffocating sense of otherworldly vastness.
Propelled forward at an infernal pace by the increasingly masterful drumming of Frost and graced with a cameo contribution from Emperor’s Samoth, The Shadowthrone struck the perfect, hellish chord at the exact right moment in time. Within weeks of its release, Satyricon’s legendary status was effectively confirmed.
With Frost’s drumming a key component from the start, the Satyricon unveiled on The Shadowthrone is far closer to the unstoppable, obsidian juggernaut we know and hail today than anything heard on the seminal but occasionally guileless Dark Medieval Times. Informed by the tonality and textures of Norwegian folk music tradition but fuelled by Satyr’s unique vision of black metal, the propulsive, muscular forward grind of grandiose sprawls like “In The Mist By The Hills” threw down a formidable template, upon which Satyricon have continued to build for more than a quarter of a century.
Of course, within less than 18 months, Satyr’s vision had surged forward once more, as his band delivered yet another seminal and definitive masterwork, Nemesis Divina. But you can hear the roots of all the grim majesty that followed in the stirring, turbulent depths of these two inspirational masterpieces from the band’s arcane past. A monument to artistic militance and liberated creativity, Dark Medieval Times and The Shadowthrone are where this grand legacy began.
Tracklist The Shadowthrone: 1. Hvite Krists død 2. In the Mist by the Hills 3. Woods to Eternity 4. Vikingland 5. Dominions of Satyricon 6. The King of the Shadowthrone 7. I En Svart Kiste
Tracklist Dark Medieval Times: 1. Walk the Path of Sorrow 2. Dark Medieval Times 3. Skyggedans 4. Min Hyllest Til Vinterland 5. Into the Mighty Forest 6. The Dark Castle in the Deep Forest 7. Taakeslottet