Now, Diabolical

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For a band whose entire career has been marked by unceasing creative evolution and breaking out of confining stylistic boundaries, Satyricon still get a lot of flack every time a new album is released that doesn't conform to the outdated, rustic-necro-kvlt brand of Norwegian black metal they played in the early '90s (alongside Darkthrone, Ulver, Enslaved, etc.). Their sixth full album, Now, Diabolical is no exception, and it hardly out-shocks its similarly unconventional predecessor, 2002's Volcano; just brings the band's present mentality of addition by subtraction to its next logical step. For you see, although Satyricon's souls may still belong to Satan, their hearts apparently belong to Kiss. And so, token Now, Diabolical cuts like "A New Enemy," "That Darkness Shall Be Eternal," and the title track find the core duo of Satyr and Frost seeking simplicity above all else; consistently shunning complicated arrangements and overbearing displays of musicianship to exercise an almost industrial sense of discipline whilst executing their hypnotic riffs, sinister melodies, and static tempos. Of course even these offerings (and other notable triumphs such as the mildly psychedelic "The Pentagram Burns" and the slow-burning "Delirium") fall way short of the risks taken by the album's lead single, "K.I.N.G.," which aims for arena rock thresholds of compact accessibility with a chorus and central riff section tailor-made to raise thousands of fists into the air. And even if Satyr's strangled rasp retains inextricable ties to the universal black metal aesthetic, genre purists will have to wait until fifth track, "The Rite of Our Cross," to get their first sniff of a blastbeat, and then for eight-minute closer, "To the Mountains," to glimpse the merest traces of symphonic aspirations. In sum, there's enough reverse musical heresy at hand on Now, Diabolical, to send the average black metal classicist scurrying for his coffin -- not least because Satyr and Frost are so obviously having a ball behind their ever-present scowls. Chances are, there are plenty of black metal fans nurturing secret upside-down frowns over Now, Diabolical. [The American edition of Now, Diabolical, released by Century Media instead of Roadrunner, contains a bonus track entitled "Storm (Of the Destroyer)," whose one-dimensional ferocity harks back to Satyricon's early days.]

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