The Age of Nero

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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia

Paying little heed to the polarized opinions ever emanating from their headstrong fan base -- many of whom refuse to accept the group's already long-term evolution away from trve black metal cvlt-dom -- Norwegian legends Satyricon continued to press forward inexorably and stubbornly, as guided by their own creative muse, on their seventh long-player, The Age of Nero. Released towards the tail-end of 2008, the album was Satyr and Frost's first through new label Koch Records, and continued to expand upon the desolately glacial sonic approach to modern black metal explored on recent releases, while incorporating more evident links to both traditional rock structures and industrial music's tight disciplinary execution. Even as they infused surprisingly accessible, genre-crossing appeal into the groove-laden robot march of "The Wolfpack" (reminiscent of Now, Diabolical's groundbreaking single, "K.I.N.G."), the foreboding grind of "Last Man Standing," and the hypnotically advancing swing of "The Sign of the Trident," however, the duo also manipulated those foreign elements to bring their lingering black metal hallmarks (including blazing blastbeats, nefarious melodies, and Satyr's cruel rasp, of course) into sharper relief. As a result, hybrid offerings like "Commando," "Black Crow on a Tombstone," and "My Skin Is Cold" struck an unlikely balance between extreme metal convention and adventure; and even short-sighted black metal purists surely had no leg to stand on where the mostly "traditional" and multi-faceted Norwegian black metal masterpiece "Die By My Hand" was concerned. If anything, implacable speed freaks with a taste for extreme metal savagery had to put up with several slower paced passages here and there (and throughout closing epic "Den Siste"), while accepting the hard truth that Satyricon will probably never revert to the uncivilized rawness of their youth. Instead, the band's carefully considered songwriting process likewise held sway over The Age of Nero's interconnected lyrics, which invariably delved into some aspect of mankind's self-destructive habits and the imminent threat of cataclysmic downfall (and, to be fair, remained as blackened and downright evil as one could ever hope for). In sum, although it was never going to please everyone who has followed some aspect of the group's long and risk-filled career, The Age of Nero was a Satyricon album through and through: daring, surprising, inventive, and controversial.

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