Uniquely, Volcano designates the first album from one of black metal's elite to be released on a major label (Capitol in Europe; Cradle of Filth's Damnation and a Day would be released several months later on Sony) -- not that Satyricon altered their method of attack much on this, their fifth full-length. In fact, there's little room for compromise within the hoary depths of the genre, unless the tempered use of blastbeats, solid production values, and occasional streamlined song structures could be deemed as such. So while black thrashers "Fuel for Hatred" and "Repined Bastard Nation," which sport catchy vocal scrapes from lead rasp-throat Satyr, may result in blacklisting by the "necro" underground, the band still churns out a caustic blur of double-bass drums and frosty-prog-riff dementia that's memorable, yet still strange and experimental. Case in point: "Angstridden" and "Mental Mercury," which feature odd, murmuring female vocals drifting in and out of the arrangements, and 14-minute shambling doom-beast "Black Lava," a blatantly anti-commercial, swamp-dredging dirge that's the sonic equivalent of a being tossed into a bottomless pit. Like many of their Norwegian brethren, Satyricon drenches their work with bleak, hazy ambience, covering the album's jagged and desolate landscape, which leaps from rocky crags to vast plains of permafrosted tundra. Volcano, despite the occasional divergence into monotony, fits into Satyricon's musical canon well, being a logical improvement over the somewhat unfocused Rebel Extravaganza -- although, in contrast to Volcano's warm, analog tones (a result of Capitol's deep pockets, one would assume), it's still a wily and difficult serpent to curtail, something that longtime black metal listeners have come to expect, major label be damned.
by John Serba