INTERVIEW: Frost – Satyricon

Norwegian black metal legends SATYRICON are on the cusp of unleashing their ninth studio album to the world. Entitled Deep calleth upon Deep, it’s looking to be their most experimental and diverse yet as they continue to push the boundaries of black metal with each release. We caught up with SATYIRCON‘s drummer, Frost, to talk about Deep calleth upon Deep, the evolution of black metal and its attitudes, as well as the band’s own evolution.

So, you said you’ve been doing rehearsals?

Frost: Yeah. Every day now, preparing for the upcoming tour, so that’s what the days are about usually.

How are they going?

Frost: Oh, they’re going fine. It’s pretty demanding material to rehearse for, never mind performing, but we’re doing well and think it’s very rewarding. We wrote these songs, we like them a lot, even if we have been working with them for a long time before getting to finish them, they’re still kind of fresh. So, working with material from a new album always feels good. It’s inspiring work, actually.

As you mentioned, you have your new album [Deep calleth upon Deep] coming out soon. What can people expect from it?

Frost: There is an abundance of everything SATYRICON has ever been about in this album. It feels very alive, electric, dark, magical, very open and creative. You know, it’s like fireworks on an album. I just think that there’s a lot going on, it’s very exciting, very diverse. Yeah, by and large it’s more of everything and bits that SATYIRCON never really had before, so I think for fans, it sounds very fresh and inspired.

I can imagine they will. I’ve listened to it over the past few days. It’s excellent.

Frost: Great! Happy to hear that.

Would you like to talk about some of the themes or topics you’ll be bringing into the album?

Frost: That’s kind of difficult, because during any particular main theme or just a few topics this album is revolving around is very different from the other songs. I think that more than being about topics, I feel every song on Deep calleth upon Deep is almost like an individual with complexities and qualities. Each song has a feeling and a kind of energy and a vibe that flows through the song from beginning to end. Yeah, they are very much alive so each song has very different qualities, but still having this particular feeling almost like you can separate one human from another on what qualities they have. So, that’s very difficult to think about particular themes or topics because it goes a little bit beyond that. If anything, I would say that there’s some existential semantics that are at the heart of songs and lyrics. But apart from that, it’s very hard to speak of a red thread or construct or any such thing.

Of course. Do you have a particular favourite off the album?

Frost: I have felt a little extra for the title song [Deep calleth upon Deep], actually. As soon as I heard the finished song, with everything placed, the vocals and all the textures, with all the lines in place and the mixing was done and all that, there was just something magical about the Deep calleth upon Deep song. It made my blood freeze at moments, and at other times, you know, it would cause excitement and there was something kind of mysterious and weird, almost ritualistic going on. And the song also turned out with extra energy and extra depth from what we’d done to it, but the addition of textures and the production, there’s just this ‘x factor’. It has something that creates an enthusiasm that’s hard to pinpoint. But now I work with the songs on a daily basis for preparing them for live performances, [laughs] I start to feel like picking one song over another is like choosing one child over another, you know? You have to respect and adore them all for what they are, and what kind of potential that they have. So that’s how I feel about this. Each of the songs are great in their own way, and comparing them is the old apples from oranges thing, it’s quite impossible.

Could you tell us about some of the writing and recording process for the album?

Frost: Well, what can I say other than it being very involving and dynamic? We were jamming a lot, we were trying to take the inspiration from inside. More important than the process and the time spent is that we made the album that we set out to make. We said that SATYRICON in 2017 needed to be on fire, to be something else that we’ve been before and we wanted evolution to happen on a grand scale. So, we basically just set every day to it to make it possible.

You speak about evolution, and it shows in Deep calleth upon Deep. How do you feel black metal has evolved since your introduction to the genre?

Frost: In a way, I think that it has evolved. Period. Because it’s bound to. It’s a kind of a living organism as well. Everything that is true is born out of innovation and creativity. Like our band and the songs that we make, are formed in the same way that black metal is also born out of creativity and innovation, is given birth by people with the pioneering spirit, you know, they bring something completely fresh and new into music. It has now, as a genre, existed for 30+ years, even 35 years actually. It’s expected to go somewhere from the point where it began in the early 80s, and it has. But, I also feel like it has showed signs of stagnation, and it has for a long while really. With SATYRICON, we tried to make that constant change that comes from movement, and is an essential bit to what we do. We want that flame to be burning, always, and we should never feel okay just to repeat what we have done before or what others have done before us. If you want to bring something to this genre and share our passion, share our respect, and really dig into the assets of this genre that they feel the need to make it the world. And I think that in the genre sometimes, that is too much of a retrospective kind of approach. I think that there is too much mediocrity, there are too many standards and conventions, there are too many expectations that bands really adhere to. That is definitely not something I appreciate, and with SATYRICON, we demonstrate what we think about all that.

It’s very good and admirable that you do. It’s an example of both evolving and keeping true to what you were doing in the first place.

Frost: Yeah, that’s what being real is all about, isn’t it? To release the same album over and over again to kind of be what you expect to have for hardcore fans to like. That doesn’t matter. It’s not being true, it’s being commercial. So, by and large, it’s very unfortunate with the vast amount of bands doing just that. Bands need to dare getting in conflict with their fans, that tension is something that bands actually need to confront and they need to take those battles. SATYRICON did.

Your self-titled album was released a few years ago. How do you feel you’ve developed, both as a band and you as a musician, in that time?

Frost: With the previous album, we found that dynamic was an essential asset to SATYRICON. It was something we kind of brought into the band with that album, and everything has restored how a dynamic can become more integrated, a more natural part of what we do when we compose songs, we rehearse them, and then we perform. I, personally, as a musician, am considering trying to get much better at dynamics and make a more dynamic playing style. Apart from that, I have tried to open up to become a little more musical in my work in a sense, because I feel that’s something that SATYRICON needs and it’s something that I am also curious about. I feel this is an efficient time where I really need to develop and put a lot of effort into the stuff, you know? It’s also something that feels quite rewarding, being going at something, drumming, for a long while, it feels very late trying to bring something so fundamental into the playing. But that’s how it is, and it’s something I have been occupying myself with a lot in this album, and will continue to evolve on my part, I’m sure.

Very good! One other thing that struck me about the album is the artwork [Edvard Munch]. What was the inspiration behind that choice?

Frost: Satyr, actually, he had this friend who is very much into the art world. He owns a huge and very special collection of paintings and artwork, and he owned this catalogue of Munch work, rather unknown to the general public. He [Satyr] got to see his catalogue, and as he was sifting through, seeing one great Munch work after the other, of which he had not seen before, you know? He came to the very last picture in the catalogue, and he was just staring at the cover of the new SATYRICON album, there and then. It just connected with him on a deep personal level, and also connected with him as a musician and a man who had been working with this SATYRICON project for several years. This was the visual parallel to that musical project. This was how this SATYRICON album would be if it was to be projected into the visual world. Everything is basically there, the drama and tension between life and death, or the very soulful and expressful nature of it. The songs show movement, how this sort of something simple and direct, but at the same time, very elegant and profoundly expressful, all of that makes brilliant songs. It’s a great work on its own, something timeless about it. So, Satyr thought that had to be the cover for the album, there were no questions about it, and so it became.

It’s quite incredible how that came about, a connection between two different yet similar pieces of art.

Frost: Yeah, this happens every now and then with SATYRICON. Typically, for the titles for our albums that has been happening at some point. Everything quite late in the past has still come across as titles for the album, you know? The more the album is set, the more it speaks if you can visualise that. This time that happened for the cover art. It kind of presented itself in a way, in the late state of the past where we knew what the album was going to be about, and how it could make songs. And if Satyr had seen the picture at the burning point, where the album would have been unfinished, then perhaps we wouldn’t feel we know exactly what kind of vibe the album would have yet. It came to him at just that moment, almost like an instantaneous recognition of that very same vibe as the music on the album has. Yeah, it’s kind of peculiar, isn’t it?

Yeah. It’s beautiful how there’s that connection. It seems quite rare for the most part, but when it happens it has real significance. You’ve worked with an orchestra in the past, but what other avenues would you like to pursue with SATYRICON? E.g. cover albums.

Frost: Oh, that might happen. It’s in SATYRICON’s nature to be very open to any kind of different experiences, if we’re presented something that we like or if we ourselves should get an idea, a little unconventional, we are always positive to doing that. If we feel something that would benefit SATYRICON or we ourselves could learn something from doing so, we will do it. We have no particular plans at the moment, we’ve been working with that album and invested our resources and [laughs] used all our creativity doing that one. As for working with an orchestra again, yeah, that might happen in the near future. But no particular plans at this point.

Still an exciting prospect!

Frost: Yeah, with SATYRICON you can expect something like that to happen sooner or later. You know, if we sense opportunity we will always be all ears.

The attitude you guys have towards music is quite astounding.

Frost: Not everybody feels that way, so I’m happy to hear you saying so.

Lastly, you have your tour coming up. What can people expect from your live shows?

Frost: Of course, the content of these shows will be Deep calleth upon Deep, the album we’re touring with. We feel this is the best and most exciting album we have ever released, and we breathe heavy music as always. We will perform lots of songs from that album every night, and we’ll bring different songs from that album show by show.

Deep calleth upon Deep is released September 22nd via Napalm Records. Pre-orders are available now and can be purchased here.

SATYRICON perform at Heaven in London on September 29th, tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here.

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