Sunday, September 4, 2011

Satyricon - Nemesis Divina (1996)

Nemesis Divina is the third full-length album from the Norwegian band Satyricon, and the last of their Black Metal period. Following this, they would show themselves to be yet another group of pathetic posers that were inspired by the real Black Metal bands in Norway, but then lacked any inspiration to continue down that path once all of their mentors had faded into obscurity. Released on Moonfog in 1996, this album is most notable for witnessing the height of Satyr's treachery against the scene.

In the early 90s, Darkthrone were among the elite in the Norwegian Black Metal movement. However, as a result of participating in far too many projects and getting burnt out, Fenriz became lazy and less creative than he once was. As the band signed to Satyr's label, they had already completed work on the last of their classic albums, Panzerfaust. Now that he had lured them to Moonfog, Satyr managed to assist in the near-demise of Darkthrone. Horrible production and awful artwork rendered Total Death to be a lame duck album, as well as the gimmick of allowing outsiders to contribute lyrics. Then, taking advantage of Nocturno Culto's desire to perform live and to remain busy, now that his cohort was losing steam, Satyr welcomed him into the Satyricon fold and dubbed him Kveldulv. What one can clearly hear on Nemesis Divina is the cold and precise guitar playing that once belonged to Darkthrone, now being utilized to add credibility to the third-tier band that had long followed in the footsteps of great bands. While this may or may not have any basis in reality, it was a scenario that popped into my mind many years ago and it seemed worth sharing.

This record represents the end of an era, yet it is no real loss. It is not terrible, just certainly not as enjoyable or worthwhile as many would have you believe. The band seems quite capable in handling their instruments, and they once again used Waterfall Studios and got a sound not too far removed from that of The Shadowthrone. By this point, Satyr's vocals have lost almost any hint of the Varg-worship that was present on Dark Medieval Times, now firmly in a more derivative style that owed a lot to his new bandmate.

As for the songwriting, Nemesis Divina shows Satyricon aiming for a much more straightforward approach, though many of the less-than-stellar tendencies remain. Songs such as "The Dawn of a New Age" feature some very intense and bitter cold guitar riffs, as played by Nocturno Culto himself. This would be one of the best songs of the band's career, had they not allowed some feeble whore to speak over the middle section. This obsession with female vocals really infected far too much of the scene, back in the 90s.

As the album progresses, one may notice that the synth is not quite as dominant as it was on the two previous albums, which is a positive thing. Still, one gets that sense that while many of the early Norwegian bands were influenced by the First Wave Black Metal of the 80s, Satyricon's influences don't go much further than the early 90s output from their fellow countrymen. They are also guilty of, perhaps, being the first Black Metal band to make a song that was directly aimed at the female portion of their audience, the pandering "Mother North". This is almost contrasted by "Du Son Hater Gud", though the weak piano piece at the end kills the atmosphere.

Such is the case, throughout the album. They show brief hints of talent, and then wipe them away with some mediocre nonsense that has no place in Black Metal. Had these guys ever really possessed a good solid understanding of what Black Metal was about in the first place, perhaps they could have avoided such mishaps. Nemesis Divina is not a complete waste of time, but I would recommend listening to albums that don't require you to skip through various sections of the songs. The material here could be cut and edited to form a half-way decent E.P. but as a full-length it leaves a lot to be desired. Satyricon was never really one of the better bands from the Norwegian scene anyway, so it's no big deal.