Satyricon subvert the rules a bit.
Ahh Norwegian black metal, I love you so. In a musical world where emo can become punk, punk can become metal and metal can become grind, you always know what you're getting with black metal; harsh vocals, misanthropy and blasting complex musicianship. Or so I thought. With 'Now, diabolical', Satyr and Frost's sixth album in their career and their first since 2002's 'Volcano', they have turned their own self-imposed rules on the head with mixed results!
The rhythmic, pulsing, pounding opener of the title track 'Now, diabolical' sets a perfect opening, its crunchy almost low-fi guitars blending with the repeated threatening vocals shouting 'Now, diabolical!' (We get the point Satyr, it's diabolical, it's now...) sets the scene perfectly. This album shows in its new stylings that it is both something more and simultaneously something less than black metal. Any looking for a standard black metal album out of the duo of Satyr & Frost will be disappointed, this simply isn't provided. What they have done is created an almost blackened style of hard rock, mixing harshness with hooks, many may turn their noses up at this idea but aside from the problems mentioned below I found it highly enjoyable. The catchy styles of 'K.I.N.G.' and the pounding beats of 'The Rite Of War Cross' being the best examples of the albums strengths.
The real problem is that besides from 'K.I.N.G.' the album lacks any real stand out songs, or even if I may dare suggest it, any stand out singles. "What need does a black metal band like Satyricon have of singles?" you may ask, and validly too, I do not mean that the album needs to be more commercial (indeed, it as commercial as the style can get and still be considered somewhat close to black metal) in the sense it needs to pander to the lowest common denominator, it's just the problem that many of the songs plod away quite pleasantly but lack the real hooks or interesting musical ideas presented in 'K.I.N.G.', although album opener 'Now, diabolical' and the booming-riffs of 'A New Enemy' come close to matching this quality.
Overall this is a good album, don't get me wrong. It's just that I always expected a bit more from an act with such obvious appeal and potential as 'Satyricon'. There is something just a little bit lacking from the song writing in 'Now, diabolical' which stops it being great and makes it simply good. Satyricon, like their fellow Norwegians Dimmu Borgir have the ability to break through into the wider market, even if it is to the disdain of the more 'kvlt' black metal underground, unfortunately 'Now, diabolical' is not really the album the band could make and it most likely isn't the one that will find them the attention they deserve.