Satyricon

support Chthonic
author EW date 14/11/13 venue Islington Academy, London, UK

A week after their performance in Copenhagen it was the turn of Satyricon and their sole tour support Chthonic to visit London, a place which the frontmen of both commented as being among their favourite destinations to play (for varying reasons, as we will find out). Having brought a strong Nordic chill over with them the time felt right for Satyricon to play their first show in this town for some X years now, and as usual they didn't disappoint.

Chthonic

Having unfortunately missed their set in Copenhagen I was determined to make up for it this time, going so far as to give myself indigestion by scoffing down a beef & ale pie for dinner before the gig (the things we do for metal...). Thankfully the help of a lubricating Guinness solved all such worries once in the venue as I arrived to see the Islington Academy largely full for the Taiwanese metallers, by no means an inconsiderable feat in itself. This being my first proper exposure to the band that has exploded onto the Western consciousness in the last few years after a decade of slogging it out in the Asian scene, I found myself impressed with their energy levels and commitment to the music yet a touch disillusioned with how Finnish their sound is (I get the feeling this isn't the case with their pre-"Takasago Army" material, none is which was played). The frosty sounds coming from the keys of CJ Kao (who oddly resembles Corey Taylor from Slipknot of old while his remaining bandmates don't wear anything similar) hammer down very Bodom-esque frosty scales which back the frantic playing of Jesse Liu on guitar and Doris Yeh on bass, but as is evident when Satyricon take the stage later the lack of control in their performance and mediocrity of the melodies and rhythms at the heart of their songs rendered them a difficult prospect for full live appreciation without full prior knowledge.

So what did stand out to me? Frontman Freddy Lim was warmer and more engaging than I anticipated, declaring in decent English that he grows ever more appreciate of this fair isle, noting that coming here for fish n' chips is a more enticing prospect than the British weather, while his request at the end of their set for the crowd to check out the Taiwanese newspaper they were being photoed for at the time and to "pass it on to our parents" was humourous, as well as giving a highlight to the great cultural differences between us and them. Occasionally playing an erhu which had a sound approximate between a violin and a strained guitar added a touch of Eastern flair to their sound which was otherwise absent, Lim's charisma was certainly a boost to their performances. His bandmates performed satisfactorily yet in a set lasting no more than 25 minutes, a few songs was all time Chthonic had to impress with, a feat they managed soundly for a significant part of the audience. With their sound being a typical example of modern over-production and genre confusion I myself remain unconvinced as to their wares just yet but saw enough in this performance to understand just why this group of Taiwanese have put their country on the metal map.

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Satyricon

As I hope to have made clear in review of their Copenhagen show last week, Satyricon are not only a very good live band, but the material played from recent albums is both much better heard on stage and arguably works better than their older more extreme material. That they play any old stuff (let's judge this as the pre-"Volcano" watershed) at all is worth noting in itself - lesser bands to have changed so dramatically have been known to shun their back catalogue in favour of easier new tracks, but not these Norwegians. The first track proper, after slow introduction opener "Voice of Shadows" introduction is "Hvite Krists Død" from 1994's "The Shadowthrone", immediately faster and more impenetrable than any recent fare. Too included are two cuts from "Nemesis Divina": "Forhekset" and of course their classic "Mother North", which never seems to lose any of its considerable epic qualities even 17 years later.

Perhaps because of their weighting of old material there is a good smattering of what could be described the 'older' Satyricon fan at their shows - a good number of those that pre-date their recent forays still show up which is just as well, as for one of BM's elder statesmen Satyr, Frost and their hired live hands portray a strong image of what BM can lead to. Moving through "Black Crow on a Tombstone", "The Pentagram Burns", "Repined Bastard Nation" and newer tracks "Walker Upon the Wind", "The Infinity of Time and Space" and "Nekrohaven" this was a lengthy set that never truly let up throughout. I would maintain the argument that the energy levels drop too dramatically in some of these new songs but they were delivered with utmost conviction from Steiner Gundersen and Gildas Le Pape on guitars (two men who appear to be paid by the headbang) and backed by a superbly articulate sound throughout. Satyr's declaration of loving being in London so much that he "doesn't mind when even when one of the bathroom doors backstage says 'Out of Order. Sorry for the inconvenience'" was funnier than it might be otherwise read it here, but what it did prove was the gratuity Satyricon felt at being in Britain and performing at a sold out venue four years after their last appearance here. That, despite fluctuations in recorded quality, speaks for a wide appreciation of what these legends have to offer.

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All photos by Teo Dani. Full set available here.

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