Satyricon – 20 Years of RebellionThursday, 5th December 2019
It was 20 years ago now that Satyricon released their fourth full-length album, Rebel Extravaganza. It was a rather stark change to what the band had been putting out in the past and had built their black metal name upon. But part of the album’s goal was in fact, to shake things up a bit and move things into a different direction. Rebel Extravaganza was cold, harsh, and rather extreme in its execution and made the claim that Satyricon would continue onwards with – constant evolution and progression. With its recent re-issue by Napalm Records (purchase HERE), we were able to have a chat with drummer Frost about what he recalled about the album itself and that particular time in the band’s history, as well as other topics such as his relationship with Satyr and drumming in both Satyricon and 1349.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking back on Rebel Extravaganza, what were your intentions for the album when writing it?
Frost: It was a bit special with that album. Every Satyricon album is pretty much made in the same way, meaning that every album is made because it’s something we want to hear. What we do on the albums is what constitutes us and our spirit, and the way that we grow and develop. Rebel Extravaganza is no exception, but perhaps for the only time in Satyricon’s history we were a little political about it as well. We realized that Satyricon was in a spearhead position in the world of black metal music. It was a responsibility that we kind of acknowledged and respected.
Where black metal was heading in the late ‘90s, we weren’t too pleased with the direction. We felt that it was really a task that we had to take seriously – to show a different way that the one that most bands were heading on. You might remember how black metal was getting more and more gothic influences in terms of the music itself, as well as the imagery as well. We felt that these were meant to be more contrasting and secondary elements, and now they were being given one of the main function, such as synthesizers, [clean] vocals, and all of that softer stuff. We didn’t really like that development, and with Rebel Extravaganza, we really tried to strip our music from those elements ourselves and brought something colder and more harsh into it.
So Rebel Extravaganza turned out to be the album that we wanted to make, but it’s colored by our perception of where black metal was heading, which was not a good place. I think that today, it’s obvious that Rebel Extravaganza is an album that created quite a difference in the black metal world in the late ‘90s. It was an album that changed a lot. That’s also the reason that the album carries some extra significance for us today.
Dead Rhetoric: I was just discovering black metal around that particular era of time, so Rebel Extravaganza was actually the first album that I heard from Satyricon, so it’s cool to hear that sort of backstory.
Frost: Since you listened to the album when it was new, I guess you also remember the controversies around the album. Many people took it to heart. There were actually a lot of people that really hated the album when it was released. But then again, many people have come to us and said that they hated it when it was released – that they didn’t understand it – they expected something much more similar to Nemesis Divina or something. But then, eventually the album grew on them, and it has become their favorite. There’s definitely something quite special about it.
Dead Rhetoric: That was actually something I wanted to touch upon – do you feel Rebel Extravaganza was better appreciated after it had been around for a bit, rather than when it was first released?
Frost: Yeah – there’s something to be said about albums that stand the test of time. That goes for any type of music, not just ours.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any particular memories that resound with you, other than what we were just talking about, from those particular times?
Frost: I do remember quite a bit – Rebel Extravaganza was really a lot of hard work and struggle in order to make it come across as extreme as it did. We were adding quite a few unconventional elements to the music. I was much more of a traditionalist, while Satyr has been very unafraid of experimenting and trying out new elements – being a bit bold about it. For me to understand where he wanted us to head, that was a bit of a learning process. It’s not only about understanding the music and the songs, but also the concept of the album. Understanding how it would probably sound with those elements added to it. Rebel Extravaganza is an album that has a lot of sound effects added to it – analog synthesizers and things like that. It was unfamiliar territory.
When you put all of those layers and sounds into it, it’s pretty much a game-changer. But before the songs are made with every element in place, you can’t quite understand how it will exactly sound. When you work in the rehearsal space, and having only the drums and guitar, it’s a bit difficult to imagine how it will all sound once all of the synthesizers and effects are there. You have to imagine what it will be like, and how it includes the musical solutions, which includes the drum solutions. I had to have Satyr guide me a lot, and make certain decisions on my behalf, because he was the only one that really knew where we were heading. When I heard the album for the first time, it sounded quite different than how I imagined it would be. Perhaps I wanted it to be a little more conventional, because I couldn’t really understand where all of those more radical moves until the album was done.
As we went through it, I started to understand what a beast it was. How cold and harsh, and how different and unconventional it was. But I liked it – I liked it for the extremity and the boldness – only then did I understand what Rebel Extravaganza was all about. Struggling with material that you don’t understand fully is pretty tough and demanding, so I remember that. It was fascinating to work with something that diverse, and at times, so extreme. That’s something that enjoyed a lot because it was right down my alley.
Dead Rhetoric: So how important is the relationship between yourself and Satyr in terms of the band’s dynamic?
Frost: I suppose it’s very important and perhaps some of the reasons that Satyricon has such a strong identity. It’s the kind of dynamics and the sound that you get from a lot of the great bands in rock and metal music. People in a band are so different, and might have very different views on how the band should sound and how things work in general. Those internal conflicts of interest continue to make the band a bit more interesting. Even if it can be very troublesome at times, there’s something more rewarding about having different ideas and opinions and still being able to create something together that makes a lot of sense, and makes a difference. I think that it probably forces some kind of learning process between everyone involved.
All of those small struggles and discussions/conflicts, they also make us grow as individuals and musicians. For good and for bad, it’s been an important part of the band – we have very different ideas and we are very different people, but we still have a huge passion for black metal, both of us. We have a huge passion for Satyricon and think of it as our lives’ project.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking at where the band has gone since Rebel, do you consider it a bit like a stepping stone?
Frost: That could be one way to put it, but as I said earlier, in Satyricon we view the albums to be the [spirit] of the band. It’s what constitutes Satyricon. The evolution of the band, that organic development of the band has been led by creativity and innovation. Each album pretty much represents one era of the band. We would never be satisfied if one album sounded pretty much like any other. There needs to be improvement and development with each album. Rebel Extravaganza was a huge leap forward – more of a giant leap. Between Rebel Extravaganza and its predecessor, a lot of things happened. It took the band in a very different direction, and it was perhaps less of the epic and folkish elements, but we brought in something that was harder and more relentless and unconventional.
In many ways, Rebel Extravaganza didn’t tell much about what would come after it. I guess you cannot see it as a part of a linear development at all. Rebel Extravaganza is by itself. The development on Now, Diabolical or Volcano or The Age of Nero – Rebel Extravaganza is very different from them. In that respect, Rebel Extravaganza stands out a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: What fuels your passion for black metal, knowing that you’ve been involved with it for so long?
Frost: That’s tough to answer, and it’s something that I ponder about. Why is this strange, extreme sound so important? Why dedicate my life to it? I really connected to black metal as a youth – it just resonated within. I experienced the music, and connected with the spirit, sound, and darkness of it. I could think of nothing else for a long, long time. I gravitated towards it. It was really just a natural mechanism. It was instinct that led me there. It’s beyond something that I question – it doesn’t need analysis. You just feel and it is there. It drags you in. Working with black metal music feels like the only natural thing to do.
Dead Rhetoric: Does being in both Satyricon and 1349 allow you to explore different avenues within black metal?
Frost: Absolutely. It makes it possible for me to explore different sides of what I do as a drummer and different sides of this exciting musical genre. In Satyricon, it’s really about understanding the composition of an ingenious composer because I regard Satyr as such. I think he has become one of the greatest composers in this genre today – I find him to be a visionary. How he perceives his musical goals and ideas is something that fascinates me a lot and I have huge respect for it. The way that he composes music, my role in the band is really to understand what he wants to achieve and to be as much of a part of that as possible. To find good drum solutions and add something to those brilliant compositions, and maybe add some extra spirit and personality. I can only hope that is something positive with Satyricon. I have to imagine what another person is trying to achieve.
In 1349, I rely mostly on my own instincts. Whenever I make drumming solutions and perform, it’s about feeling those instincts and being led by intuition. Just letting that spirit fill me completely. There’s nothing held back, and I can make use of my most energetic and aggressive sides as a drummer. I like that a lot, and I think it defines part of my style as well. I’m very happy that there is something else. Without the development that has been forced onto me in Satyricon, I would have been a much poorer musician, with a much more narrow type of expression. I’ve grown and developed a lot because of that, which I appreciate deeply. Today I consider both of those bands to be essential, each in their own respect.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for you over the course of the next year?
Frost: It’s going to be rather exciting, because I’m not exactly sure myself. Satyr has already started working on a lot of ideas, and he has made several musical sketches. I know a little bit about his ambitions, and it’s exciting but I don’t dare to reveal anything. We don’t exactly know what it will end up. Exciting things are on the horizon, and I look forward to see what we come up with in the end. It’s going to be something different, but it will be something good.