Is SATYRICON true black metal or have those deep roots been abandoned for more accessible fare? Has Satyr sold his soul to the devil for commercial gain? Give me a break. You heard it when "Volcano" was released in 2002 and you'll undoubtedly hear it with the release of "Now, Diabolical". The new album is hardly the stuff of mall kids and eyeliner junkies. If one desires to split hairs over the correct genre categorization, "Now, Diabolical" is fundamentally black metal, it just happens to be infused with monster grooves and memorable, slightly rock-oriented, songwriting. It sure as hell isn't pretty, and the malevolence continues to flow like a river."Now, Diabolical" is nine tracks — including bonus "Storm (of the Destroyer)" — of some of the best black metal grooves this side of DARKTHRONE, sans the punk overtones. A fat, riff-based delivery, a raw, yet not kvlt or lo-fi, production, and one hell of an iniquitous vibe define the essence of "Now, Diabolical". Frost's drumming is not the constant fast blast inferno of 1349, but his playing on the album is all about feeling, the kind that only he can convey. Matched with his strategically placed accents and periods of trickier, though not technically excessive, drumming, his style is an integral component of the album's success. The best part is that damn near every track is a keeper. Songs like the title track and "K.I.N.G." are all about the aforementioned groove. The driving rhythms and Satyr's vocal patterns are downright catchy. This is not about virtuosity or esoteric displays to prove an underground credibility. It is about hard driving tempos and head banging with a snarl on your face. "Delerium" goes for more of a sickening churn. A light and atmospheric section of clean picking introduces "The Rite of War Cross", which soon transforms into a nasty bout of riff bludgeon and Frost's drum battery on the verse, and a slithering, string-bending chorus. Select use of horns (as in the kind you might hear as ancient warriors head into battle) accentuates the grim aura. Speaking of which, horns also appear on the eight-minute "To the Mountains". The track fills the air with dread, its combination of all-around creepiness, Satyr's alternating bouts of agonizing screams and sinister croaks, plodding tempo, and doom-laden riffing make it the perfect capstone to a damn enjoyable album. "Now, Diabolical" will not blow minds with its creativity and cutting edge arrangements, and it will surely raise the ire of those pining for a return of the SATYRICON of old. The album is simply a guiltless collection of blackened metal grooves and tunefulness that suits me just fine. I'll leave the nitpicking to the purists.
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