“ It is probably right to say that Nemesis Divina was sort of an apex, yes, even if we also brought in several new elements and qualities that none of the two preceding albums had. Nonetheless after Nemesis we felt an urge to take a drastic turn and move away from the epic, medieval and melodic to something uglier, dirtier and colder. It was clear to us that we had come to the end of some line with Nemesis Divina, and hence needed to head for new territory.” – Frost
Many bands get nostalgic over their early years or biggest hits while others hate performing these songs (see Al Jourgensen’s autobiography for how tired he was of playing “Just One Fix”, for example). It seems these days more bands are doing full album tours but Satyricon promise the upcoming celebration of all things Nemesis Divina is a limited engagement and thus not to be skipped out of cynicism.
It is hard to believe the colorful album that helped redefine black metal and expand many horizons conceptually as to what could fall under the genre banner is twenty, but time follows the swift line of the crows flight back to Odin’s broad shoulders.
“There are, at most, a handful of albums and a handful of songs that really define modern day black metal. Nemesis Divina is definitely one of those records, and ‘Mother North‘ is definitely one of those songs,” Satyr has boldly (and rightfully) claimed of the record.
It was awesome to talk to esteemed drummer Frost (also of ragers 1349 these days) about this now semi-distant time when the album was formed and get a glimpse into what it felt like to be part of the creation of this highly regarded yet still somewhat controversial work.
Thank you for your time today. How did this re-issue idea come about? This was a very important record, heralding the band becoming more “professional”, in a way. You were one of the first black metal bands to not embrace making something bigger and breaking from restrictions. After all, if art always repeats a look and style it becomes eventually tame, no?
Frost: The re-release of Nemesis Divina is part of our celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary. We felt it appropriate to bring the album itself into focus by remastering the album and do a few adjustments to the artwork that would make it feel a little more classic and timeless. Almost like removing some dust and make it shine a little more. As for the latter part of the question -Satyricon has never been afraid of taking unconventional steps whenever we have felt that to serve the band. Adhering to standards and orthodox restrictions is for those that aren’t ableto create something by themselves, but instead follow the ways,examples and expectations of others.
What do you remember distinctly from this time period? Be it working with Nocturno Culto or memories from recording or even drinking stories, haha?
It was a very happening and exciting period, as we had a lot of progress on a musical and technical level, got a new member that we had a tremendous respect for, and saw that we managed to compose and perform material of a more demanding kind than we had been able to up until then. I remember going to the rehearsal place as very exciting and thrilling, as we would always come up with something new that sounded amazing.
How has your approach changed since these earlier days to now twenty years later when you have recently done something, like, say…Massive Cauldron Of Chaos with 1349? Just more experience in the studio? I mean, your playing style has consistently usually been tight but frenzied, haha.
My approach to drumming and music has changed dramatically since 1996; I now pay much more attention to the nature of the themes and songs I play and how they dictate the rhythmic solutions. I dare to say I have a much richer palate as a musician now, much more control, and a much better understanding of the musical totality of which I am part. It’s not all about focusing on aggression and intensity and being all over the place, as I used to do, even if I sometimes still find it suitable to do exactly that.
Was there a particular song that struck you as very powerful when writing it? This record has since been heralded as a big step forward for Satyricon. I personally love “Forhekset”, it is so marching and ominous and reminds me of some of the later mid-tempo stuff we still can hear on the recent S/T record even.
“The Dawn of A New Age” is in many ways the signature song on the album, at least in my opinion. The relentlessness, power and conquering spirit of it is something I truly enjoy about the song, and it has all the core qualities of the album itself.
Was it thrilling for you as an artist when you realized you were amassing quite a few credits on some very cool records such as Gorgoroth’s Antichrist or this Satyricon stuff, or was it all just sort of work? You and Trym on the actual album called Frost by Enslaved were some of the first drummers of this style who played so crazy but also with skill and it opened my ears to this kind of music somewhat.
The period when we created Nemesis Divina was definitely a thrilling period, as I experienced a quite rapid progress and got to work with such fantastic musical material. I didn’t really feel professional or particularly skilled, but it sure was motivating to feel an increasing mastery of the craft and putting that into effect. To be honest I was really an amateur at what I did, but at least a dedicated and spirited amateur.
It was uncommon to have a music video for black metal at the time. What was it like when the band released a video for “Mother North”? A lot of haters? People sometimes have talked shit on you guys or, more so, Dimmu for not staying confined to a moldy basement.
A lot of haters, but probably more people actually praising what we did. Satyricon has always been an opinion splitter, and there’s nothing surprising or unfortunate about that. We are utterly confident about what we do and why we do it, and then negative reactions can not shake us. Satyricon is not around to please the orthodox, as we are way more serious about what we do than that.
How has your communication grown with Satyr since this time? You must be so used to one another at this point? Or do you always try and challenge each other?
We evolve like our music does, so our way of being and communicating also changes. There is a much deeper level of intuition in our communication now than what there was in the early days of the band.
Did this album feel sort of an apex of your earlier efforts and thus afterwards push you more in the experimental directions or industrial tinges of Rebel Extravaganza? I love how the piano on “Du Som Hater Gud” adds extra percussion to your barrage at the end of the song, by the way.
It is probably right to say that Nemesis Divina was sort of an apex, yes, even if we also brought in several new elements and qualities that none of the two preceding albums had. Nonetheless after Nemesis we felt an urge to take a drastic turn and move away from the epic, medieval and melodic to something uglier, dirtier and colder. It was clear to us that we had come to the end of some line with Nemesis Divina, and hence needed to head for new territory.
We must discuss the cover art. Did you know this brighter and almost graphic novel style cover would sort of blind the eyes of fans, haha? It almost reminds me of Testament’s cover for Low rather than, say, Transilvanian Hunger.
What we were certain about, was that Nemesis Divina needed a cover that was strongly idiosyncratic, visually striking and reflecting the core themes and qualities of the album. Satyr found a skilled artist that understood the task well, and created a brilliant piece of art which he put on fire and then photographed. The fiery and earthy colours fit the vibe of the album perfectly I think, and I believe it contributed to giving Nemesis Divina a highly particular and strong identity. I have never thought about it as very bright and glossy, but I know it was highly unconventional for it’s time.
Are you excited to perform the record in its’ entirety? It is cooler that it is a special one time thing rather than some bands who always tour “that one album”, so to speak. thank you! I’m very pleased to speak with someone who has very much changed metal for the better.
Performing Nemesis Divina in its entirety is a fine way of honoring the old album and what it has meant for us and the fans that have taken it to their hearts. Personally I enjoy connecting with the power and wildness of that album, it makes it rewarding to do these anniversary shows. But don’t expect to see Satyricon getting in retrospective mood again soon.