As is true for all musical genres, black metal has its share of cliche. Enter stage left: the devil himself, hailed by cacophonous guitar riffs, swathed in pompous keyboard orchestrations, a grotesque pandemonium of noise and blasphemous imagery, worshipped by hordes of black-clad youths trying their hardest to be different.
The theatrical horror of many black metal bands is easy to ridicule, but behind these superficial impressions lies something deeply disturbing, a menacing presence perfectly evoked by Norway's Satyricon on their aptly titled last album *Volcano*. Never a band to reiterate the obvious, the Oslo-based two-piece of Frost (drums) and Satyr (vocals, all other instruments) has made a remarkable career out of shaping the true core of one of the most uncompromising and extreme genres in musical history. Their aim has always been to explore the musical logic behind the darkest emotions, to add a defined aural structure to the metaphysical darkness of human existence. The tools they use are far from extraordinary ? great musicianship, an analytical mind that doesn't shy away from discarding the old stylistic formulas and the declared will to make each work they release special in its own way. The results stand out as landmarks of extreme metal music: the early works *Dark Medieval Times* (1993) and *The Shadowthrone* (1994) that helped create the myth of Norwegian black metal, the immensely successful *Nemesis Devina* (1996), *Rebel Extravaganza* (1999) and the unstoppable force of nature that is *Volcano* (2002).
Now one of the finest bands in black metal's history returns with an ambitious new album. And if they shout *Now, Diabolical*, they mean it! Inspired by the occult traditions of our cultural history, especially the strict symbolic systems devised by secret lodges and societies, Satyricon have created eight songs that radically break with many often-told truths about metal music. Basically the whole album is based on a set of strong musical themes. These form the core of every piece, and every single one elected to go on the album had to be able to carry a song on its shoulders. Everything else was built to relate to these themes, instead of the usual formula popular among metal musicians of putting together different riffs - until there's enough for a song. Each song on *Now, Diabolical* has a defined tempo and leaves a singular impression. In contrast to their previous works there's no elaborate narrative thread to the music, it comes straight to the point: direct, hard-hitting, without hesitation. *Now, Diabolical* is black metal in its purest form ? just guitars, drums and bass with the occasional and very efficient appearance of horns that emphasize the dramatic force of the songs.
The remarkable thing about this album is that the artistic restrictions Satyricon set for themselves seem very similar to those that apply to generic rock music ? a catchy hookline, clock set to a certain number of beats per minute... You get the picture. The result is surprising: Never so far has black metal shown such force. The framework the band worked in imposed a new precision and compactness to their music that immediately stimulates the dark emotional center of the brain: It wakes the beast inside, if you will, and as an antithesis to the Holy Grail of rock music this is truly diabolical.
Produced by Satyr himself, *Now, Diabolical* was recorded in various studios throughout Norway and in the famous Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, Canada. *Now, Diabolical* opens a new chapter not only in Satyricon's history, but in that of metal itself. A highly unusual album that should change the way black metal is perceived. Exit stage right: the devil in his carnevalesque attire, the next act is devoted to the grim darkness that lives within every human being, that doesn't listen to any name, but makes its presence felt through music like the one found on this masterpiece.