In Septem­ber 2015, Satyr suf­fered a seizure and woke up in an am­bu­lance. The two years that fol­lowed would change his life for­ever. The Satyri­con front­man tells us…

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: JONATHAN SELZER

Satyr opens up about the life-chang­ing events that in­formed the up­com­ing Deep Cal­leth Upon Deep.

In Septem­ber 2015, with­out warning, Satyr Won­graven

had a seizure at home and passed out. When he came to, he was in an am­bu­lance called by his part­ner, and his world was about to change in ways that he wasn’t at first able to grasp.

“In the be­gin­ning, when I was at the hos­pi­tal in the first few days, I don’t think I fully re­alised what ex­actly was go­ing on,” he re­calls. “I’m not a naive op­ti­mist; I’m a lit­tle bit more wary and scep­ti­cal, and I like to dou­ble-check things. The doc­tors just said, ‘We’re still try­ing to find out what’s wrong with you, but we have dis­cov­ered a cyst in your brain. It’s not can­cer or any­thing, it’s be­nign, but it’s some­thing that we just need to mon­i­tor and take it from there’.”

For an artist so fiercely driven, com­ing from within a black metal scene that’s al­ways cel­e­brated the power of will and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, Satyr had en­tered a new, un­cer­tain realm he’d have to learn to nav­i­gate from the ground up.

“There was one part of me that thought, ‘Oh well, that didn’t sound too dra­matic’. But on the other hand, I thought it couldn’t be that great be­cause I felt ter­ri­ble, ha ha ha! So I was a lit­tle con­fused be­cause some­one was say­ing, ‘Well, it sounds worse than it is and we’ll keep track of it, and if this takes a turn for the worse then we’ll have to do some­thing more dras­tic’. But I was think­ing, ‘Why is my pulse 32? Why am I in such a ter­ri­ble shape all over and why has my body shut down com­pletely?’”

The spe­cial­ist Satyr was re­ferred to of­fered some per­spec­tive, ex­plain­ing that the symp­toms he was suf­fer­ing were fairly com­mon for the con­di­tion, but it was the be­gin­ning of a long and

on­go­ing road back to full health that’s called for var­i­ous life­style ad­just­ments, and it’s given him new per­spec­tives in the process.

“Phys­i­cally it’s kind of rough on me,” he ad­mits, “so I had to start all over again, and I hon­estly feel like I’m phys­i­cally not back to where I used to be be­cause my body seems to have a harder time in terms of push­ing so re­lent­lessly as I used to. But I still work out and I’m phys­i­cally ac­tive, just maybe not as kamikaze-like as be­fore. Like­wise, I can party but I’m not so much of an af­ter­party guy any­more, ha ha ha! So for the most part you have to ad­just, but we all go through so many dif­fer­ent things in life, you have to learn to deal with it and the most im­por­tant thing is to not give up on your art.”

en­gag­ing, vol­u­ble, but a man whose steely per­fec­tion­ism doesn’t lie far be­low the sur­face,

Satyr is wary of re­lat­ing his latest al­bum, Deep Cal­leth

Upon Deep, too closely to his di­ag­no­sis. In no small part that’s be­cause the writ­ing process had al­ready be­gun a year ear­lier, but there’s also the fact that the four years since Satyri­con’s last, self-ti­tled al­bum was re­leased have of­fered a range of ex­pe­ri­ences that have granted him new ways of per­ceiv­ing his mu­sic.

“I don’t re­ally think of my­self as ill,” he says, “be­cause I live, ba­si­cally, a nor­mal life, but I think my per­spec­tive on a few things has become more in­ter­est­ing. Over the last few years, I’ve done, from a mu­si­cal point of view, some very in­ter­est­ing projects. There was the live col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Royal Nor­we­gian Opera Cho­rus at the Oslo Opera House in 2013 ,and the 20th an­niver­sary shows for Neme­sis Div­ina, which has put some nice per­spec­tive in the im­por­tance this band has had in a lot of peo­ple’s lives. And yes, then you can add to that a real health scare, but also in the last five years, be­com­ing the fa­ther of two boys!”

Satyr re­calls how, when his sec­ond son was born dur­ing the record­ing process of Deep Cal­leth Upon Deep, he had to be moved to an in­ten­sive care unit due to wa­ter on his lungs. Satyr sat with him un­til the next day, un­til the nurses pushed him to go home. On an im­pulse, he de­cided to head for the re­hearsal stu­dio in­stead. “I picked up the gui­tar and started play­ing a melody,” he re­mem­bers,

“and [long-term mu­si­cal part­ner and drum­mer] Frost said, ‘Wow I re­ally like that. Maybe I can play some drums around it, too.’ That ended up be­ing the cho­rus of the ti­tle track. So there you go, who knows where that comes from? Maybe that’s just be­ing awake for 30 hours, be­ing through some sort of emo­tional roller­coaster, be­ing on a high on a lot of dif­fer­ent




things and then some­thing is build­ing up in my sub­con­scious as soon as I grab the gui­tar and start play­ing some­thing. That just says some­thing about how ev­ery­thing that we ex­pe­ri­ence in our lives af­fects us, and as mu­si­cians we have our in­stru­ments as tools of ex­pres­sion.”

Con­stant ag­i­ta­tors against the con­ser­vatism of black metal, Satyri­con have al­ways re­fused to look back and go over old ground. each suc­ces­sive al­bum has claimed new mu­si­cal and spir­i­tual ter­ri­tory, and Deep Cal­leth Upon Deep is an­other, fear­lessly bold step that’s likely to sur­prise at much as it will gal­vanise its lis­ten­ers.

Welded to its supremely ef­fi­cient chas­sis you’ll find un­ex­pected pro­gres­sive el­e­ments, sub­tle clas­si­cal in­stru­men­ta­tion, sax­o­phone parts and, emerg­ing from its metic­u­lously cal­i­brated mo­men­tum, a deeply af­fect­ing new range of emo­tion. Be it the search­ing, spindly riffs peel­ing off To Your Brethren In The Dark’s cen­tral core or The Ghost Of Rome’s ex­pan­sive surges, guided by an op­er­atic vo­cal swoop­ing above, this feels, for all its res­o­lute, mod­ernist tem­per­a­ment, like Satyri­con’s most per­sonal al­bum to date. Deep Cal­leth Upon Deep may sound tri­umphant, but it re­fuses to take short­cuts, wrought in­stead from gris­tle and re­lent­less, anvil-stamped de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“I like that idea of de­ter­mi­na­tion,” says Satyr. “I never thought about it that way, but that re­ally says a lot about the way we feel. If peo­ple can pick up on that, that’s great. You can talk about this record and its spir­i­tu­al­ity and its dark­ness, but I think that what I’m hear­ing on this record, you say de­ter­mi­na­tion and

I hear that, too, in all our records. But the pas­sion is very im­por­tant to me. What I hear when I lis­ten to it, ob­vi­ously I know that we feel it when we do. It has that raw­ness that per­haps you hear less and less of to­day, be­cause in record­ing technology it has become im­por­tant to many bands and pro­duc­ers for ev­ery­thing to sound perfect.”

Tell Satyr that the al­bum con­tains much that is un­ex­pected, but feels like it’s opened up new routes for the band to ex­plore, and he’ll tend to agree with you.

“It did end up some­where dif­fer­ent to what I thought it would, too,” he ad­mits. “In the be­gin­ning there was a lot of re­ally ag­gres­sive stuff, and there’s still a lot of re­ally ag­gres­sive stuff, but par­tially be­cause of my health scare I felt that this had to have a stronger spir­i­tu­al­ity. A lot of the time I would think, what if this is the last thing I do? And then other times I felt this is pos­si­bly the be­gin­ning of some­thing new, so it has to be edgier than what we are do­ing right now. Songs couldn’t just be ‘good’; they had to feel spe­cial.”

Six­teen years since they formed, Satyri­con aren’t just still go­ing strong; their sta­tus as a re­lent­lessly vi­tal force, un­en­cum­bered by the drag of legacy that’s weighed so heav­ily on their peers, has given them a rare free­dom – not just to de­fine black metal purely on their own terms, but to drive it ever for­wards, be­holden to noth­ing but their own will. It’s an at­ti­tude that’s brought in large num­bers of fans be­yond the black metal cliques, and Satyr thinks he knows why.

“It’s be­cause a lot of the same things that peo­ple out­side of black metal dis­like about black metal, I dis­like too. I al­ways found it to be so ironic that that group of peo­ple who would stand up for in­di­vid­u­al­ism at the same time want ev­ery­thing to be a col­lec­tive. I feel that ev­ery­one is lis­ten­ing to the same bands, the same records and that’s bor­ing. Let’s see if there’s some­thing else out there that’s more in­ter­est­ing. I’m not a down­stream guy – it’s gen­uinely in my na­ture to go up­stream.”

Some have mis­taken Satyr’s cer­ti­tude, and his will­ing­ness to call out the fail­ings of the scene from which he sprung, as ar­ro­gance. But for him, it’s a right that’s had to be earned.

“I con­sider my­self a black metal fan,” he states. “I con­sider my band a black metal band. I feel like some­times peo­ple for­get when they ask me: ‘The old-school peo­ple say…’. So you mean the other peo­ple, un­like the new-school peo­ple like me who just started do­ing this? I’ve been do­ing this my whole fuck­ing life! I’m 41 and I started do­ing this when I was 15. I was 17 when I re­leased my first black metal record. How much more old-school does it get? So when peo­ple say to me, ‘You’re break­ing the rules’, I say it’s in­ter­est­ing that you’d say that, be­cause I be­long to a gen­er­a­tion who made the rules, and one of the rules should be there are no rules.”

Deep Cal­leth Upon Deep isn’t a lit­eral re­sponse to what Satyr has been through. It trans­mutes it into some­thing more uni­ver­sal. It’s a gift. What ad­vice would Satyr give to fans who have their own moun­tains to climb?

He takes a deep breath. “Lis­ten, I also have emo­tions. I also get sad and deeply up­set or fu­ri­ous. But re­gard­less of my emo­tions, what I first and fore­most am driven by is: ‘OK, so this seems to be the sit­u­a­tion, what are we go­ing to do?’ And I think if you are able to do that, you can still be deeply sad and frus­trated and up­set and fu­ri­ous, all these things, but you will pull through it if you are pre­pared be a prag­matic taskmas­ter and become task-ori­ented. If you are over­whelmed with what has ac­tu­ally hap­pened and you’re in­ca­pable of do­ing some­thing about it your­self, rely on oth­ers too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It sounds sim­ple and it is sim­ple. That’s just the way it is!”





Satyr at last year’s Blood­stoc as re­lent­less as ev

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