Released: 2015, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
By now, the whole metal band performing live with an orchestra thing has gotten pretty played out. But Norway's Satyricon – who have done that a few times themselves - give the concept something of a unique twist with Live At The Opera, performing with the 55-member Norwegian National Opera Chorus who provide an all-vocal accompaniment to the band's scabrous black 'n roll. It sounds like a rather dreadful premise, but it actually comes off sounding rather cool – and definitely different.
Recorded in 2013 at the Norwegian Opera & Ballet in Oslo as part of the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, Live At The Opera sees the band playing a rather traditional set – the concert was not scripted or staged as an actual opera or anything that radical – with the chorus providing much the same sort of accompaniment as an orchestra would. Just without instruments. The voices largely mimic strings and/or horns and provide a regal, often Gregorian sounding backdrop to Satyricon's bluster.
They do occasionally sing actual lyrics and choruses for tracks like “Die By My Hand” - which the audience also joins in on – and provide grand intros and outros to “Nocturnal Flare,” “The Pentagram Burns” and others. But fear not, there's no warbly soloing or showcasing of divas and such – like you might find in an actual opera – it's all pretty much just high-brow window dressing. Norwegian rocker Sivert Høyem, however, joins in to reprise his role as lead vocalist on the blackened pop tune “Phoenix,” which actually has some teeth here.
The band are their usual selves during the Live At The Opera performance. Frontman Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven growls, snarls and preens. His longtime sidekick, drummer Kjetil-Vidar “Frost” Haraldstad, provides his signature cyclonic backbeats and fills and their crew of session musicians grind right along with them. The mix does seem a bit muted so as not to drown out the chorus, which is understandable, but not dramatically so. And there's still plenty of gnarliness in the guitars and Satyr's vocals, so tunes like the roiling “Our World Rumbles Tonight,” “Repined Bastard Nation,” the monumental “To The Mountains” and “K.I.N.G.” retain their bite, and “Mother North” captures its epic black metal majesty.
Kudos to Satyricon for not only attempting something this audacious, but for pulling it off. While this treatment certainly is not for everyone, it works a hell of a lot better than you might expect and is a surprisingly worthwhile effort - vanity project or no. Live At The Opera is available in a CD/DVD format.