The Rickety Old Shack

Live Show Review: Satyricon — May 24th, 2018

When it was announced that Norweigan black metal legends, Satyricon, would be embarking on their final North American tour in 2018, my attendance was essentially made mandatory. I never thought I would get a chance to see them on tour, period, given that they don't tour very often to begin with and that they tend to confine any live dates to European venues and festivals. So, when I got a chance — and one that was specifically billed as my final chance — to see them, I bought my ticket within the first 5 minutes of their going on sale. I'm mildly terrified of airplanes and cringe at even the notion of attending a multi-day music festival, so having an excuse to spend a day in Montreal, Quebec, did not go remiss.

My journey ended up being a comedy of errors for the most part. Thankfully, the concert is the only part of my short trip that went exactly as planned. I arrived in Montreal at roughly 12:30pm, and spent some time wandering around the city before check-in at my hotel. After killing time by grabbing lunch and wandering what appeared to be a very crowded downtown Montreal, I figured I would try and check-in early. This is where things got fun, as the small hotel I'd booked a room at informed me they had no reservation, and did not deal with Hotels.com, the site I booked through. The place offered to rent me another room, and I could sort out my problem with Hotels.com on my own, but I decided to pass on that offer — it was just sketchy enough to prompt me to want to leave.

I ended up spending approximately an hour on the phone, trying to find out what happened &mash; and get my money back, as they billed in advance — but that went nowhere. They kept trying to contact the hotel (a small 3-story building seemingly operated by one questionable guy) without success. I finally gave up when I got disconnected for a second time; it was around 3:30pm and getting late, and I decided I'd deal with all of that later. It took an hour, a lot of walking, a lot of finding out every other hotel was booked solid — or just didn't want to answer phone calls or their door bells — until I was stuck renting a fairly expensive 2-bed hotel room that I was going to sleep in for about 9 hours.

I killed a few hours trying to nap, and decided to walk to the venue and get something to eat along the way. Google Maps offered some really terrible directions, including suggesting I walk down a traffic tunnel clearly only accessible to cars, and generally did a poor job compensating for a high amount of downtown construction. I was thankful for the real-time GPS map, as I was able to find my own way to the venue, although it added another 40 minutes to my trip. It was a warm day, and I arrived at the venue at 7:30pm. I had enough time to piss, grab a beer and then the opening act began — and realise I had forgotten my earplugs. After all the other issues, I was able to appreciate the good timing, though I was concerned about kicking off a small run of concerts by hurting my ears.

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The first band of the night was Panzerfaust. Their frontman (?), clad in a heavy cloak and hood, struck an imposing figure standing at a black pulpit. For most of their set, he stood there looking menacing and generally disapproving, at other times he would bark ferociously into a mic. The group's guitarist pulled double duty, and handled roughly half of the vocals as well. The visual was quite bad-ass, and the music was a wall of crushing sound and nihilism. I was unfamiliar with Panzerfaust prior to this show, but they piqued my interest with their intense live performance. It was a concise, no-frills performance, with zero stage banter — just 30'ish minutes of a sonic ass-kicking and they left the stage.

I felt a little embarassed to find out Panzerfaust had been around for 13 years. You wouldn't think I would have to go to Montreal, to finally see a band from my province of Ontario, who is signed to an Italian record label, but here we are... I made a point to check out their material, starting with their The Lucifer Principle EP, and hope to have a review in the near future. Their live show is absolutely worth seeing, just bring earplugs... (Or be prepared to spend their set plugging your ears with your fingers , as I did.)

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In all honesty, when I bought my ticket to this show I did not even look at the opening acts — I do not even recall of they were listed at the time. It was moot, I was there to see Satyricon and anything else was just a bonus. When I realised I was also going to get a chance to see Goatwhore, I was ecstatic. I've enjoyed frontman Ben Falgoust's various projects for almost 2 decades now, and even have a vinyl copy of Eclipse Of Ages Into Black, and still give Carving Out The Eyes Of God regular listens. I will admit that my attention has lapsed in recent years, and I didn't even know the name of their most recent album, but this show served as a stark reminder to fix that ASAP.

The fury and groove of Goatwhore's brand of American black metal cannot be overstated. Like Panzerfaust before them, their volume was off the charts — another act where earplugs should be sold at the door of whatever venues they play. They layed material from their various albums, some of which I reconised but most was new to me. Goatwhore is one of those bands I listen to where I can place albums better than individual songs. Regardless, their live show blew away their recorded performances, and I don't say that as any knock on the band's discography. Goatwhore are clearly practiced veterans, their stage presence and live show is something any black metal fan should experience.

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Finally, we are at the main event, the special attraction... The mighty Satyricon takes the stage and wastes no time as they open with the title track to their latest record, Deep Calleth Upon Deep. The sound was excellent, and I was able to appreciate it even without earplugs — and I'd given up on plugging my ears with my fingers in favour of drinking more beer. Satyricon's live sound was very sharp, clean and still extremely heavy, a credit to the venue's sound and the band's no doubt meticulous demands.

I was a little surprised that Satyr actually engaged with the crowd, as I'm used to black metal shows where at least 50% of the time bands play with the back to the audience, or stare at their shoes, all without uttering a word except for song lyrics. Satyr was chatty, but not overly so, and went through what I would call Frontman 101 crowd interactions. The setlist was a compilation of material from throughout the band's discography, though I'm really bad at song titles. I recognised the title track to Now, Diabolical, and I believe "Dawn Of A New Age" from the Nemesis Divinia record, but the rest of the set I couldn't tell you.

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The live band was on point, everything sounded excellent, and Satyricon ripped through their set like pros. During the second half of the show, Satyr even picked added a 3rd guitar to the performance, and really seemed to be enjoying himself. It took me a while to get over the fact that Satyr did not live up to my expectations of some dour, perpetually scornful viking, but that's by no means a complaint. Frost's drumming excellent, as always, and it was great hearing it performed live, as the rhythm section is as integral to Satyricon's sound as their trademarked dissonant-yet-still-groovy riffs. Aside from a great show, it was rewarding to see that Satyricon was more than just a really polished studio project.

I did not have much in the way of expectations, aside from "this should be good." Needless to say, everyone on the bill overshot that that expectation by a wide margin. Panzerfaust made me a fan, Goatwhore reminded me why I was a fan, and Satyricon cemented their status in my mind as true legends and masters of their craft — in both the studio and live settings. I could not have asked for a better show, except maybe not forgetting my earplugs — I prefer to get as close to the stage as possible without dying in a mosh pit.

—by Derek

Published: May 28th, 2018.