Norwegian Dark Metal band Satyricon tells Deepa Kurup they have now reached a point where they can just be themselves
I hadn’t the faintest idea what to expect when coming face to face with a Black Metal band who irreverently announced in their concert that “the media deserved to die”? Dark, sinister and dangerous in demeanour, these bands have some of the most fearsome reputations in the world of music. With several acts of violence attributed to this highly-aggressive genre, these men are consumed by an inner fire that surpasses all things mortal, or so goes the cliché.
Stereotypes apart, this genre of musical concerts is as alien to us as our country is to them. Apart from catching a glimpse of their purportedly big, bad, ugly selves on the occasional YouTube video, our exposure to the Norwegian Dark Metal band Satyricon is limited to internet downloads and the occasional CD that may have trickled in.
In broad daylight — tattoos and long hair apart — these men look nothing like their sinister music video avatars. Sigurd Wongraven a.k.a Satyr, with his locks now chopped and well-trimmed, seems like a regular musician with some amazing tattoos; and the more maverick looking Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad (Frost) looks a tad lost. While keyboardist Jonna Nikula stands demurely on the side, others band members give the press interaction a miss.
They’re willing to field questions but not overtly talkative. It’s their first time in India and they are overwhelmed with the response to their shows in Delhi and Mumbai. This being a pre-event chat, they are just warming up to Bangalore. However, backstage sources revealed the band said Bangalore surpassed both Delhi and Mumbai.
“We are certainly taken aback. We had no idea what to expect when we came here and our friends have been texting us constantly. They’re curious, just like we were!” says Satyr.
Their latest album The Age of Nero was premiered for the first time in India on November 3. “It was more of a gamble for us to kick off our promotional tour from unknown territory. But the response has been great,” Frost chips in. “And considering we don’t even sell records here I am truly overwhelmed. I hope Bangalore will be the same,” says Jonna, on the sidelines. An enthusiastic fan, who is listening in on us, assures her that he has downloaded all their albums. She laughs.
And true to her expectations the show that evening packs a mean punch. By Friday night the motley bunch transforms itself into the legendary Satyricon; with sombre hues framing them and fire spitting from the stage, they give a performance that no metal fan can forget. The cold, dark winds from Norway seemed to blow straight to Palace Grounds, Bangalore.
Internationally, this underground genre is gaining more acceptance than ever before. “Satyricon has now reached a point where we can just be ourselves. People are not preoccupied with labelling us and arguing about whether we are valid or not,” Frost explains. “I am not aware of the Indian Metal scene but I am told it is growing. And I hope our presence here helps nurture this scene,” says Satyr.
Satyr points out that the “downfall of music” has now opened up the stage for independent music. So, is it time for a niche and underground genre like Dark Metal to see the day of light and turn mainstream? “It doesn’t have anything to do with going mainstream,” Frost retorts. “Obviously, we want to bring it to new listeners. But that hardly means that we change our style to satisfy anybody. For us it is an art form and not about entertaining. It’s because we stick to that belief that we are here,” he explains.
Frost sounds excited when asked about their latest album. “It is the ultimate album so far and is the closest to our original ideas of music,” he says. His enthusiasm is contagious as Satyr chips in. “We’re playing it here first and the crowd seemed to take to it immediately. We hope it will do well everywhere.”
Time is running out and the band manager seems impatient. Bands like them are not known for caring two hoots about the media. One last question, I plead, and they humour me. Black Metal, as infamous as it among those oblivious to it, has been tarnished for inspiring many a crime in the Nineties. So, how do the legends themselves describe the essence of this genre?
“It’s dark and it’s Metal music,” says Satyr matter-of-factly. “There have been too many attempts to pin it down to one vocal/production style. But it doesn’t matter really,” he says. “Listening to music is much more important that defining it.”