Satyricon began its life in Oslo, Norway, typifying the black metal style with its first three albums. Over the years and the eight studio albums the group has released, Satyricon has slowly shifted its style, incorporating more hard rock elements and improving production values. While no longer purely black metal, it is still clearly ingrained in Satyricon’s DNA, as evidenced by the band’s dramatic take on a live album. Live at the Opera revisits songs mostly from Satyricon’s three most recent albums, adding live opera singers to the music to grand effect.
The intro track for both Live at the Opera and Satyricon’s 2013 self-titled album, “Voice of Shadows” directly shows the gravity that opera brings to the music. The contrast is rather shocking as the relatively simple and straightforward track is transformed and given a grim and foreboding sheen by the operatic elements. Though Satyricon doesn’t dip into older work except for with “Mother North,” it seems for the best as the group injects new life into song after song. One would expect the operatic additions to be heavy-handed and constant, but to Satyicon’s immense credit, the additions are more often a light touch and can be more subtle as tracks like “Our World It Rumbles Tonight” feel as if the operatic segments were always intended and existed in the song. Unfortunately, there are still songs that opera singers can’t save or where they feel out of place. “Phoenix,” for example, features the guest vocals of Sivert Høyem, which interestingly mixes a soulful Johnny Cash-like vocal style with black metal, but the operatic flares feel unneeded and a bit distracting in this case and mildly distract from Høyem’s performance.
Satyricon adding a live opera to the performance was absolutely a stroke of genius and was done brilliantly. While many would argue that Satyricon’s more recent work is not the band’s best, incorporating the opera gives this newer work a grim, weighty, atmospheric, and exceptionally dramatic feel that some likely feel has been missing in these newer albums. Fans who have been less than impressed with Satyricon’s recent output should absolutely give this album a chance because Live at the Opera is one of the rare cases where the live versions improve on the originals substantially and sound like the definitive versions of the work.