Cold as Hell: An Interview with Frost from Satyricon

Considered by many as one of the most influential black metal bands in history, with a career that spans almost three decades, Satyricon truly need no introduction. Still enjoying the success of 2017’s Deep Calleth Upon Deep, they are embarking on a European tour (followed by select dates in Japan and Australia) together with the Greek thrash metal band Suicidal Angels.

Just a few days before kicking off this massive tour with a show in the Netherlands, we met up with Frost to talk about the tour, black metal, and more.

Metal Blast: As you probably know, Taake’s shows in the US have been boycotted, as well as downright cancelled, due to accusations of nazism and fascism. Last year something similar happened to Marduk, not to mention bands like Graveland, Inquisition (with whom you’ll be touring the US later in the year), etc. Is there a chance that black metal (particularly US-based) ends up just limiting itself to “PC” material, in order to avoid controversy and be able to tour?
Frost: No; I can’t see any such a thing happen, and I was anyway unaware of the cases you mentioned.

MB: Both you and Satyr were very critical of the Lords of Chaos book, calling everything from inaccurate to parasitic. As you know, the book was recently made into a movie (that, as far as I can tell, hasn’t done very well). Regardless of the journalistic merits of the book, the fact remains that the movie kind of brings black metal (and the lies told about it) to a larger audience. When you look at, for example, Metallica’s video for ManUNkind, which downright imitates Mayhem’s logo and style and a lot of black metal tropes, or how black metal imagery has just become part of “pop culture” in places like H&M and Primark, do you think that the shock factor involved in black metal is being lost?
F: I frankly don’t care. In Satyricon we work like hell creating our life’s work and we can’t be bothered by meaningless tabloid issues that have nothing to do with us.

MB: A few years ago, in an interview I did with Morgan Steinmeyer he made the point (which other musicians and fans have questioned) that “black metal” requires an occult element. That it’s not about guitars, paint or shrieking, but instead about the actual philosophical and spiritual content of the music that truly allows it to be labeled as “black metal”. How do you feel about this idea? What do you think really defines black metal?
F: Black metal, apart from simply being dark and extreme music within the frames of the metal genre, is in many ways similar to blues and punk. It’s about feeling and attitude. Whether the spirit of the music has its root in philosophy or something else isn’t really what matters; what moves the listener in the end is truly what counts, and that comes down to whether the music is delivered in a convincing way and whether there is any proper substance.

Satyr and Frost. Photo: Marius Viken

MB: There is a lot of expectation around the release of Formative Oddities, especially because it has been said that you’d stay away from the “obvious” things like Bathory and Venom, choosing instead the “oddities” that have influenced your sound and your career. Can you elaborate a bit on this plan and, if possible, give us some insight on some of the music that you plan to include?
F: I do not intend to reveal any songs that we plan to do cover versions of, but it is in the nature of Satyricon to involve ourselves in such a project in order to do something different, which challenges us and expands our musical horizon, that we can learn something from and which eventually results in an interesting and meaningful recording. We tried to find some songs to play that have significant value to us, but which are quite different from our own music, so as to see what happens when we leave our comfort zone and try to make interpretations of these songs.

Frost and Satyr. Photo: Marius Viken

MB: Nergal, of Behemoth, has been quite open as to how things changed for him after he was diagnosed with cancer and, eventually, managed to get treatment. Although Satyr’s situation is, thankfully, not malignant, how did this threat to his health (at least originally, when he was first diagnosed) affect the band? I can only imagine that facing such a problem can make you re-evaluate a lot of things.
Ft: That situation made us understand the principle of finality in a very different way, and brought us face to face with an obstacle that we couldn’t remove or work our way around. Satyr himself did in no way capitulate to the condition, though, and as a band we felt motivated to step up the game rather than resign in the face of difficulties. When you start to realize in a much more palpable way how you may not be able to carry on your work of passion forever, it feels even more important to do the most out of the time that you get to work.

MB: Connected to the above, once it was discovered that the situation was not malignant, did the good news somehow manifest themselves into the music, or the approach to band?
Frost: No; it was never a theory that the tumor was malignant. The tumor might still be life threatening though, even if it is not of a malignant kind, because it grows and the sheer size of it may at some point prevent blood or spinal liquid from flowing in the brain. That is definitely lethal.

MB: The reviews of last year’s Deep Calleth Upon Deep have been terrific all across the board, albeit marking a difference from your previous work, with some calling it closer to “black n’ roll” than traditional black metal (at least when it comes to sound). How do you feel your sound changes have evolved throughout your career? What do you think, sonically and philosophically speaking, are the most significant differences that we can find in 2018’s Satyricon compared to the 1994 group the released Dark Medieval Times.
F: Satyricon has become more musically open, dynamic, progressive, creative, authoritative and solid. We have simply displayed a continuous and willed musical evolution from day one and till now. I do take issue with the use of the “black n’ roll” term; it doesn’t make sense at all. What did the first black metal albums sound like? Put on the early Venom albums or the debut Bathory album, for instance. You get my point.

MB: You’re about to embark on a new European tour throughout March, followed by a series of shows in Australia, Japan and the US. What can your fans expect from this fantastic new opportunity to see the band
F: 
A kick-ass band touring with a kick-ass album. We’re on fire.