You may have heard the phrase “game changer” accompanying early reports to SATYRICON‘s ninth album, “Deep Calleth Upon Deep”. At present, Satyr seems indecisive if he’s reached the finish line with this band. In the event he and Frost call it quits in the near future, they’ve created a logical, minimalist album close in thought to the group’s 2013 self-titled record, but it’s more, and perfectly less, than that.

“Deep Calleth Upon Deep” is shorn of blunt speed, even if velocity rockets into these courageously thought out compositions now and then. Trad rock and goth find a happy home amidst SATYRICON‘s stark black metal hellhole, this time creating a more refined instead of brutal art. The good news for fans is, this change up is hardly abominable. There’s nothing lost in Satyr and Frost‘s intensity; rather, the duo has made a rational and creative decision to dress down the band’s din and spiff up its progressions and rhythms. You’ll still feel happily whipped when it’s over.

Suffice it say, stripped is the mojo to this album, as “Midnight Serpent” glides forth, not so much with ogre force as might be expected, but still the sinister feeling and intent is felt. Even in this downplayed palette, it’s remarkable what two men conjure together with the layered guitars, bass, synths, drums and evil intonations sniffling throughout the 6:20 number like peek-a-boo spirits. The most menacing passages come halfway with Satyr‘s dark, ornate guitars forlornly weeping behind some gruesome chanting. For certain, there’s a decided page turn with “Midnight Serpent” and “Deep Calleth Upon Deep”. It doesn’t have to be scalding and vile to deliver an impact. What’s delivered, tempered as it may be, is forceful even in simplicity.

It’s the conventional rock movements opening “Blood Cracks Open The Ground”, as well as “The Ghost of Rome” and the title track, that triggers the eyebrow raise, but have no fear of this turning into a “Cherry Orchards” moment, a la CELTIC FROST. If we’re to compare this to CELTIC FROST—R.I.P. Martin Ain—in any fashion, it would be closer to the conduct test spirit of “Vanity/Nemesis” with the compound dirge of “Monotheist”. What SATYRICON does with “Blood Cracks Open The Ground” is absolutely progressive with its revolving signatures, but an omnipresent drum rumbling and spiraling guitar threads turns a new trick: one that works here resplendently.

The sullen slog of “To Your Brethren In The Dark” couldn’t be more morose if Satyr and Frost were passing out packs of downers with hard copy sales of this album. That being said, it’s hellishly potent. Keeping in the essence of CELTIC FROST, be mindful of delicate acoustic breezes and minute horn sneezes within the song’s despondent trudge. Never stealing outright from CELTIC FROST, this is a magnificent and emotive reinvention.

The discreet rock and goth lines give the title track its drive, and is a shrewd vehicle with which to unveil its subversive incantations. The punchy rhythm and riff-heavy soar of “The Ghost Of Rome” throbs instead of scorches, leaving the background wails to wallow freely and with a noticeable bounce. Only the SISTERS OF MERCY‘s “Floodland” or THE CURE‘s “Pornography” defines depression rock as much as “The Ghost Of Rome” does.

No doubt inspired by the genius of Ihsahn‘s recent solo albums, nattering saxophone blats pounce into the mincing maw of “Dissonant”, where progression and speed collide. Some of the fastest moments of the album erupt on “Dissonant” and then on “Black Wings And Withering Gloom”, and those are smartly built up instead of thrust outright. The echoing of Frost‘s drumheads when “Dissonant” and “Black Wings And Withering Gloom” rage are wonderfully naked. Coming from a longtime veteran band instead of young artists awkwardly tinkering with strange and raw tones, it’s grand that SATYRICON is the engineer. You know the group is bound for the outstanding the longer each track patters and sculpts; seven minutes-plus seems hardly enough time to convey all the teeming segments and transitions spewed through “Black Wings And Withering Gloom”.

By contrast, the closing number, “Burial Rite”, yields the most density, and it’s the closest kin to a standard SATYRICON number, even with a quick blues drop and steamy power metal grooves between its broiling black metal swells. Thus, “Deep Calleth Upon Deep” works like Victor Frankenstein losing his conscience and his own will, surrendering to something horrendously implicative and far bigger than himself. “Deep Calleth Upon Deep” molds toward a huge, charring dénouement, but it also acts as an intentional conduit to an uncertain future, to be picked up if inspiration dictates. Should SATYRICON stops here, though, what a glorious endgame.