BREAKING THE CHAINS: It’s hard to believe that Satyricon’s Rebel Extravaganza is 20 years old in 2019, but here we are, celebrating the album’s anniversary with a fresh remaster on Napalm Records. The black metal landscape was a very different place back in 1999, with many lower tier outfits adopting a softer and more romantic take on the genre, likely influenced from the commercial explosion of bands like Cradle of Filth.
Still, rumblings could be heard in the Norwegian air, with bands like Dødheimsgard and Solefald abandoning their raw black metal roots for something even colder and more harsh, a sound influenced by the urban sprawl, as opposed to the majestic woods and forests. This was also where Rebel Extravaganza came in, a unique statement of intent for Satyricon, who at that point had helped define the Norwegian Black Metal genre with albums like Dark Medieval Times and Nemesis Divina.
The album was polarizing, in a way, the sort of difficult birth that comes with taking a chance on a directional change that might divide a loyal fan base. To be honest, Rebel Extravaganza took multiple listens to truly sink in, and stood out from other albums from its contemporaries, such as Immortal’s At the Heart of Winter or Emperor’s IX Equilibrium. It wasn’t that those albums felt “safe,” but rather they seemed like logical progressions from established artists.
In contrast, Rebel Extravaganza is an album with no real precedent in the Satyricon catalog. The band was still in full fantasy mode up until that point, all swords and Satanic rituals with diaphanous gowns, with no hint that Satyr and Frost would soon lay themselves down in the filth and grime. So, when songs like “Tied in Bronze Chains,” “Prime Evil Renaissance,” and “Havoc Vulture” exploded with this “new” Satyricon sound, it really came as one hell of a surprise.
The album was dirty, ugly, and downright unsanitary, from the accompanying photo shoot to the production, which seemed intentionally sandpaper harsh. This was perhaps what led to the industrial comparisons of many reviews during this time, an idea that’s practically erased with this new remaster. This is the rare case when revisiting an album seems to have actually done it a world of good, as Rebel Extravaganza has honestly never sounded better.
The bass levels have been bumped up for this release, and the whole affair sounds much warmer, without sacrificing any of the natural grit. These songs benefit greatly from this full sound, with the little bells and whistles—such as the Hammond organ and synthesizer—sitting firmly in the mix and lifting Rebel Extravaganza even higher than it already was in the Satyricon catalog. Older fans will love to revisit the album in 2019 and remember why they loved it in the first place, while younger converts will have an even better sounding point of reference to where Satyricon, and black metal, were 20 years ago. ~ George Pacheco