In some ways, it feels like Enslaveds’ contribution to this split, featuring their Yggdrasill-demo originally released in 1992, is mere padding or a footnote. It is Satyricon who are featured on the front cover of the digipak (whilst Enslaved does, admittedly, occupy the entire back cover) and it is Satyricon who take up four of the five panels of the digipak, featuring lyrics and a short bio of the band, whilst Enslaved only have a measly half panel to them – the other half being taken up by label info.
Musically, too, there is no doubt in my mind that Satyricon is the reason why one should own this release. And one should, period. So let’s start with Enslaved, who take up the latter part of the disc, and almost double the playing time that Satyricon does (41 minutes to Satyricons’ 24 minutes). Enslaved, later evolving into the greatest (Norwegian) viking black metal band and then going on to ever more progressive and genre-defying pastures, began their career as a pretty standard Norwegian black metal band. Eerie, haunting synths, agonized screaming vocals, tinny shredding guitars, blasting drums and some atmospheric inclusions in the form of acoustic guitars. The whole ten yards. Of course, back in ’92 “norsecore” wasn’t a thing yet, so Enslaved were there among the bands that laid the foundation for the whole sound and imagery for the derivative copycats to follow. Graced with an acceptable but rattling, hollow sound, the Yggdrasill-demo is an interesting curiosity especially for fans of the band, but objectively speaking far from a classic piece of black metal music when removed from context and viewed purely as music.
Satyricons’ The Forest Is My Throne is, however, of a totally different ilk. The three tracks that make up the original demo are pure classics. Taking cues from contemporaries such as Darkthrone, already on this, their second demo, Satyricon had a strong identity of their own and weaved images of cold wintry mountains, snowstorms and heavy grey skies like no other band. Compared to the might of Dark Medieval Times (see previous post), The Forest Is My Throne is still embryonic in some ways. One can more clearly hear from which bands Satyr, joined by Frost as a session member at this stage, has taken influence, but already his songwriting shows an innate skill for building atmospheres and combining majesty with furious rawness. Soundwise, the demo is nothing short of excellent; the drum sound is a bit flat, but the guitars are sharp, thin and vicious, and Satyrs’ croaking voice is superbly malignant.
Included on Satyricons’ side is a bonus track recorded in ’95 called Night Of The Triumphator, which according to the liner notes by Satyr is a “tribute to some of those old bands” who laid the foundation to the genre black metal. A crudely thrashing song with crudely explicit lyrics is a fitting tribute where second wave black metal meets the thrashing of first wave bands like Venom, Sodom, Poison, Bathory etc.
All in all, The Forest Is My Throne/Yggdrasill is an essential piece of Norwegian black metal history. It is Satyricons’ part which makes this a great release removed from that context, but both parts of the disc are an integral part of the history of the genre.