A Few Notes on the SATYRICON & MUNCH Exhibition
The last couple of times that yours truly traveled through Norway’s capital city, more specifically back in June, my schedule did not leave me with enough time to pay the splendid new MUNCH museum a visit in order to check the “Satyricon & Munch” art exhibition out, but I am happy to report that this sorry state of affairs has now been remedied and that my wife and I spent a few hours there on a warm afternoon in July. The uniquely gifted Satyricon have continually evolved and pushed musical boundaries ever since the early nineties, and not only have they released landmark albums but also carved out a musical niche of their own. Whenever I reflect on what Satyr and Frost have brought to the black metal table (and that of music in general) for three decades, my favorite quote from Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” comes to mind: “To define is to limit”.
Now, the idea of having Satyricon construct a soundtrack (or provide a musical score, if you will) to complement and work in tandem with thirteen graphic works by world-famous artist Edvard Munch sounds both enticing, intriguing, and hugely original. The truth is that it is much more than that; it is exceptionally powerful and a creative triumph in every sense of the word. While I do not wish to reveal too much as ideally speaking everyone should go and see and experience it for themselves with an open mind and no preconceived notions, a few details are in order. Imagine a darkened room that is perfectly suited for contemplation where a pulsating, dynamic, trance-inducing, and deeply emotive 56-minute piece by Satyricon underlines and emphasizes the moods and feelings that course through a select number of Munch’s works, be they lithographs or paintings. Deep-seated anxiety, guilt, melancholy, death, loss, unbearable loneliness, lust, yearning, and even a sense of the magical and surreal are just a few of the vivid images and topics that “Satyricon & Munch” conjures up and revolves around. We were utterly consumed by the aura of the whole thing and rarely have I felt such a spine-tingling sensation in the company of either Satyricon’s past outputs or the various Munch-related exhibitions that I have had the pleasure to attend earlier on, which is to say that the synthesis achieved here and the way in which the blackened musical suite enhances the strong, intense, and intensely personal content of these specific strokes of genius by Munch and vice versa is simply immaculate and without parallel. From claustrophobic and occasionally oppressive to something slightly earthier and less dense, Satyricon’s score covers quite a bit of ground and is exquisitely crafted. Words such as eerie, unnerving, terrifying, heartfelt, and cathartic come to mind, and one does not walk away from this one-hour tour de force without having felt its emotional pull and stunning impact. How can something that howls out in pain be so overwhelmingly beautiful? This is one event and experience that this writer will never forget. Magnificent, memorable, and moving are the keywords here, so make sure you pay “Satyricon & Munch” a visit the next time you find yourself in Oslo before the exhibition ends in late August. On a final note, the band’s monumental composition is available via Bandcamp and is unarguably one of their most inspired and inspiring offerings to date, which is saying something. If you want depth, substance, meaning, and something that tells you about the human condition by means of sound, look no further than this one.