Emperor: In the nightside eclipse
02/04/10 || Altmer
Back in Norway, when global warming didn’t exist yet, people still got snow in the Netherlands, and it was still cold during the winters, a quartet of grim and frostbitten metalheads, young and ambitious, got together to play metal of some form. First thrashing about, but then believing Satan was a cool thing – and a cool symbol to use. And hence black metal was born, a metal genre characterized by the sound of tin cans being banged, guitars being recorded in old churches, subsequently set fire to by mad kids that thought it would be cool to piss off Norwegian christians by burning their heritage. One such man played in Emperor, his name was Samoth, and he joined another great Norwegian young musician of the time, Ihsahn, to form a band called Emperor, henceforth known as “that band that disbanded a few years ago because their music started sucking, but did a cool reunion tour anyway”. You know, I don’t even care for anything they released after “Anthems” (although “Anthems” itself is a great, great album), but I do believe their first full-length should enter the cold, frost-covered, snow-white halls of the N… I mean class 6(66). Yeah. Fuck you all, now on to the album at hand.
9. Fantastic songs are only a handful (“I am the Black Wizards” is an amazing tune though), but everything on this album is real solid. Riffs churn and blast, drums thump around the songs like someone is dropping endless logs on top of each other, and it all fits in a neat sequence. Sometimes the tempo is slowed a bit here and there to allow the music room to breathe, but then Faust starts blasting again – and you know it’s good. Riff after tremolo-picked riff follows each other, and it’s suitably atmospheric, yet fast and brutal throughout; just the way I like my black metal. There is a bonus point for the keyboards, even though they sound MIDI’d as hell (someone recorded them on a Casio children’s keyboard or something?) because it adds a more epic and grim feel to the music, and makes it sound less monotonous. Emperor were one of the first bands to fiddle around with symphonics in their black metal. Later bands would take it to the extreme (and suck at it), but this is where symphonics were used sparingly enough to add to the song, rather than to rely on the orchestra and forget what a fucken riff sounds like! Good work, cunts.
6 It’s a 9 compared to any other black metal release of the time, but let’s be honest here – the mixing is awful, there is no fat tone to the guitar whatsoever, and I have no idea whether there is any bass. The keyboards are nice and audible, the vocals are a bit low in the mix (but I am not complaining because Ihsahn’s troll voice isn’t all that amazing). However, most of it is clear enough to make out properly, the drums and guitars actually sound like drums and guitars, and at least you can hear what is going on. It is obviously raw as hell, recorded in a church even, but that suits the atmosphere (it is black metal after all). Also, these fucks probably had no money so this is the best they could get.
8 Ihsahn doesn’t really solo, but he riffs like there is no tomorrow. Tremolo, fast, picked, nice chord progressions, engaging riffs – it’s all there. If you enjoy what black metal style guitar players have to offer (more in the way of atmosphere than technical ability) then this stuff is completely for you. There’s not much in the way for fretboard-wank lovers, but there’s all and more for those who like an atmospheric touch to their guitars.
5 Ihsahn utilizes the traditional black metal shriek. It isn’t all too fantastic actually. His vocals are low in the mix so nobody really cares. I suppose there is worse out there since it doesn’t annoy me to any extent, but it’s not really fantastic in any way either. Eh. That is probably the best way to describe it. Eh. He doesn’t really vary his vocals up either, he just monotonously squeaks like the dying entrails of a decapitated frog. It suits the music, but that’s about all it does.
6 I haven’t noticed any. But I assure you, it is probably good! Nobody will ever be able to tell though!
9 Fast, I suppose they are triggered, but the performance is spectacular nonetheless, blasting relentlessly for over 45 minutes. I suppose this kind of black metal drumming has to be your thing to get it, but I love it – it gets the job done really well, and it gives the songs a sense of urgency (there is nothing worse than black metal floating around being atmospheric). It makes the songs feel like they are going somewhere rather than existing in the infinity of thoughts, moving towards the pantheon, where the majesty of the night sky envelops them. Yeah, I just used a bunch of song titles to make this paragraph sound good. Get over it, bitch.
9. Suitably satanic. Expertly metaphorical. Incredibly pretentious. I love the cold, dark atmosphere the words give off. Man, this is an awesome album lyric-wise. If you want to piss off the Jehovah’s witnesses next door, play this album really loud. They will come bang at your door to turn it down, but you ride with the Emperor over their cold and frostbitten lands anyhow. ONE BY OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE! Fuck if that isn’t metal, folks.
9. Grim and frostbitten. This is black metal. Not very n3cro, but grim and frostbitten nonetheless. Very blue-ish. It makes me think of the gate to Minas Morgul in Lord of the Rings. I don’t know whether that is a good or a bad thing. I guess for me that is a good thing. Therefore I score it a 9. It suits the music after all.
10 Black metal style, and legible. Fuck yeah, a top-notch logo, recognizable as the band itself. This is what logos should look like, not that Darkthrone-esque logo that makes it look like a rat puked on the front cover of your album.
7 Lyrics. Very grim and necro landscape pictures. It is pretty cool actually. The band is on the back cover, in corpsepaint. It looks a bit silly, but the imagery in the book, especially with the grim reaper image, is really well done. Also there are a lot of misspellings in the lyrics as I recall correctly. English, anyone?
Overall and ending rant
It may not seem like much, but with such fantastic songs, the understated instrumental work reaches new heights of awesome. This isn’t an album where the band shows off at all, but they team up to form an atmosphere in which you can indulge. And it really works, because you feel shivers while listening to this album. It’s that good. It won’t be remembered as the pinnacle of “look, this band played better than Yngwie Fapsteen”, but it is a classic in the world of black metal. It sounds creepy, evil, and dark, and it will sound like that forevermore. I dig, good ladies and sirs, I dig very fucken much.
- Released: 1994
- Label: Candlelight Records
- Website: Emperor MySpace
- Ihsahn: vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Samoth: guitars
- Tchort: bass
- Faust: drums
- 01. Into the Infinity of Thoughts
- 02. The Burning Shadows of Silence
- 03. Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times
- 04. Beyond the Great Vast Forest
- 05. Towards the Pantheon
- 06. The Majesty of the Night Sky
- 07. I am the Black Wizards
- 08. Inno a Satana