Emperor

Picture of Emperor

In The Nightside Eclipse

Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse ©1994 Century Black
1. Into The Infinity Of Thoughts
2. The Burning Shadows Of Silence
3. Cosmic Keys To My Creations & Times
4. Beyond The Great Vast Forest
5. Towards The Pantheon
6. The Majesty Of The Night Sky
7. I Am The Black Wizards
8. Inno A Satana
9. A Fine Day To Die
10. Gypsy

Probably the most infamous of the black metal legions of Scandanavia (mostly for reasons having little to do with music), Emperor finally releases a stateside album to demonstrate what all the fuss is about. But first, the disclaimer. These guys are rich with talent, but seriously devoid of conscience. A glance at the lyric sheet shows great skill in writing poetic, dark words, but the constant "praise the dark lord and spill blood and spread sadness" nonsense gets old. Good thing that the singer's troll screeches renders the words unintelligible.

That aside, Emperor is indeed amazing. Mixing their hyperspeed black metal with symphonic keyboards, Emperor create a landscape of winter and darkness. You can almost hear the pagans' horses thundering o'er yonder horizon in the moonlight. "I am the Black Wizards" is a perfect example of what these lads do best. Blazing guitars create a melodic flow, keyboards add a classical lush base, and the vocals are mixed in low (thank goodness...one problem with many black metal bands is putting the distracting screeching too far in front of the music). Most of the songs fit this mold. They slow down the tempo only occasionally, yet seldom become monotonous like their imitators.

If you don't mind evil lyrics, this is a good start to dive into black metal. If you're already into the scene, this review is pointless because you already have this album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1997

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Hordanes Land Split W/ Enslaved

Emperor - Hordanes Land Split W/ Enslaved ©1994 Century Black
Emperor:
1. I Am The Black Wizards
2. Wrath Of The Tyrant
3. Night Of The Graveless Souls
4. Cosmic Keys To My Creation & Times
Enslaved
5. Slaget I Kogen Bortenfor
6. -Epilog
7. Slaget
8. Allfaor Ooinn
9. Balfar
10. Andi Fara
11. Prologr

This infamous split CD between two of the most notoroius Norwegian extreme metal bands is what I would call a good developmental snapshot of the two artists. Between the two, you get a solid idea of these bands when enthusiasm and energy was more important than pretension of supreme art. On the Emperor portion of the CD, their attack is only slightly marred by the production, which is somewhat fuzzy. However, I believe that the fuzz guitar sound was integral to the sound of early Emperor. Naturally, "I am the Black Wizards", which is the band's ultimate theme, is featured as the opening track. It's a little less grand than the version that appears on In the Nightside Eclipse but still quite good. The following three tracks are less interesting on a whole. The enthusiasm is intact but it lacks the atmosphere and intrigue of later Emperor.

Meanwhile, Enslaved goes about their business of their unique "Viking" inspired metal with great ability and simply blows Emperor right off this split CD. Though speedy and harsh like black metal, Enslaved's usage of varying instrumentation, orchestration of keyboards, and vocal afflections put them in a different category. Though the guitar is even fuzzier and non-distinct than Emperor, it is still effective in transmitting the emotion and intent of the song. There is a certain relevance to Bathory in the theme and atmosphere of the album, though Enslaved doesn't tangibly have much else in common with them. Regardless, their complex and epic songs make this split CD a must-have.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/1999

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Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk

Emperor - Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk ©1997 Century Black
1. Al Svartr (the Oath)
2. Ye Entrancemperium
3. Thus Spake The Night Spirit
4. Ensorcelled By Khaos
5. The Loss And Curse Of Reverence
6. The Acclamation Of Bonds
7. With Strength I Burn
8. The Wanderer
9. In Longing Spirit
10. Opus A Satana

After a three year abscence from any major recorded output, Emperor returns (pardon the Celtic Frost pun) with another full-length platter of their black metal fodder. Since their drummer Faust is now sitting in a jail cell, they also have a new member (or two...I can't really recall). How this changes things, of course, will be up to the listener.

Probably the most noticable difference is the variation in vocals, ranging from whispered mantras to classic black metal screams to Arcturus-like clean vocal chants. Thankfully this adds a newer dimension to the music. Their actual songwriting is still quite similar to their previous full-length In the Nightside Eclipse, drawing a bit more on the classical influence and throwing in more keyboard interludes. My only gripe on that is their keyboard sometimes only sounds slightly better than the Casio my brother tinks on. That is especially true in their classical remake of "Opus a Satana" (it was released in black metal version as "Inno a Satana" on the last album). While the idea is cool, the keyboards sound cheap. Perhaps even black metallists who can summon the darkest powers of the universe have studio budget problems.

That aside, I actually enjoy this album a bit more than the last one, if nothing else because it employs variety in the music. The CD also includes a bonus CD-rom video track which shows a video you'll never catch on VH-1 and gives a nice visual for the music.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1997

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Live In Frostland

Emperor - Live In Frostland ©1997 BM 66 (bootleg)
1. The Loss And Curse Of Reverance
2. Ye Entrancemperium
3. Thus Spake The Nightspirit
4. I Am The Black Wizard
5. With Strength I Burn
6. Night Of The Gravelss Soul/Ensorcelled By Khaos
7. The Majesty Of The Nightsky
8. A Fine Day To Die (Bathory)
9. Inno A Satana
10. Witches Sabbath
11. Ancient Queen
12. The Usurper

I don't think there's a band in the world who really appreciates people recording and then selling live bootlegs of their shows. Generally the poor sound quality, lousy packaging and so forth only harms the band's perceived image, rather than help. Live in Frostland is one of those type of bootleg CDs that suffers from a thin sound quality. Though those knowledgable with the band's music will very easily pick out and identify the songs, the overall mush is grating at best. Worse yet, there are times when peoples' conversations are nearly as loud as the band. Chances are the guy recording this in his stealth was wandering through the crowd trying to find a decent spot. The performance, apparently recorded in Finland judging from Ihsahn's commentary, is reasonable though. The band doesn't seem to stray too far off from studio versions of the songs and the energy of the band is well intact. The last three songs are early demo recordings, presumably from Wrath of the Tyrants or other early tapes. I suppose a super hardcore fan of Emperor would be into digging up a copy of this bootleg for whatever reason inspires hardcore fans of any band to purchase literally everything. But for the rest of the world, do yourself a favor and avoid this.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1999

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IX Equilibrium

Emperor - IX Equilibrium ©1999 Candlelight
1. Curse You All Men!
2. Decrystallizing Reason
3. An Elegy Of Icaros
4. The Source Of Icon E
5. Sworn
6. Nonus Aequilibrium
7. The Warriors Of Modern Death
8. Of Blindness & Subsequent Seers

The main purpose for IX Equilibrim to exist is solely for snotty little record reviewers such as myself to finally be able to use the line "The Emperor has no clothes". Or strong songs. Or identity as established as it was a couple years ago.

So, after listening to this forty-four minute exercise in "Well, we gotta do a record now...let's slap something together", I am now convinced that Emperor's inspiration has long since faded. IX Equilibrium is a back to their roots type event and generally when you see that blurb of info, you know you're in for it. Many mistakes abound here: haphazard riffs that just seemed written twenty minutes before the recording, momentary symphonic keyboard parts pasted on without any sense of flow within the song, and Ishahn's vocals being way too forward in the mix. One of the things I always liked about Emperor in the past is that the shrieking is behind the onslaught of music, causing great mystery and utilizing the voice as yet another instrument. Here he sounds like any other raspy grumpy vocalist and shreds any possible atmosphere. Quite frankly, bands like Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortum have taken over the throne of devastating atmospheric chaotic black metal. If, for some reason, you were excited about Emperor's latest album, might I suggest you check into To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire instead?

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/1999

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Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise

Emperor - Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise ©2001 Candlelight
1. The Eruption
2. Depraved
3. Empty
4. The Prophet
5. The Tongue Of Fire
6. In The Wordless Chamber
7. Grey
8. He Who Sought Fire
9. Thorns On My Grave

Despite their status as one of Norway's premier black metal acts, Emperor's final few years were marked by technically proficient yet generally lackluster studio albums. Gone was the onrush of youthful black metal frenzy, replaced with impressive musical chops. In fact, by the time Emperor recorded Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise, it can be argued these three musicians were some of the best in Norway's metal scene. Unfortunately, the ability to play difficult material doesn't necessarily translate into a good record, as Prometheus aptly demonstrates.

Possibly the biggest drawback to Emperor's music by 2001 was that they seemed far too cerebral for their own good. This album sounds like it was written by calculators and absolutely nothing from the heart. Or, more bluntly, they had a whole bunch of song parts and strung them together without actually stepping back to hear what the actual flow of the parts sounded like. There's little emotional involvement in the album, either by the listener or the musicians. Their approach had continued on the trajectory established with Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, focusing more on using keyboards for symphonic flourishes, more King Diamond-esque clean vocals and complicated guitar riffs. But, somewhere along the line the band lost their ability to really craft a memorable song. Prometheus strikes me as a record written by someone with a touch of Asperger's Syndrome.

Prometheus turned out to be Emperor's last studio album to date. It is probably a good thing they chose to disband because they had obviously painted themselves into a musical corner and were churning out less and less memorable albums each time out. Once again, another set of highly talented musicians demonstrate that sheer technical ability doesn't always translate into great music.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2011

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