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Sophisticated. Black Metal. Art! - 94%

LuoaR, February 15th, 2014

THIS is the album that made Emperor the Black Metal gods that they are today. All of their albums can be traced to this point with some common factors. While In the Nightside Eclipse was a great album in its own right, I believe that Ihsahn & The boys were still honing in their skills. Now, don't get me wrong that album is a masterpiece, and set standards too but this album is what got them on the map.

The main difference between this album and its predecessor is downright difficult to say. On one hand it is faster and more brutal in the drum department. Trym is a massive improvement over Faust (which is saying a lot), and his jazzy hands and double kicks are fit for the music. But then again, I must say, in the guitar department, ITNE was heavier and more crunch-distorted. I've heard it suggested to me that this album is more guitar-driven, but I fail to see how. I think this and ITNE have about the same amount of guitar-drive. The guitars on Anthems don't have your typical Black Metal buzzsaw sound, being instead more like orchestrated distortion. As far as the riffs go, there is hardly any simplicity to be found. There are so many moods: you can go from sad and melancholic to angry and hateful to beautiful in a manner of minutes. But most of the time it is speed kills though not to say there arent any atmospheric slow moments. Such class!

Vocals are thankfully better on this release, although Ihsahn still sounds like an emo mallcore kid trying to sing Black Metal. (I never was that big on his vocals) Though this isn’t really a problem, considering he has a really high pitched voice. The music is expertly produced by the genius Pytten, although I must say the vocals are too low in the mix! And I Can’t even hear the bass. Though Emperor hasn’t exactly been known to have a stable bassist position and now i can probably see why. Lastly, are of course, the keyboards. Like I said above, it has been suggested to me that this album is more guitar-driven than Nightside, meaning there is less keyboard use here. I fail to see that actually because there are a lot of parts that have keyboards, while not annoying, could be better off without them if it were truly more "guitar-driven." I must say though that the keyboards here are more versatile, whereas in the previous album they were mostly angel choirs here you still have that, but in addition there are string and horn sections.

The atmosphere on this album is probably what I can hear some (NOTE: SOME) people, mostly black metal enthusiasts, complaining about. This album is dark and evil, don't get me wrong, but it isn't ugly or even grim in the slightest bit. The evilness that this work conjures is more of a gothic, seductive, sorrowful or beautiful type instead of traditional black metal's use of minimalism and brutality to get the evilness done. No, my dear friends, this is evilness set about due to complexity and the beauty of evil. This is utterly sophisticated black metal art. Basically, the album starts off rather fast and brutal hits its peak around the middle then gets more beautiful and complex towards the end.

I don't normally like Black Metal done this way, but this is Emperor we're talking about. They did practically help pioneer the symphonic Black Metal sound, and like some of my other favorite albums like Transilvanian Hunger, Strength and Anger and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, this set the standards and while many imitate it, none even come close. A true masterpiece and gem worth keeping folks. If you've never heard black metal before, and need a starting point, this album would do you good.

It made me question the essence of... The "E" - 68%

autothrall, December 22nd, 2011

Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk is an important album to a great many persons, and this is not now or ever going to be in question. In fact, for tens of thousands of extreme metal (and hardcore) fans, this was undoubtedly one of the first albums in the black metal genre that they had experience with, alongside Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and Dusk and Her Embrace. It arrived at a time when Emperor was the band with the most impressive momentum and potential out of the Norwegian crop, poised on the edge of a far broader success, and thus more or less NEEDED to inspire thousands of imitators and accumulate breadcrumbs on the tables of various record execs. To that extent, I don't think anyone can deny that these Anthems were working as intended. On the flip side, though, the band was so hyped by this point that they could have released a disc of ABBA covers with Ihsahn rasping the lyrics and it would have sated the starved bellies of their overflowing bandwagon of followers.

Personally, I found this to be a monumental disappointment after In the Nightside Eclipse had soaked my mind and terrified me for a number of years. I imported the European edition, and spent time absorbing the artwork and lyrics before even attempting to listen through the disc, discovering the well written prose of ritualistic self-empowerment which so accurately mirrors and defines the many lost souls who listen to this stuff (I'm not excluding myself). When that time arrived, though, to experience Anthems in full, blaring out my speakers, I was astonished to find that so little of the album would stick for me. Repeated spins would not yield different results, and I've now spent well over a decade scratching my head at its overwhelmingly positive reaction. Like Death's Human, or Morbid Angel's Blessed Are the Sick, it's one of those paragons of extreme metal which seems to have laid the seeds of supplication in just about everyone I know, excepting myself. Hell, I have known folks who consider this the apex of its genre...and I'm sure we all remember the various magazine polls that placed it as one of, if not THE greatest singular achievement in metal music to its day!

Bollocks, all of it. Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk might have won its spot in the hearts of many newcomers to its medium of expression, and it might indeed be a finely honed piece of work in terms of raw production value, but this in no way surpasses In the Nightside Eclipse and in truth I found it to fall short in many areas. Not the least of which is the almost complete dearth of haunted and vile atmosphere which made that debut so beloved and resonant. This is no stylistic departure, mind you. Anthems is basically a tidier, polished answer to its predecessor, with the addition of a metric ton of clean, soaring vocals which are assumed to expand the sound, but never really prove anything other than the fact that Ihsahn can actually pull them off. Lots of structured blast sequences, orchestration, and dynamic versatility are strewn throughout, and one can certainly praise Trym for his unbridled energy and importance to the band's celerity, but when there aren't that many scathing and memorable riffs to support, even he often comes off as some soulless, muscular metronome.

The main problem, as I hear it, is that with the possible exception of "Ensorcelled by Khaos", the entire first half of this album is about as impressive as watching your lawn grow. "Alsvartr (The Oath)" cycles from acoustics and hooting owl samples to whispered, self-aggrandizing narration over the onslaught of bombastic synths and circular guitar melodies. The actual note progression is playful enough, if predictable, but even the various hisses and rasps off in the distance fail to manifest the level of intimidation this was meant to represent towards the listener, so when the King Diamond wails and storming, blast-thunder of "Ye Entrancemperium" arrive, one is just happy that "The Oath" is over. Unfortunately, this next tune itself is pretty much a poster child for how technical performance and speed do not equivocate memorable music. All of the guitars, with the exception of the unnerving sway at around 2:00, sound like zero effort was placed in their construction, just sheer speed, and the keys and clean vocals also zip through one ear and straight out the arse.

"Thus Spake the Nightspirit" is mildly more measured and grandiose, but it too cedes into this vapid blasting, and the spikes of melodies curried through the guitars are less than ideal; and while "Ensorcelled by Khaos" tries pretty damn hard to excel with the opening tremolo riff and the somewhat catchy symphonic progression deep in its verses, it still seems to lack that tangible darkness and tyrannical violation of In the Nightside Eclipse. No, it's not until "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" and "The Acclamation of Bonds" that I felt the grasp of diabolic witchery finally wear down my senses. Ironically, a song that I described as two minutes of excellence in a six minute shell (on the Reverence EP) positively sparkles next to most of this album, it's initial blasted momentum transitioning towards an admittedly superb tremolo riff and later an almost jazzy, textured symphonic sequence. "The Acclamation of Bonds" is also worthy for the flights of racing melodies and their interplay with the ghostly keypads later in the run time, but I still would not put it against anything on the debut album.

Just when I thought the album was getting decent, of course, I was struck with the eight minute slog that is "With Strength I Burn", which showcases a lot of the clean vocal harmonies astride what must be the least interesting set of riffs on the whole album (slow and faster paced). Quite disheartening, and not in the 'good way' that I expect from an effective black metal piece. I've covered dozens if not hundreds of albums with similar songs to this: inflated to the point that they escape the wielder's hands to the clouds, only to wound up impaled on an airplane propeller. Finally, it's sad that the sweltering, dense emotions of the central guitar line and synthesizer in the closing instrumental "The Wanderer" are more memorable than about half the full length lyrical songs on the album...but that is, indeed the case.

Clearly, Emperor were firing on many cylinders when they sat down to write this material, but the strength of the band's arsenal amounts to little more than saber rattling here. Where In the Nightside Eclipse captured its fell glories in a frozen sculpture of menace, this album seems to embrace the pageantry of speed and musicianship without the impeccable undercurrent of evil. Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk was in the right place, at the right time, and I think that explains much of the veneration it received (or receives). But the music itself should no way be entitled to such admiration, because it's just not that great, no matter how fast the drums and guitars are, no matter how entwined the textures of errant melody and faux orchestration. An important album chronologically for its ability to open the rabid floodgates of fandom, but not nearly the masterwork some would have us believe. Average, surging symphonic black metal with only small glints of brighter craftmanship on the surface of its dull blade.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Avoiding the Sophmore Slump - 98%

Fitzkrieg24, November 23rd, 2011

Second albums are frequently a tough task for bands. Whether they are refining a rough sound found on their debut or forging a new direction in their music, many bands stand the risk of alienating part of their initial fan base in one way or another. Emperor was one such band. “In the Nightside Eclipse,” Emperor’s full-length debut, is generally considered a defining piece of black metal and one of the classic albums in the history of all of heavy metal. With Emperor’s second album, “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk,” the band decided to both refine their existing mastery of black metal while experimenting with slightly cleaner production values and heavier symphonic elements. What results is an incredible display of black metal, which manages to sound completely fresh while maintaining Emperor’s defining sound.

What first stands out on “Anthems” are the differences between it and “In the Nightside Eclipse,” namely its production values and symphonic elements. In comparison with their debut, Emperor’s efforts here sound less raw and more audible. That’s not to say that this album has a clean sound. Instead it’s quite the contrary, with Ihsahn’s vocals being very low in the mix and the instruments taking the forefront. Those instruments (the guitars and keyboards especially), find themselves with more definition on “Anthems,” and no longer feel like they are being used merely as a means to create atmosphere and ambience. The feeling created by the keyboards on this album is decidedly different than Emperor’s previous work, as it is used more selectively and creates a symphonic feeling compared to the constantly present tones of frost and darkness found on Emperor’s debut.

The guitar work, as previously mentioned, plays a central role on “Anthems” and is more prevalent in the mix. Ihsahn and Samoth do a phenomenal job, creating lightning fast riffs that can become quite technical at times. A big departure from their previous work is the use of guitar solos, which can be seen in “The Loss and Curse of Reverence,” and “With Strength I Burn.” Although not as technical as the solos found in other genres, Ihsahn’s soloing is very good and demonstrates a good combination of speed and emotion in his playing.

Ihsahn’s vocal performance on “Anthems” is impressive, and shows how wide his range is. Although he switches between a more “necro” style of vocalization and cleanly sung passages, this actually helps his performance. Although black metal purists show disdain for clean vocals, the cleanly sung passages on “Ye Entrancemperium,” “Thus Spake the Nightspirit,” and “With Strength I Burn” are among the best moments in any Emperor song. Ihsahn’s lyrics also show some progression from “In the Nightside Eclipse.” The lyrical content is still dark, but more poetic in nature. Although I personally prefer the lyrics on their debut, “Anthems” shows a growth in maturity and sophistication that is much appreciated.

Trym Torsen, the drummer and final new element to “Anthems,” puts forward a stellar performance. Between the blast beats of “Ye Entrancemperium” and his lightning fast fills and footwork, Trym is a tremendous improvement over previous drummer Faust. At times, however, Trym can almost be too good at drumming. Since the album’s mix is still very raw, at times the drums come to the forefront of the song and can overwhelm the rest of the composition.

Minor gripes aside, “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk” is an astounding achievement. It not only cemented Emperor’s legendary status within the black metal community, but displayed that Emperor could take some risks while still maintaining their characteristic sound. Although it may live in the shadow of “In the Nightside Eclipse,” “Anthems” fully deserves to be recognized as a masterpiece of black metal on its own merits.

A trip into the cosmos and beyond - 100%

angelripper24, September 3rd, 2010

This album is just beyond words for me. There's so much going on all over the place that it's almost too much for the average listener to bear, but for those who can appreciate the atmosphere conveyed here, Anthems is a masterpiece above and beyond not just other metal releases, but other musical recordings period. I could totally put this next to the compositions of Bach and Dark side of the moon. It's really that freaking good. Anything negative you hear about this album usually comes from people who aren't really fans of music in general and tend to prefer bands that record their stuff in a Kvlt forest aka bedroom.

Every time I put on anthems (which is about five times or more a day for the last three years) I am in awe each and every time. The music is just so beautiful and yet dark at the same time, but this is not some kind of Opeth or Agolloch album. Anthems maintains brutal levels of intensity while mixing with Ihsahn’s spacey sounding keyboards at the same time. The feel upon allowing oneself to be brutalized by this opus is that of being ejected into a space time continuum of sorts and being blasted through the universe at light speed.

Furious blast beats are everywhere. Trym is the man. Few drummers can pull of such intense blasting and throw in fills every five seconds and make it work. All this infernal beating of snares and toms goes hand in hand with the furious guitar riffs, which aren't very discernible in the mix but you can still hear the buzz well enough, and once you actually try playing the songs yourself you realize how fucking technical they are, and not just for the sake of being technical like necrophagist. While all this is going on, the keys are in the background providing a wonderful atmosphere for the whole opus. I hear a lot of people say that the keyboards aren't as prominent on this album as nightside eclipse, but I think they just aren't as loud in the mix, but trust me they're as loud as they need to be, and they're implemented perfectly.

Ihsahns vocals are not very easy to hear, and sometimes I think that was intended. Once you read the lyrics, one can interpret that the music itself is a storm of questions and hypocrisies and revelations, and Ihsahns voice is lost in this blizzard trying to be heard by the night spirit. I'm one of those people who are fascinated by the universe and the meaning of existence, and these lyrics definitely deal with that. They also deal with Satanism, but Ihsahn had no belief in any kind of deity as far as I know. Once you read some of Fredrick Nietzsche you realize that the antichrist is in all of us. Our will to do what we please, and think for ourselves.

Each song contains an albums worth of awesomeness in my opinion, but listened to from beginning to end is the way to go. From the intro, to the brutal opening track, the ups downs, peak, and ending, the intensity and beauty never wavers. Encorcelled by Khaos is definitely my second favorite track on the album next to the loss and curse of reverence. It starts off fast, then eventually it slows down and after the "dark is my call" line you enter ethereal world of astonishing beauty. Definitely one of my favorite sections of the album, and it rolls along at a middle pace until everything stops for a second leaving nothing but a guitar riff, then the drums come in with all the other instruments and after that the blasting begins. The line"the mortal forces driving me, more noble more free... Take me" always sends shivers down my spine. I also strongly believe Acclamation of bonds is an underrated track. The song iself is as epic as any of the other tracks, and the mid section of the song has some of the darkest riffs I've ever heard in black metal, and it rolls at a steady pace until there's a section with some blast beats, and then most of the instruments pause and all you hear is E chord being strummed repeatedly while a bell rings in a background, and after that the rest of the instruments sweep in and hurl you into a vortex of darkness. I don't need to say anything about with strength I burn. That song speaks for itself, and you could not have picked a better outro for such an album than "the wanderer".


I've gone through many love affairs with bands and albums but so far this one is still at the top of the list. This may sound emo but this album is very emotional and like an awesome dude said in one of the reviews down there, the lyrics come alive in the music. For those of you who enjoy psychedelic drugs, I strongly recommend putting your Jefferson Airplane records aside and giving this a spin during your trip. It’s an amazing experience

"Sophisticated Black Metal Art..." - 31%

Nightgaunt, April 16th, 2009

...My rubbery, winged ass. This, Emperor's second full-length offering, has (unfortunately) become the "face" of the band--the album that is most remembered; most talked about; most lauded. These eight tracks are the laurels on which Emperor's reputation has rested for just under a decade now….interesting that said reputation, perhaps always just a bit corpulent (as one might reasonably expect of a band that has always been as extroverted and as highly visible as Emperor), has now become as bloated and "sacred" as the cold flesh and warm memory of a recently deceased housepet. "Buttons" met her end beneath the wheels of the family's old rust-red Caravan (Sarah never was one to check her mirrors before backing out); Emperor as a respectable entity met its end under the silky, molesting caress of the rhinestone-gloved hands of overexperimentation and overexposure-and it began here. Truth be told, this is the nadir of the band's career…and with a career like Emperor's, that's saying something. Actually, "Anthems" really isn't the weakest of Emperor's albums in any single respect--it's not as haphazard and directionless as "IX Equilibrium"; not nearly as pretentious and self-serving as "Prometheus"; and, by most measures, sounds more hale (on the surface, anyway) than its predecessor, "In the Nightside Eclipse." No, it's more like the other albums all caricature certain aspects that this album combines in concert. You've all most likely heard the expression that something is "greater than the sum of its parts", yes? In this case, the inverse is true. The instruments don't work well together, the various passages don't build up momentum or coalesce into memorable songs, and the individual songs don't establish any kind of flow or real interplay between themselves, despite the fact that they do all sound like they belong on one album (with the exception of "The Wanderer", which was written entirely by Samoth and hence doesn't fit in quite as well).

Recorded in late '96 at Grieghallen, Anthems is one of many examples of the rather peculiar (and sometimes unfortunate) sounds for which Pytten and company have become known over the years. By most material (read: monetary) measures, Anthems is endowed with a stronger production than its much more well-written predecessor--guitars are distinct and reasonably crisp, percussion is clear and forceful, synth sounds slightly more expensive, and vocals have more presence. As so often happens, the bass gets the shaft, but it matters little in this case, as the instrument never does a single thing of note on the album. However, although the sounds of (most of) the individual instruments have been bolstered somewhat, the mix remains a serious flaw…Nearly everything is integrated at exactly the same level and at nearly the same volume. Everything is even--too even--and this creates several problems. First and foremost, this monodimensional approach has the effect of subjugating the rest of the instruments to the loudest and least subtle of their number, which is in this case the drum track--Trym spends most of the album blasting at top speed (whether the moment calls for him to do so or not), and his enthusiastic but unimaginative performance quickly becomes both annoying and distracting, especially when contrasted with the rather tame and wishy-washy nature of the other performances. The guitar, synth, and vocals compete for what limited "listening space" is left. It's a competition which doesn't really have a clear winner; although I'd say the vocals tend to get the short end of the stick (which isn't so bad, really, as it does help to spare us somewhat from Isahn's awkward singing voice). This poorly thought-out (if it was thought out at all) mix is part of what I mean when I say that the instruments don't seem to work together; more important, however, is the more complicated realm of songwriting and arrangement.

If the album's problems were all purely cosmetic, the character of this review might be a bit different--for after all, there is no shortage of well-written albums clothed in production jobs that might be described as sloppy, over/underdone, amateurish, or any number of other undesirable adjectives. Unfortunately, the music is nearly as one-dimensional as the production.

The guitar riffs and passages are a bit more uptempo and pronounced than on the previous album. While most of them don't lack for (kinetic) energy, most of them do lack subtlety or any really evocative qualities--they seem a bit like souped-up cast-offs from previous works. Occasionally a brief (keyword) theme with real feeling behind it will present itself, such as the intro to "Ye Entrancemperium." This little theme is probably the single most memorable utterance from the string section on the entire album, having a half-crazed, insistent quality…and it wasn't even written by Emperor (rather, by an odd little fellow by the name of Euronymous), funnily (or not) enough. I suppose the significance of my complaints here can be tempered somewhat with the fact that the guitars don't really seem to have been intended to carry the album, anyway…rather, they seem to have been intended to cohabit on equal terms with the synth. Ah, the synth. The syrupy synth. The intrusive, unnecessary, ridiculous synth. From the hokey "trumpet" at the conclusion of the intro track and onwards, the album is vexed with tasteless synth. Not quite baroque, and not quite ambient, its "majestic" Casio tones will occasionally burst forth in some ill-conceived little spat of soloesque eloquation (what in Cthulhu's name, I ask you, are those fruity chirruping notes in the middle of "Entrancemperium" supposed to be?), but most of the time they vacillate betwixt smothering on one hand and pedomorphizing on the other what little atmosphere the lackluster strings can manage to muster over and above the nonsensical masturblasting from the drum kit. To give him due credit, Trym does seem to realize that something is amiss (of course, it's hard not to get that sort of feeling when one's own performance at times sounds to have been recorded for a different album than that on which one is playing), and tries to vary his blasting a bit--sometimes accentuating the hi-hat, at others the cymbals (which is a pretty cool effect for the first 10 seconds or so, actually), and at still others going for a more "equal opportunity blast"---but nearly always with the blasting. He only slows down when a blastbeat would sound so out of place that no amount of "avante-gardes", "shockingly originals", "cutting-edge darings", or any other number of megazine-borne superlatives could excuse it. One might say that he seems to have no setting between "very high" and "not quite off."

Wandering in and out of the teeming warren of oafish blasting, harebrained synth noodlings, and half-baked guitar structures like a lost child through some nighted industrial burrough, Ihsahn's often smothered vocals range from his always-serviceable shriek (which took on its slightly "throatier" character here) to his increasingly ubiquitous clean vocals. While it's true that there are many (metal) singers far worse than he is, Ihsahn, like so many extreme metal vocalists, has rather a reedy voice, and no real business attempting clean singing. He seems aware of his limits and doesn't try to soar beyond them for the most part, at least; instead adopting a forgettable sing-songy approach, as on "With Strength I Burn." There are a lot of spoken sections on the album, as well, and not a one of them works well--Ihsahn and his shy-sounding and vaguely philosophical recitation is inevitably lost behind some other facet of the performance, usually a mincing wash of synth or some half-assed guitar lead. And now we come again to my earlier complaint…the failure of the album's components to "gel" in any significant way is not, after all, simply a matter of the way it is produced. The various components simply don't work together very well, or at times even at all. Indeed, not only do they fail to compliment each other; they often outright compete. This is not good arrangement, never has been, and never will be. Very likely what we can observe here is the beginning of that musical schism between Ihsahn and Samoth that would eventually widen to a veritable chasm. Because the instruments don't usually work well together, the musical passages follow suit, and what results is a collection of songs in which each fails to build up to any kind of climax; an album devoid of tension or any real dynamism. Look at "Alsvartr (The Oath)"--a half-hearted acoustic lick is swamped by boorish synth, nature sounds, and some arbitrary electric guitar warbling, only to eventually erupt forth into a cute little "trumpet" /vocal fanfare that sounds like something Blind Guardian would've (very wisely) left on the cutting room floor. The whole album is written like that-all melodrama, no drama.

So, what do people see (hear, rather) in this? I don't know, to tell the truth, but it certainly has no shortage of fans. Indeed, I must confess that I can't shake the impression I've had for many years now that "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk" has through some arcane and/or accidental series of events come to be something of a "token appreciation receptacle" for those having a cursory or nonexistent interest in black metal (if you doubt me, you have only to look around you)…not that they're the ONLY ones, of course, but a good portion of them. Again, the question…why? Well, I often hear that the album is "epic." I suppose that would depend on one's conception of "epic." To once again give due credit, Emperor has avoided the pitfall of only playing at one speed on the album…every now and again, they'll lapse into a brief slower section, as in the doomier bit at the tail-end of "Thus Spake the Nightspirit", or that beloved-by-many little spoken bit in "With Strength I Burn." Of course, these slow sections are generally as inept as their more volant counterparts, but it's the thought that counts, I suppose. So, is that it? Is it this vulgar contrast between fast and slow that makes it "epic?" Intense; relaxed; trickle of renewed intensity. Is that it? If so, most of you have probably had bowel movements more "epic" than this.

It's a shame. Emperor is or was capable of so much better than this, and they deserve to be remembered for the portion of their work wherein their potential was realized. Hell, there are even brief flashes of potential here. For example, "Ensorcelled by Khaos", with its openly recursive structure, is a fleeting bit of genuine dynamic that could be a solid song if the synth were reigned in (the faux choir is a serviceable bit of texture; the keening "ambience" and the unpiano need to go) and the tempo were varied a bit more. By and large, however, what we have here is a real JFK of mid-nineties extreme metal. Take that as you will.

Standout: Ensorcelled by Khaos

Drawn Towards These Lands Again… - 95%

KhaosNokturno, November 3rd, 2007

The long journey starts with a return - through the gates of Death to revelations once abhorred, yet lucid before the eyes of the one who reentered. Shall a circle be completed? Indeed, but still to reopen his eyes - whence he shall behold his blindness.
Fueled by dare and the presence of the Nightspirit - with whom the journey commences - the now lone rider engages in a quest unto the infinite realms of the yet unknown, and of that which shall eternally remain unfathomed. Through the unavoidable questions of the nihilist individual, through longing comes the end within obscurity - beyond the Grey Havens of the soaring cliffs.

This is pure beauty, as the shimmer of the moon above the rim of the mountains. I fail to settle down on a single term to define the atmosphere of the album, as themes range from the realms of the astral to Faustian and metaphysic compositions. Uncountable layers of sound interweave to create a complex lattice, bearing hidden elements of sound which are gradually unveiled at each spin, granting the listener another key - to yet unlock the door of another maze. As I discover new details, I still ponder how many of them are still left unfound out there among the lyrics and music.

The album bursts into the clear and silent night of “Alsvartr” and commences with the galloping “Ye Entrancemperium” which rides on as a cavalcade through a thunderstorm. Rapidly changing riffs and drum beats crush you as melodies sweep in among them, giving a divine touch to all. It is as if the grand forces of nature, fair and wrathful were invoked unto tape in the course of this recording.

What’s nice in the whole arrangement of the album is that the lyrical theme, to speak, the beauty in the pain of he who ever yearns actually comes to life in the music. As I have already stated and I shall elaborate further in this review, the music changes rapidly and in a surprisingly smooth manner, facing its rise and immediate fall in accord with the lyrical narrative. And I do not refer to the closing track only. Seldom do I get to hear anything so fantastically crafted in both dimensions. An attempt to recall the tortured beauty of “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk” on following piece “Equilibrium - IX” didn’t result in such a brilliant output - since it was that lyrical harmony that the latter lacked in its rather static themes and introverted notion of violence.

Speaking about the lyrics - these may seem solely nihilistic at glance (“I sought a plague for those who smiled at walls in humble fear”track 4; “Honor, commended no longer as virtue yet shall be extolled by light’s demise”track 5), yet hidden among the carefully chosen words and pompous verses are the deep soulscapes of their writer. Ihsan doesn’t seem to be afraid of breaking the emotional limits of his songs beyond the now rather clichéd black metal misanthropy. Just like nature, fragile within its might and complexity, they are the soul of an entity sad and proud, young and old which is Emperor. The voice in which they are uttered changes according to their content - ranging from whispers of deep yearning and belligerent harsh vocals to “heroic” cleans at the landmark closing track.

This recording is unlike everything else - it grips you hard even in places where, despite the close match they hold with the Emperors in my playlist, bands like Arcturus somehow make my mind wander away from the music. Just to give you a clue of what I’m talking about, I think I should mention “Ensorcelled by khaos” and “The loss and the curse of reverence”. Both of the tracks gave me quite a hard time back then when I was a black metal newbie, thus becoming two memorable favorites. The former features a dissonant riff accompanied by synth horns or clarinets that don’t really show at the first time. The latter slowly builds up its tension - higher and higher toward a climax, wherein strings come up to the front just to be replaced with something similar to the opening piccicato pattern but more melodic. These come to accompany a short spoken part somehow criticized as being a bit cheesy, but I reckon it is just in place to serve the whole emperial ceremony. The song subsequently breaks into a sweeping waltz as if to celebrate the pompous words of Ihsan. As mentioned before, I was quite impressed by the way in which the lyrics and the music of this album synchronize with each other: holding mutual conversations, or filling up expressional parts that the other fails to achieve. I find it quite rare in black metal or metal as a genre wherein, for better or for worse, the music comes as one monolithic chunk of sound.

I will not move on to the summary without saying a few words regarding the album’s closing track. But I need say no more than enthrone it as one of the best moments among all vast emperial creations. “With Strength I Burn” follows the slight sink caused by track 6, which I reckon being one of the weaker moments on this album. As if to conclude the masterpiece, and as recollections of a long journey, the music takes turns among the trademark combinations of its sound: storm like black metal, bitter-sweetly touching melodrama and theatrical spoken parts. I shall say no more. I do want to leave thou unprejudiced. Just listen to the music and read the lyrics while doing so. The songs in this album don’t really shine out till their lyrics are thoroughly read. Even when they are, it takes a little time until they really catch, but they’re in forever when they do.

Weak points: as above stated, “The Acclamation Bonds”. The song itself is not that bad but there’s nothing too unique about it among the other songs in this album, rendering a bit of a 5:54 redundancy. Its lyrical concept too is not as clear and consistent as on the other tracks. Furthermore, if you want to hear and get acquainted with pure black metal this is not the album for you. Clear production comparing to previous releases and complex riffery doesn’t remind anything of the original agenda of this genre in its production of dirtyfilthy sound. If you want to know better about black metal, listen to previous achievements of this band or earlier acts as Burzum or Darkthrone.

Still, back then I was a late newcomer to Norwegian black metal and this was the first release in the genre that I’ve ever purchased. Previously holding only a shallow and unobligatory relationship with the dark realms of doom metal, I must admit that this gave a 180 degrees turn to my whole perspective toward extreme music and inspired my writing deeply. This is a complex piece of art for a beginners purchase but I do not regret it, since it gave me the ability to fully appreciate quality black metal and distinguish it from other blueprint junk which unfortunately became so common in the recent years. I highly recommend it to any of you newcomers out there. It is a truly rewarding challenge and a magnificent piece of art.

All hail the Emperors. - 90%

woeoftyrants, April 13th, 2007

With their first few releases, full-length or otherwise, Emperor solidified their status as the most progressive of their kind, on a level of musicality. The single "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" gave a glimpse of what was to come; a far more intense and epic beast, on a level of its own. Anthems seperates itself from the band's debut album in many ways; the keyboards now serve an integral part of the band's sound, instead of background ambience. Pompous, sweeping crescendos of brass and strings give all of the songs a distinct medieval atmosphere, and the lyrics only help to aid in this. Trym's entrance to the band certainly brings a more extreme and chaotic edge to Emperor's sound; this is the same guy who played on Enslaved's album Frost, so you know it's gonna be crazy. The majority of his works are blast-beat centered, but this isn't regular mid-paced blasting seen in most black metal. We're talking insanely fast superhuman drumming. One listen to "Ensorcelled by Khaos" or the end of "Ye Entrancemperium" will show you the new ground that has been broken.

As a songwriting unit, the band have stepped up tremendously. Things are chaotic and a swirling, high-speed haze at first listen, but most listeners will come to find that Samoth and Ihsahn are playing some fairly technical riffs, especially on "Thus Spake the Nightspirit." Both guitarists exchange dissonant-sounding octave harmonies, and the tremolo riffs ascend chromatic scales for a maddening and climatic feel. Truth be told, there are only a handful of moments that even remotely resemble old Emperor, as the band opted for a more sophisticated and epic sound. The only thing that will really resemble the band's debut album is "The Acclamation of Bonds," which is driven forward by pounding double bass and flurries of speed-picked power chords. One other noticeable difference in the band's approach is the fact that the guitars are only secondary to the keyboards; this is generally frowned upon in black metal, but the keyboard lines tend to purvey the atmosphere better in this case, not the guitars. "With Strength I Burn" is a perfect example, where the keyboards play the main role up until the ending. Also a thing of notice are the band's cultivated ability to write songs of narrative proportions; riffs are rarely repeated in cycles, favored in a sort of thing where the lyrics do the talking for the songs. Speaking of which, Ihsahn's lyrics are nothing like that of what Mortiis wrote. This is where the classic Emperor style of writing began, and is shown wonderfully on "The Loss and Curse of Reverence." These lyrics may be a bit too snooty and pretentious for some black metal fans, but the change is certainly welcomed in the context of the music.

Ihsahn's performance is also a step up. His voice is more throaty and clearer than previously, and it's a miracle that you can actually hear him in the songs. Some clean vocals are attempted at points through the album; some are decent, some not so decent. The spoken word passage in "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" is somewhat cheesy, but the clean vocals in "With Strength I Burn" are some of the best clean vocals ever put down by Ihsahn.

Trym's performance, jaw-dropping as it may be, borders on mind-numbing. He takes a bit too much enthusiasm for the blast beats, "Ensorcelled by Khaos" serving as a prime example. When he's not pounding his snare into a shattered pulp, the bass drums take a heavy beating; and that's not always a good thing. Constant streams of sixteenth notes run underneath the music, but it becomes repetitive fast. Trym certainly has some chops, but everything is too one-way for my taste. To me, drums were never really important in black metal, even in the chaotic, high-speed stuff. But apparently, Trym doesn't think so. He's not quite as bad as Hellhammer, but there are certainly some borderline attention-whore moments. Some of the fills are kind of random and lame, and don't really serve their purpose of transitioning the music through its phases. The man certainly is a force to be reckoned with, though.

And once again, I have some problems with the production. It's much clearer than In the Nightside Eclipse, but the guitars are fairly hard to decipher at points due to the veil of the keyboards and the drums, which are entirely too loud in the mix. Things get a bit too clusterfucked during the faster moments, so all of this is hard to take in upon initial listens. But, like most black metal, it only serves the atmospheric charm of the music, and is an acquired taste.

Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk may not be Emperor's "best" album, but certainly is their most evolved before going off the deep end with IX Equilibrium. If really ferocious but sophisticated and epic metal is your cup o' tea, give this album a listen.

One of the Best Mainstream BM CDs Ever. - 92%

PseudoGoatKill, July 27th, 2004

Anthems is one of the best Symphonic black metal CD's out on the market. Filled with an eerie atmosphere that gave me the feeling that I was walking in a dense forest during the thick of night, this cd has calmed my soul, only to quickly crush it, and then calm it down again.

The talent on this cd is absolutely amazing when it's done correctly. Don't get me wrong I love the screams and rapid playing that Emperor does on this cd, but there are two songs on here that feel like fillers to me. “The Acclamation of Bonds” and “In Longing Spirit” are the two songs on this album that in my opinion could have been left off the cd. The songs themselves are not bad. The guitars, synthesizer, and drums are excellent and so are the vocals. The biggest problem I have with these two songs is that I always get the feeling that I’ve listened to them before on other tracks that were a lot better. To put it bluntly these two tracks are the weakest.

Other than those two songs this cd is one of the best black metal cd’s out there. The best tracks are the ones that incorporate the clean/melodic vocals into the songs. Stand out tracks are;

Alsvartr (The Oath): This is the opening track of the cd. The entire song is filled with a nocturnal like atmosphere that slowly builds to the climax that leads into “Ye Entrancemperium”
Both songs seemingly go together, with Alsvartr being the calmer half of Ye Entrancemperium’s brutal side. The guitars are fast, and an amazing display of talent is shown. The vocals are furious and insanely quick, as are the drums.
Thus Spake the Nightspirit is another brilliant song on the cd. The biggest highlight of this song is when Ihsahn goes from the trademark black metal scream growl to a cleaner more melodic set of vocals towards the end of the song. Combined with chilling effects of the guitar and keyboard and the rhythm of the drums this song instantly sends a chill down my spine.
The best song on this entire album, the one song that displays Emperor’s full talent is With Strength I Burn. Clocking in at 8:17 this song displays all sides of Emperor. The heavy side, the fast side, the atmospheric side, and the melodic side. If this were the only song I liked on the CD I would still give it a review of a 60. Yes this song is that good.

Should you buy this album? Fuck yes you should! Which version should you get? Will I got the re-release with the live version of The Loss and the Curse of Reverence used for $5.99. It truely depends on if you want the original, or the re-release. Either way you must get this cd.

The crowning glory of Emperial Art - 100%

Lord_Jotun, January 4th, 2004

"Emperor performs Sophisticated Black Metal Art exclusively!", boldly states a note on the back cover of the band's long awaited second full-length "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk". A proud declaration of identity that the music featured in the album has no problem living up to. If "In The Nightside Eclipse" had been the band's insuperable achievement when their music was still rooted to more traditional Black Metal, "Anthems To The Welking At Dusk" witnesses Emperor taking off to reach incommensurable heights of musicianship, originality and general brilliance.
With the addition of machine gun drummer Trym Torson and bassist Alver in the line-up, Samoth and Ihsahn have found what they were looking for to take Emperor where they wanted to: beyond any boundaries, daring anyone else to follow them.
The progression shown on the new opus is enormous in every category, and the album is also graced by a much more suitable sound. Gone are the buzzy and trebly days of early Black Metal, for this is where the band introduced us their well known "wall of sound", an unique combination of overpowering layers of guitars and keyboards with the drums and bass more in the background and, most oddly, the vocals - especially the clean ones - pretty hidden in the mix. It sounds unorthodox and it certainly takes several listens to be fully appreciated (the very complex structures of the songs don't help the stranded listener either), but enhances the spirit of the band's music to such a level that it's impossible to doubt that the band spent several hours in the studio trying to create this particular atmosphere. This sound is made to drench and saturate, and manages to sound overwhelming even at low volumes. It must be heard to be really understood.

The album opens with a rather long and unique intro, namely "Al Svartr (The Oath)". Forget all the keyboard / guitar only intros you've heard, because this one features ALL the band's instruments as well as vocals, plus a series of sound effects and other studio tricks such as haunting guitar feedbacks and filtered vocals, to summon a cold, nocturnal atmosphere. It begins with a quiet clean guitar melody but soon becomes much darker and menacing, and as the song progresses more elements join in, until the climax reaches a peak when Ihsahn proudly screams "O' Nightspirit, I am at one with Thee! I am the Eternal Power! I am... THE EMPEROOOOOR!!" Right after this, synth horns announce the Emperor's arrival, soon joined by guitars and drums, and the song becomes a kind of triumphal march; Ihsahn sings the last verse, but instead of the last note, we are assaulted by a ferocious drum fill, and so begins the first "proper" song... "Ye Entrancemperium".
The first riff of the song is actually borrowed from an obscure Mayhem song (it's stated in the song's credits, don't worry), which to my knowledge was only featured on the live bootleg "Ha Elm Zalag"; Trym's drumming is insane from the beginning, and the guitars shred all that stands in their way. Soon, this introduction gives way to the song's first main riff, and the drumming gets EVEN FASTER; some sparse keyboard inserts complete the unearthly atmosphere, and the chaos begins. Ihsahn's harsh voice is rather different from early Emperor days: this time he is less shrill but much more clear and aggressive. Very soon, we get a chance to hear his improved clean voice too, although as I said they are kept pretty low in the mix: the "Empyrium" chantings during the faster sectins are almost completely buried, but his wonderful contribution in the slower break is luckily more audible. The song has lots of twists and turns, ranging from the total violence of the blasting parts to more mid-paced but still prety fast section; what amazes, however, is how Trym keeps complex and fast patterns all the way through the song. The guitars are also more layered than in the past, with tons of dual guitar harmonies to be found; there is also a wide usage of full chords rather than simple power chord patterns, and in order not to make the sound too chaotic these are played with a lower distortion (this is apparent in the slowest section of the song, where the less distorted guitar plays a very beautiful arpeggio, while the other provides additional melodic lines when Ihsahn isn't singing). Highilight... and we have only just begun.

"Thus Spake the Nightspirit" is relatively simpler rhythm-wise (although you can't really notice it thanks to Trym's constant variations) but even more intricate when it comes to the arrangements, with layers and layers of guitars and occasional keyboards submerging the listener with floodwaves of aggressive melody; Ihsahn's voice is a bit higher in the mix here and even more fierce-sounding. Some really catchy riffs are hidden in the maelstrom here, and can be made out after some listens; the most memorable part, however, is the slow and majestic grand finale, where Ihsahn's voice is sadly almost completely inaudible (check out "Emperial Live Ceremony" to hear it loud and clear, it will be easier for you to make it out here then) but on the other hand, you can hear Alver's bass. Yes, the sound on this album is pretty chaotic, but the bass manages to be audible.
"Ensorcelled by Khaos" is a title that describes pretty well by feelings for this album... jokes apart, this one opens with a series of very melodic and memorable riffs backed by majestic keyboards, only played at an absolutely frantic pace. There is, however, a long slow part in the middle of the song, introduced by a fantastic keyboard section which sustains it all the way to the next riff change. The speed goes up again towards the end, and the song finishes with the sound of guitar feedbacks which always conjuers to my mind the image of the band standing in awe after having performed the song, surrounded by the equipment they have just bown with their intensity.

"The Loss and Curse of Reverence" takes the album standards even higher in terms of complexity, as it can be best described as a feast of riffs and variations from the beginning to the very last chord... all of this, of course, without being fragmented or incoherent. The guitars unleash once more a deadly harmonic attack, while the keyboards provide a broad symphonic contributin; Ihsahn sounds closer to his older style on this one, which appears atrnge at first but soon is archived by the ears as a welcomed variation.
Next is "The Acclamation of Bonds", and in my humble opinion, it's a rather forgotten masterpiece we have here. This one opens with a great guitar intro, and then offers many of the album's most memorable riffs without sacrificing speed and power. The keyboards add a huge amount of atmosphere, as well as a hook for the ear to follow during the most chaotic sections, and the guitars sprt once more that semi-distorted trick in the mid-paced section in the middle of the song. Curiously, when the frantic rhythm comes in again, the riff the guitars play is the very same featured at the end of "In Longing Spirit" (one of the non-album tracks off the "Reverence" EP), only played obviously faster. The break where only the guitars and keyobards play the melody before the drums come back with their blasting is one of my favourite bits of the album... so atmospheric and enthralling.
And yet, none of the atmosphere shown here can foreshadow what's next...

Enter "With Strength I Burn", arguably the most immense, epic wonder Emperor have ever created during their career. It's foolish to think that words can describe this masterpiece, but I'll try to give you a hint of its greatness. First, I'll have to say that the lyrics of this song are nothing short of excellent, a tale of thirst for knoledge an inner strength which has to be mentioned since the music follows its mood quite closely.
The song begins with a very fast part, backed by unusual and beautiful chord progressions, then it becomes slower and more bombastic, with the guitars and keyboards singing enchanting melodies. This part is the main core of the song, and it's entirely sung with harmonized clean vocals, luckily kept higher than usual in the mix; the verse "I hate my flesh / Its dimension poisoned my soul with doubt / It made me questin / The essence of... the I!" gives me shivers (in the best possible meaning) every time. Then, a fantastic keyboard break occurs, and Ihsahn narrates a prose section; it might seem totally out of place the first time(s) but as this part ends with Ihsahn proclaiming "...and away they sailed!" and the plodding rhythm begins again, you realize that it fits with the rest perfectly, in every sense. The song then goes into a rather sorrowful and fast riff, and vocals revert to the harsh pattern; the break that follows is one of the fastest pieces of music on the album. "Hear my call!", screams Ihsahn during a split second pause, and the sad riff comes in again, providing the fading out instrumental bit that closes the song, enriched by many guitar melodies after the last verse. This album would be worth buying for this song alone, and I really mean it.

But it's not over yet, as Samoth was kind and inspired enough to offer us a short but absolutely marvellous outro called "The Wanderer", built upon a single entrancing riff to which the guitars and keyboards add new elements with every repetition. And with the image of the lonely wanderer carrying its way on through the desolate landscape, the album ends.

On the re-released version, though, there are three more songs to find. Two of them ("In Longing Spirit" and "Opus a Satana") were originally featured on the "Reverence" EP which was released as a teaser some months before this album and therefore fit rather well (they were also recorded during the same sessions, so the sound is basically the same). The third track is a live version of "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" recorded during the tour that followed the release of the album; frankly, this one sounds like it was taken from a bootleg and slapped on this release, because the sound is pretty poor, but it still manages to prove how Emperor are confident when playing such complex material in a live environment. It's a pity that a better live rendition of this song was never officially made available, so we'll have to stick to this one, with its overly buzzy guitars, pot-and-pan drums and overpowering loud vocals. Whatever...

At any rate, "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk" is probably the album which best represents Emperor's unique musical essence, and is very recommended for anyone willing to get into this band... as well as everyone else, of course. Emperial Hails!

An absolute masterpiece - 95%

Black_Metal_Bastard, September 17th, 2003

From the first note to the ending chord, you know this is gonna be one hell of an album, and it is. Everything is great about this album. The drums are spectacular, courtesy of Trym, IMO one of the best drummers in all of metal. Ihsahn's vocals are top notch, even topping his performance on In the Nightside Eclipse, and his guitar work is brilliant. Samoth is once again awesome and Alver's bass is sadly inaudible. The keyboards are wonderful too, adding a great atmosphere.

The album opens with Alsvatr (The Oath), and it definately sets the mood for the rest of the album. It takes you to, IMO, a medeval forest, full of trolls, vikings, and just, well, odd things. It has an incredible atmosphere. The battle horns at the end, to me, signify the Emperor's arrival, and he has come to kick your ass! Through the course of the album, you can't help but feel as if you are right there in the middle of the battle, sword in hand and fear in your mind. The highlight for me is definately With Strength I Burn. It is one of the most epic songs Emperor has ever done. The middle passage is beautiful. They even made a video for The Loss And Curse Of Reverence, which is a great song too. The video is set in a forest, with medeval ruins where the band is playing. Awesome, just awesome.

To me, this is Emperor's second best album, only losing the #1 spot to In the Nightside Eclipse. If you are an Emperor fan and don't have this yet (which to me would be absurd), then get this ASAP!!!! Long live the Emperor!!!

Emperor's Best! - 100%

Spirit_Crusher, June 16th, 2003

Wow. This album blew my mind. After the release of the magnificent "In The Nightside Eclipse", the metal community was having high expectations for Emperor’s next masterpiece. I think it’s safe to say that they were satisfied. This album is so complex, so multi-layered, it’s just mesmerizing. The atmosphere on this disc is very dark and bleak. You’ll feel like you’re in the middle of Antarctica with a cold wind blowing. The production is fantastic as every instrument comes through clearly and sounding very powerful. On to the song highlights!

Track 2: "Ye Entrancemperium" - This song is pure fantastic chaos. Emperor’s trademark "wall of sound" comes in to full swing. It never lets up. It also has one of the fastest blastbeats I have ever heard.

Track 3: "Thus Spake the Nightspirit" - This song has a very epic feel to it, while remaining incredibly heavy. A very interesting riff also comes in and out of the song. Very haunting breakdown as well.

Track 5: "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" - I love everything about this song. Classic epic black metal the way it should be played. A symphonic composition lingers in the background.

Track 7: "With Strength I Burn" - Catching on to a pattern yet? Well, this is another winner. Almost every metal element lies in this song. It sounds very reminiscent of recent Borknagar. Awesome.

All the songs are fantastic, but these are the ones that stick out in my head as the best. Most black metal bands wish they could write music like this. Ihsahn was the man. It’s a shame they broke up. In conclusion, this is my favorite BM band and one of my favorite bands of all-time. If you are a fan of metal, (not necessarily black metal) and you have patience, you should grow to love them. One will not absorb all that this disc has to offer in one sitting. I’m still hearing new stuff! Do yourself a favor and give "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk" a listen. I doubt you’ll regret it.

Masterpiece from the Lords of Black Metal - 95%

Dead_Meat_Industry, January 5th, 2003

This album defines the genre of symphonic black metal. Well placed synth, adding a medieval atmosphere, intelligently composed guitar structures and impressive drumming. Emperor is my favorite band, and this is my favorite album from them. It is the perfect example of what black metal should be.

The opening track has a relaxing sound that places you in a Scandinavian forest filled with creatures of legend and myth. There is even a tastefully placed sound of an owl hooting in the intro to the song. After some whispered vocals, majestic keyboards announce the arrival of the Emperor, and the second track sets in. It is far more aggressive than the first track, and gives you an idea of what the rest of the album will be like.

The next tracks all contain those signature triumphant medieval keyboards and raging guitars. Ihsahn's screeching vocals carry you through hell and back, and Trym's complex drumming patterns will make your head spin. "Ensorcelled by Khaos" is an impressive track with beautifully written symphonic scores and guitar riffs. It also features some electronically altered vocals, which make it all the more enjoyable. The last few tracks are mostly instrumentals, with a symphony version of "Inno a Satana", renamed "Opus a Satana" at the end. This album truely deserves to be called a masterpiece.