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Released by Nocturnal Arts Productions in 1994, As the Shadows Rise is the second Emperor E.P. and features material recorded back in December 1992, during the same sessions as the tracks that ended up on Emperor. This effort is similar in that it includes re-recorded versions of songs from Wrath of the Tyrant, though no new tracks are present. Nonetheless, this mini-album is superior to their first, yet remains strangely obscured by time.
The production for this E.P. is fairly decent and suits the material well. It is not horribly modern or over-produced, but neither is it as necro and ancient-sounding as Wrath of the Tyrant. The sound quality is still rather grim, with a fuzzy guitar tone that is somewhat similar to that of Under A Funeral Moon. The riffs are just clear enough to be comprehended a little better than before, which may help some appreciate these songs a bit more. The vocals are not as loud in the mix as before, also possessing less reverb. The drums are at the perfect level, with Faust pummeling away in the background and not getting in the way.
Musically, these compositions are not much different from the original recordings. The only real alteration is during the middle of "Witches Sabbath", where there is a somewhat melodic doom riff that is not present in the old one. However, in trade, the morbid moans seem to be much lower and less effective, practically removing something that added to the eerie effect on Wrath of the Tyrant. Otherwise, there are not too many other differences, though there was not a lot of time to re-work the songs anyway, since this was recorded later in the same year. Obviously, the sound is a little clearer and this may alter the atmosphere of the songs, somewhat, just because there is less chaos and distortion. It also allows for some of the guitar melodies to be heard better, which may bring out more of the original intent behind the writing of these tracks. As with the versions on Emperor, Ihsahn decided to add synth to "Ancient Queen" and "Witches Sabbath". If there is any present on "Lord of Storms", it is too low to be noticed. As for the others, the keyboards are actually done in a much more subtle and tasteful manner than on the previous E.P. When used, it truly accentuates the dark atmosphere being created by the music, instead of working against it. Another positive is that the synth is not so high in the mix as to overpower everything else. It is rather surprising, as all of the material was re-recorded during the same session, yet the songs that they released first were the worst of the bunch.
As the Shadows Rise is a worthwhile E.P. and is highly recommended for fans of early Emperor. It is unfortunate that these tracks are harder to come by than the ones on the first mini-album, those being later released on the split with Enslaved and on reissues of Wrath of the Tyrant, since this collection of tunes is greatly superior in just about every way. For a bit of a different perspective on some classic Emperor songs, as well as another dose of old school Norwegian black metal, seek this out.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com