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Emperor’s self-titled EP stands as an intermediate stage between the raw and rowdy Wrath of the Tyrant demo and the cultivated In the Nightside Eclipse. Two of the tracks are rerecordings of songs from the demo, while the other two tracks stand as first-drafts of songs that will be perfected on the full length debut.
Emperor amends a number of the flaws that plagued the messy Wrath of the Tyrant. While this is still fairly lo-fi black metal, the instruments are much more balanced. While Ihsahn is still growling in a somewhat annoying, high-pitched tone, it is nowhere near as loud or dominant as it is on Wrath of the Tyrant. Emperor also marks the introduction of Faust on drums. While the percussion is nothing astounding, Faust does provide more variety and precision than Samoth did. Samoth moves to his natural position as a guitarist.
This EP also marks the introduction of the keyboards into Emperor's sound. The marriage of black metal and synth gets off to a shaky start. Obviously, the quality of the keyboard used here is significantly inferior to the one used on the full-lengths. It has a very thin and one-dimensional tone. Sometimes Ihsahn makes it work, i.e. the spooky backdrops on “Wrath of the Tyrant”. However, on a number of occasions the keys sound embarrassingly campy, i.e. the weak synth lines on “I am the Black Wizzards” and “Night of the Graveless Souls”.
The two tracks that are found on In the Nightside Eclipse are fairly irrelevant. The recordings on the full length are superior in every respect, reducing these versions to historical footnotes. That leaves the two rerecordings from the demo. “Wrath of the Tyrant” sounds excellent. The shifts in tempo make for a dark and invigorating journey and the addition of the keys adds plenty of depth to the piece. However, “Night of the Graveless Souls” trades one problem for another; the musicianship is superior, but the tacky keyboard lines really downgrades the overall quality of the song.
Musically, there isn’t a lot to criticize here. These are four very good compositions; heck, “I am the Black Wizards” and “Cosmic Keys to My Creation and Times” are truly masterful pieces of songwriting. However, the sub-par vocal performance and the inconsistent keyboard work makes these manifestations forgettable. When one takes into account that there are superior forms of half of the tracks available, Emperor becomes a fairly unimportant recording.
(Originally written for http://deinos-logos.blogspot.com)