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The Emperor E.P. was recorded in December 1992 and released in May 1993, by Candlelight Records. While it may seem like an appealing thing to acquire, upon first glance, it is not. Don't be fooled by the fact that it was spawned during the creative peak of the Norwegian black metal scene. This material is entirely sickening and hardly worth checking out, even based on curiosity.
Many years ago, after getting into Emperor, I was going back and checking out the older recordings and connecting with those far more than with Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, which was their latest album at the time. For me, In the Nightside Eclipse was far superior, even if it did fail to match up to other records that were released that same year, like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, De Mysteris Dom Sathanas, Transilvanian Hunger and Pentagram. Nonetheless, it proved to be a high quality album and also served to lead me to discover Wrath of the Tyrant, which I approved of even more. Thinking that the early Emperor recordings were relatively safe, I next moved on to the band's first E.P. This was soon realized to be a mistake.
Emperor features only four songs and clocks in around twenty minutes in length. Despite being so brief, it is time that would be better spent doing just about anything else, other than listening to this. The material consists of two new songs and two re-recorded songs, from Wrath of the Tyrant. Though the necro production of that release happened to be one of its main charms, there was still a bit of curiosity to hear a couple of those tracks in a somewhat cleaned-up form. In particular, the choice to include "Night of the Graveless Souls" seemed like something positive. However, upon actual hearing it, the true horror of this E.P. was revealed.
To be honest, there is not much wrong with the original version of "I Am the Black Wizards". It features a more primitive production and sounds a little nastier, which is a good thing. It would have been even better, had the keyboards been absent, giving us a more straightforward approach to this classic track. At times, there are odd vocal effects used, to give the impression of some sort of demonic voice, but it does not really fit well with this song. The other track that would later appear on In the Nightside Eclipse, "Cosmic Keys to my Creations and Times", is quite similar though clearly inferior. It includes even more synth and appears to rely on it a little more heavily. Neither one is atrocious, by any means, but they simply don't match up to the later versions and are not different enough to really warrant much attention.
The truly hideous part of this release comes in the form of the two re-recorded songs from Wrath of the Tyrant, "Night of the Graveless Souls" and "Wrath of the Tyrant". In their original form, these two tracks represented Emperor's take on primitive, old school black metal with a dark and evil feeling that was emphasized by the necro production. They were perfect, more or less, despite sounding a little messy. Giving the songs another try, one might expect a slightly clearer performance, thus allowing the listener to enjoy the sinister guitar riffs even more. This was not the case, at all. Emperor managed to completely butcher these songs, by adding in synth that was never meant to be present, killing the atmosphere and ruining these tracks and this release, in general. Without the idiotic keyboard use, these songs would sound great. Unfortunately, instead of maintaining their integrity, the band decided to try to modernize the songs by adding the synth nonsense that they had developed such a liking for, since recording the originals. It is somewhat tolerable on "Wrath of the Tyrant", as they at least tried to be somewhat tasteful and to match the synth up with the music.
However, in the case of "Night of the Graveless Souls", it was as if they were listening to something else, entirely. It sounds like they were actually attempting to ruin the song, as the synth is so goofy and cartoonish, not even remotely suiting the atmosphere of the song. This is exactly why the rest of the band should have taken Ihsahn outside and beaten him to a bloody pulp, the first time he showed up to rehearsal with his Casio in hand. Listening to this rape job makes me want to stab my ears with an ice pick, or take a hammer to the misguided hands that did this foul evil.
Emperor truly struck out with this release. While three of the four songs are mildly tolerable, none of them are as good as other versions. As for "Night of the Graveless Souls", this may be the true beginnings of suicidal black metal, as listening to this will make you want to kill yourself. Garbage like this somewhat foreshadowed future lame decisions that the band would make, taking the path toward mediocrity and utter putrid filth. Avoid this E.P. and stick to the other releases, pretending that this never happened.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com