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Emperor had gained an enormous momentum through the mid and latter half of the 90s, and thus demand for their unreleased demo material was soaring in between their studio albums. Candlelight caved in and re-issued the band's Wrath of the Tyrant demo (1992) and s/t EP (1993) as one package, with the sole amenity of some remastering to potentially curb the shock that Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk fans might feel towards their favorite Norwegians' cruder origins. I've already reviewed the Emperor EP at length, so here I shall focus more on the demo material incorporated here, since I think the first four tracks are better experienced along with their Enslaved counterparts (Hordane's Land) on that split.
Interestingly, Emperor traced a career path similar to their countrymen Darkthrone. They evolved out the death metal act Thou Shalt Suffer, producing some demo and EP material in those confines before adopting a new style in the vein of predecessors like Bathory, Mayhem, Venom, Hellhammer and Darkthrone themselves, and thus Emperor proper was born (Ihsahn would later continue his alma mater as a separate, neo-classical/ambient entity). It is clear right from this demo, though, that this band would be traveling down a more grandiose, 'epic' path than some of their contemporaries, only it was not fully realized by this demo. Wrath begins with a solemn, ominous ambient/choir piece and then transitions into the churning and atmospheric "Ancient Queen", in its rawest form here with enormous, splattered black rasps that permeate all of its steadily mid-paced, pummeling rhythms. Ihsahn sounds rather like a corpse painted clown here, because the vocals are often too boisterous and silly for their own good, but the voice itself is quite impressive and hostile.
The best thing in listening through this is obviously hearing the tracks that didn't really make it further on in their career. Pieces like "Ancient Queen", "Witches Sabbath" and "Lord of the Storms" would all shift forward to the 1994 EP As the Shadows Rise where they were given a more polished studio treatment. "Wrath of the Tyrant" and "Night of the Graveless Souls" are also part of the Emperor EP. But the bombastic, murderous rush of "My Empire's Doom' would not be heard again until the Scattered Ashes comp, and it's probably one of the best songs on this demo, despite the rather primal riffs. I enjoy the sluggish breakdown and how it explodes back into Ihsahn's despotic vocal heresies. "Forgotten Centuries" is laden with a similar, kinetic consistency and some swaggering groove-riffs, though despite the remastering the drums can still become sinewy and lost to the meat of the guitar tone. "Moon over Kara-Shehr" is not my favorite of the lot, focusing on slower, groove rhythms, almost like a Hellhammer black/doom, but here at least the vocals are as venomous as a crown of writing serpents.
The fact that the entire demo is present and accounted for, without being fucked about, is reason enough that the band's fan base, most of whom got into Emperor years into their career, might just wanna check this out. It's not great, I'll admit, and the redundancy of some of its content does erode some of its potential value (for instance, the In the Nightside Eclipse songs from the EP simply do not sound as great here as on the full-length). But it's certainly the sort of thing that genre purists will likely hold up as a favorite due to its roughness, hostility and sincerity, similar to how recordings like Deathcrush and Ablaze in the Northern Sky have shown long legs. This material represents the emergent black metal realm (or second wave, if you count the prototypes as the true pioneers for the yet-unnamed genre) at its primacy, and yet there were hints even here at the isolated grandeur Ihsahn and friends would strive towards.
This is some good shit. No, seriously. While I can understand that some may bitch about the production being all too "kvlt" or whatever (seeing that Emperor is normally known for their stellar production values), the truth is that the purposedly bad production really adds a certain kind of atmosphere to this release. I would compare the production to that of your average demo - c'mon people, this isn't Transilvanian Hunger!
Anyway, looking past the production the first thing one notices is the very obvious line drawn between the two parts of this compilation (the Wrath of the Tyrant demo and the Emperor EP). The release starts off with the four tracks from the EP, and I have to say that they are really 'up there' with In the Nightside Eclipse - "I Am the Black Wizards" needs no introduction, as it is probably one of the most famous Emperor songs, and "Cosmic Keys to my Creations & Times" is also pretty much just the same as on ItNE (except for a somewhat worse production, which I actually find brings the song a more 'evil' feel). The two newcomers, however, "Wrath of the Tyrant" and "Night of the Graveless Souls" are the nice surprises here. They are simply awesome, and has a whole other 'feel' than most of the material which would later resurface on ItNE.
Moving on to the Wrath of the Tyrant demo this is probably where many will be disappointed by the very 'demoish' production, but hey what did you expect, it's a fucking demo! At some places the production is bad enough to almost border into Ildjarn territory (and that's really saying something). Speaking of Ildjarn, I found the demo version of 'Night of the Graveless Souls' to be very Ildjarnish in its repetitive drumming and noise production. It's also a good track to listen to in order to compare it which the Emperor EP, and oh boy are there differences! First of all the somewhat neoclassical keyboardmongling of the EP version is totally gone, which makes for a very goddamn raw experience and secondly Ihsahns trademark vocals are also severely 'harmed' by the production - leaving him sounding like your average Mayhem wannabe, which is kinda a shame..
A lot of the songwriting on the demo is raw as fuck, and shows none of the complexity that Emperor would later be known for. Tracks like 'Moon Over Kara-Shehr', 'Forgotten Centuries' and 'Witches Sabbath' have a lot of passages with very primitive riffing - the later even sometimes sounding a bit like Burzums 'Black Spell of Destruction' and 'Lost Wisdom'.
Also of note is the drumming done by Samoth - it's not outstanding, but it's good and gets the job done fine.
All in all I would consider this a necessity for all and any Emperor fanboys, as it shows well how Emperor has progressed from your everyday tr00 and gr1m black metal band to the originators of symphonic black metal that they later became. Anyone else with a fancy for raw black metal demos, or early Burzum, also ought to check this out, as it has more than enough of raw black material.
The first four songs on this collection were part of the "Hordane's Land" split with Enslaved, and show Emperor's progressing style at its raw, epic peak. Though two of the four songs would be re-recorded on the debut In the Nightside Eclipse, the undeniable fury and craft behind these songs has made them legendary. The two songs that didn't see the light of day past this release are overlooked classics in their own rights, and as a whole, the Emperor EP is a true testament to the spirit of old-school Norwegian black metal.
For being such a young band, Emperor were admirable songsmiths. Upon first listen, I was incredibly surprised at the maturity in songwriting skills. Epic, twisting passages powered by driving guitars take the listener through mainly mid-paced territory, but there are some faster, more intense moments as well. Key changes in time and mood are well-calculated, and the songs seem almost Wagnerian in structure. "Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times" is a good example of this, where the classic stampeding tremolo riffs shift gears into dirgy Celtic Frost ground and medieval-sounding rhythms. Other numbers are darker in nature, especially "Wrath of the Tyrant," which is entirely powered by evil, jagged melodies and pounding drumwork by Faust. By no means are these songs formulaic, though the core of each songs is based around roughly 3 or 4 riffs that find their niche without wearing out their welcome. The poetic and cryptic lyrics (though very stereotypical for the genre) give each of the songs a very ancient feel, which is only aided by the grimy, buzzsaw production in the guitars. Some keyboards make an appearance and tastefully add some ominus classical flair; jarring strings on "I am the Black Wizards," eerie ambience on "Wrath of the Tyrant," and tumbling pizzacato strings on the ripping "Night of the Graveless Souls." They're not as prominent as they would be in future material, but serve their purpose well with a deep, pitch-black atmosphere. Ihsahn's vocals are much more "screamy" here, but still maintain the high-pitched shriek that we see on the band's debut. His blood-soaked vocals actually sound better here, as they're clearer in the mix and have a rougher sound to them, which brings out the best in the lo-fi production.
Faust's drumwork has become a standard for the genre, and the first four songs here prove why. His double bass chops are incredible; flurrying runs of sixteenth notes pound underneath of tightly-executed thrash beats, and the old-school blast beats are nothing short of destructive. Unlike most drummers in the genre though, Faust understands the aesthetics of the music and knows when to "just" keep time and let the music breathe while maintaining an impressive arsenal of transitions and fills. Not only does this help him out by showing consistency, but helps the whole band because Faust isn't going apeshit the whole time.
While the first 4 songs do prove to be some of the most legendary songs that Emperor has put out, the demo inluded on the disc, aptly titled Wrath of the Tyrant, shows a side of the band that some of us would have rather not seen. Some songs are underdeveloped and unnecessary, mainly "Forgotten Centuries" and the juvenile-sounding "Lord of the Storms." The music is certainly darker and more death metal-oriented, but the blasting, nearly unlistenable garage production renders the songs helpless. Hell, the production on this demo makes the Emperor EP look like a high-budget deal. Samoth's drum abilities, while competent, are certainly nothing special; and the flat sound of the drums doesn't help either. The guitars have a suitably thicker tone, but almost verge on irritating by being too high in the mix and distorting the overall sound. Ihsahn's vocals, which are typical black metal and nothing more, fade in and out of the mix, and the overbearing echo on them make things hard to distinguish. As a unit, the band are somewhat sloppy in their delivery, and though raw instrumentation is tolerated in black metal, this sounds amateur.
That being said, the drop-tune riffs do give this demo an atmospheric edge over the first half of the collection; the more primitive and stripped-down structures have become a holy grail for minimalists. All of the songs have a more evil edge to them, probably due to the death metal tendencies still present in the band's sound.
So, if you want the real essential core of this compilation, get Emperor's half of the split EP with Enlsaved. I would only reccommend the demo for completists of the band.
"Emperor/Wrath of the Tyrant" is the best place to get a comprehensive look at the really early work of Emperor. Even remastered, the sound of everything is very weak. I guess the whole special "necro" atmosphere is preserved in these recordings, but the loss of being able to hear any clearly defined instruments makes it awkward. It's sometimes almost like Ihsahn balefully wailing and screaming over a fuzzy noise (those are guitars and bass?), with some bashing on cardboard boxes somewhere off in the background. Black Metal never had to be terminally unlistenable to fulfill its purpose convincingly: "In the Nightside Eclipse" is a testament to that.
A piercing sizzle on the recording makes the "Emperor" EP tracks virtually unlistenable, and the mucky sound burys most of several well worked through songs that would in time manifest themselves as formidible bastions of the Emperor catalogue. That also goes for some of the tracks that only appear on the demo. The "Wrath of the Tyrant" demo lacks the irritating sizzle, but is an even lower budget recording. To its credit, Ihsahn sounds like the foulest creature from the very depths at times on here, which nicely complements the foul nature of the recording. It makes this release somewhat worthwhile to hear him hacking up Mortiis' lyrics with a far more malignant personality to all the other Emperor work. Those are mortifiying screeches and squeals. Jim Carrey couldn't make noises like that.
A couple of songs off the demo would be reworked for the future full length, but are much better functioning there than here. It makes for a nice ride for curiosities' sake, but if I want to hear those songs, the "...Nightside Eclipse" versions do much better for me. I don't think it gets much past a few listens to find out where Emperor came from before it's back to the shelf and gathering dust. The mildly curious need not apply.
This is an interesting realease. This is the re-issue of Emperor's first EP and an early Demo from the band. The first four songs are from the Emperor EP and the rest is from the wrath of the tyrant demo.
The album starts off with the classic "I AM THE BLAck Wizards." This song is a classic. The qualitly of the recording on all the tracks isn't the best and even though remastered,were kept close to the orignal sound. This gives all the songs a grim and "necro" feeling, sometimes making it harder to get into this album. The EP continutes on with other classics such as "Night of the Graveless souls," and "Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times." By now if your not into this album...your not going to start to like it anymore because the "wrath of the tyrant" demo has a very raw recording with most parts of the songs unclear. MOst of the time you can only hear the drums behind Ihsahn's whailing vocals. These song you have to listen to very closely over and over again to really hear them in a good way. AFter listening to this four or five times you realize that the songs are very good but you just need to give them a chance. The stand outs from this demo are "Ancient Queen," "My Empires Doom," "Night of the Graveless souls," and "Forgotten Centuruies."
Over all this is a great release from the band and gives you a good history of the early sound of the great black metal band Emperor. I really dont recomend this for first time listeners because it is very raw, even though this is the album I started with. Just give this a chance if you dont like it the first few times...its a classic