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Before I start, I'm going to lay it out there for you. I despise black metal to the highest degree. There's not a genre of metal aside from nu-metal (which I hardly consider metal at all) that raises my ire more than this disgustingly moronic and cheesy genre known as black metal. That being said, it is near impossible for me to give any album released by a black metal artist more than a scoff, and a trip to the Thrashcan. Emperor's "IX Equilibrium" has done the impossible, however, giving a tiny gleam of hope to the uninspired cesspool that is the black metal genre.
Now, I guess I am not being fair to many die hard black metallers out there, tagging this album is as a black metal epic. It's actually more of a blackened heavy metal ballad, which is quite alright with me, seeing as if it got anymore grim and/or frostbitten, I'd probably be giving this a much lower rating. That being said lets get down to it.
From start to finish though, this album kicks ass in so many different ways it's uncanny. Wailing guitars and determined, yet tepid, keyboards seem to mesh perfectly in near virtuoso form. Vocal onslaught from a somewhat possessed and definitely overachieving Ihsahn gives this album a haunted feel and captivates the audience. As you sit there dumbfounded with your jaw hanging open during tracks like "Curse You All Men!" and "An Elegy of Icaros", you are pushed to the brink of aural insanity by the chorus of vocalists expelling phrases in unison. Such, is the difference between this ballad and many of their other unlistenable works.
Emperor doesn't get nearly as massive as "The Warriors of Modern Death" on any other album. This lumbering behemoth of a song has everything, including slow-paced trolling melody, inspired vocal display, and one hell of a thrasher for a chorus. The guitars seem to venture off into the the abstract and really nail this new risk. "Nonus Aequilibrium" and "Of Blindness and Subsequent Seers" however are the breadwinners of the album. With many diverse rhythm alterations and the best guitar display on the album, these tracks ring out as clear anthems for the new, much improved Emperor.
If this album from a black metal artist can turn even my head in awe, I would recommend it for any fan of metal out there. Clearly the turning point and pinnacle of Emperor's long and dull career. Buy the album, and own a piece of classic fucking heavy metal.