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As Emperor is reforming for possibly the last time later this year, and is playing their 1994 debut In the Nightside Eclipse in full at Bloodstock Festival here in the UK, it seems like the perfect time to revisit that album, and once again bask in its grim and malevolent majesty. In the Nightside Eclipse is perhaps the defining album of the early 90s Norwegian black metal scene that produced so many timeless records, the one that sums up the spirit of the genre more than any other. Prior to this album, black metal was for the most part simply an aggressive and primal affair, a colder and more sinister reaction to death metal. Then Emperor appeared, and changed everything.
As complex as it is engaging, this is music that stops you in your tracks, and demands that you simply sit and listen. The perfect fusion of visceral savagery and sublime beauty, it demands your total attention. The production is primitive and expansive in equal measure, allowing the songs to totally transport the listener into an icy realm of despair and beautiful melancholy. The guitar parts are astonishing on this album, combining with the synthesized choirs to help create this icy cold atmosphere. These synthesizers are integrated with the main body of the music so perfectly that the two are totally reliant on each other to work. The drum-work is wonderful, moving from the subtle drive of the slower rhythms straight into a pummeling blast beat with total smoothness and finesse, showing Emperor’s keen sense of dynamics. Ihsahn’s vocals meanwhile are absolutely incredible; this is no half-arsed rasp, this is the shriek of Satan himself. The fact that Ihsahn does this while playing the ultra-complex guitar parts is hugely impressive in itself.
There are plenty of moments when this album is truly jaw-dropping, like when the breathtaking main riff of I Am the Black Wizards is brought back and slowed down further into the song and allowed to truly express everything contained within, or the precise moment that the atmospheric intro of opener Into the Infinity of Thoughts finally rips into the frenzied blast of the opening riff, or the gradual progression of the choral part on Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times. The mental images conjured up by this album are wonderful, forming snapshots of frozen Scandinavian landscapes, totally in line with the gorgeous cover art. The atmospherics on this album are immense, and proved unsurpassable for even Emperor themselves.
In the Nightside Eclipse represents the point where black metal stopped being just a new style of primitive extremity, and started being so much more. It started being a form of music capable of conveying totally unforeseen amounts of expression and beauty, and became the never-drying well of ideas and progression that it remains today. With this album and the ones that followed it, Emperor gave more to metal music than most bands ever manage, and for that they deserve your absolute respect. Roll on Bloodstock.
Originally written for http://soundandmotionmag.com/
Wow! That is the best way to describe this otherworldly first release by the mighty Emperor. In fact, this is probably one of the most immense and atmospheric albums in metal. The sound could never be emulated as coldly and darkly as it is here. Compared to the raw and primitive 'Transylvanian Hunger' by Darkthrone, this album goes all out on atmospherics. The choirs mixed with the icy guitars and demonic vocals make this album sound like it was forged by Satan himself.
The opening track, 'Into the Infinity of Thoughts', is a leviathan of a track to say the least. The eerie intro soon bursts into a barrage of pitch black evil, creating the kind of imagery that is seen on the album artwork. This can be said for every song on the album. Each track is a journey into a realm of despair and darkness, mainly due to the anguished vocals and inhuman choir sounds that blend perfectly together. Track 3 is probably the best example of this. Also, 'I Am the Black Wizards' is without a doubt the finest song on the album with both brutal metal sections and symphonic musical genius.
The main problem some people have with this record is the production quality. With these songs, though, I wouldn't have it any other way as the harsh and echoey overall sound is what gives the album its inhuman power. These anthems of pure evil needn't have the amazing production values of some bands today, as it would take away the atmosphere. Speaking of atmosphere, 'The Majesty of the Night Sky' has an opening riff that cannot be described. This is sheer musical perfection in the genre.
This is not an album that anyone can just 'whack' on in the background willy nilly. It must be listened to intently and taken in like the musical drug that it is. When the openings to some of the tracks kick in, I feel like I am opening a portal to another dimension. 'In The Nightside Eclipse' is a flawless, yet intimidating musical experience that has gone down in history as one of the most bleak and notoriously evil releases in metal. It is both beautiful and nightmarish, a vast tundra of black metal perfection.
Possibly one of the greatest metal albums of all time.
On their first full-length release, Emperor performs melodic and atmospheric black metal of epic and symphonic quality, presenting an enigmatically dark and mystical soundworld of sublime experience. These songs present their composite ideas in a dramatic unfolding of events in continuity, with dynamics in pace and mood designed to represent self-appointed meaning applied to an experience isolated within its momentary filter but valued as a progression in the journey of life, portrayed by anticipatory and reflective transitions in harmony, guided by flowing perceptual melodies of transcendent aspiration and atmospheric astonishment, exemplified most astoundingly in the chilling beauty that is the final moments in “I Am The Black Wizards”, the mighty explosion into blasting ascendancy in “Inno A Satana”, and the cold, windswept soundscape defining the breakdown in “The Majesty of the Nightsky” and its thrilling rise to reverential affirmation.
“Too long I have suffered the desert sands of time
But as I drown in darkness it will release the sign My soul will leave this mortal coil of flesh and earthly life
to fly into the mist of night
into the nightside eclipse
and experience existence on the other side”
Streaming melodic riffs in extended phrases form the defining character of each song with representational distinction and progressions towards tonal and rhythmic changes, communicating the purpose of hierarchical sequence observed in nature’s ferociously necessary order of operation, reflected in the substance of the inner-self, magnified in the character of spiritual striving and agonizing existential discovery. Keyboards provide a variety of gleaming reflections to sweeping guitar melodies, casting an epic glow of magnificent majesty to enhance a stunningly diverse atmospheric range of frigid, dark, and profoundly melancholic moods.
“As the Darkness creeps over the Northern mountains of Norway
and the silence reach the woods
I awake and rise... Into the night I wander”
A persistent but effortlessly drifting rhythmic motion moves these songs through the blossoming of their thematically reflective events, propelled by drumming of powerful determination in stamina and definition of percussive patterns, mostly at whipping speeds of gliding motion, breaking down to slower movements to build anticipation for passages of grand revelation. Evil and obscure phantom shrieks emerge from the shadows as absurd voice of the dark forces of nature, self-liberated from the expressive limitations of rigid, structurally ordained vocal arrangement, rather finding ambiguous space within the riff-patterns to explore the emotional levels of a given thematic episode.
“My wizards are many, but their essence is
Forever they are in the hills in their stone homes of
because I am the spirit of their existence
I am them.”
Through the recognition of essential universal nothingness perceived in the purity of darkness, Emperor identifies an aristocratic self-empowerment as independent creator of substance and meaning within the connective identity with the power and beauty of nature, merciless as it is without the concept of mercy to fulfill its ends, and experienced as a spiritual awakening process of increased knowledge and awareness, aesthetically communicated in the extreme passion of romantic sensitivity, but with the unyielding strength of purpose-oriented wrath and serious creative motivation beyond the standards of expectation. Richness in artistic imagination and innovation of ideas gives Emperor the gift of compositional genius to which is applied a technique in service of conjuring the primal wisdom and majestic beauty of nature through modern instrumental warfare in a brilliant and inventive musical spectacle of fierce individuality and transcendent glory. The only flaw is the uneven and vague production, which gives great clarity and emphasis to keyboards and guitar sound, but blurs distinction of the full range of the drum kit, and drowns out vocals to the extent that a significant degree of the vocalist’s expressive presence is often lost to the oblivion of indistinguishable sound; the far more organic sound of the self-titled EP would have been much more suitable to this material, evidenced in the comparison between that release's versions of “I Am The Black Wizards” and “Cosmic Keys To My Creations and Times” and the more bombastic versions presented here, stripping Emperor’s music of a certain degree of primal ferocity, but not enough to significantly impact the experience of one of the most compositionally imaginative, beautifully atmospheric, melodically resplendent, and expressively powerful albums in black metal’s history.
A lot has been said about Emperor through the years, and not all of it flattering (Norwegian black metal + popularity = walking target), but indisputably they were and will always remain one of the most important of the 'second wave' bands within the genre. They also bear a distinction as one of the most 'dignified' in the field, having conquered several shores with their mighty live performances and then choosing to avoid the pitfalls of stagnation when they felt they no longer had much to offer. This decision came after four full length efforts, each of which marked a notable stage of evolution, Ihsahn and Samoth never content to rest on their laurels by rehashing or sidetracking their writing process.
My personal interest in their work waxed and waned through these changing tides, being of the tiny minority that found Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk and Equilibrium IX to be flawed outings beyond a few particular tracks, and later developing a fondness for their divisive grand finale, Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise. However, I have long treasured their debut In the Nightside Eclipse, not only as the masterpiece of Emperor, but one of the absolute pinnacles of the genre, the sort of rare accomplishment that is reached only a few times in each generation. In fact, I'd go so far to claim that In the Nightside Eclipse is greatest 'symphonic' black metal album ever written, even if that symphony consists of only Ihsahn with a keyboard and vivid imagination.
So much about this record is enormous. The cover is by far one of 'Necrolord' Kristian Wåhlin's most beloved images, a beautiful but menacing moonscape of towers and bridges, vortex clouds, woodland expanses, haunting spirits and battle starved humanoids, almost like the final battle of The Lord of the Rings being played out across a 2D nightmare diorama set against the band's impeccable logo and a wisely chosen, archaic title font: every depraved D&D maniac's dream come true. The production itself is airy and horrific, falling somewhere below a polished state without the intentional marring of fidelity committed by so many of the band's countrymen and peers. Complaints about the mix might be seen as partially valid, for example the rhythm guitars feel mildly faint against the swelling synthesizers and rasp, impish drawl of Ihsahn, but I can honestly say that I would have it no other way, and the very 'flaws' themselves of the production only add to its memorable nature.
It also invoked a stark balance of terror and majesty that thousands of others have attempted but so often failed to emulate. Sure, In the Nightside Eclipse is rather dated in the grand scheme of its genre, but there is this timeless, authentic quality found somewhere in the margins of highly effective composition and thematic intent that has never ceased to thrill, and when I think back on many late autumn or winter night drives I took to and from my university, along the sparsely populated back roads of central and western Massachusetts, listening to this as my drug of choice, I still get the occasional shiver down my spine. Perhaps I'm just a spineless pantywaist for admitting it, but this album used to scare the fuck out of me, as I attempted to conjecture about the Norse madmen responsible for its existence and what a pale wraith of uncultured American flab I must have been by comparison...
There are also songs. Eight beautiful, flawless songs that foster the cold moonlight and stir the despotic winds of egocentric fantasy. Twilight wanderings from the bleak core of the human psyche, the devious spirit, to the expanse of endless, distant fires that leer at us from beyond the known sphere upon which our flesh depends, the cosmic eaves of horror and uncertainty that bear down upon the soul. The cleverly (?) titled "I Am the Black Wizards" is probably the best known of these, a clarion call to battle against a thousand years and suns, a tribute to all black and blazing phantoms of antiquity. Samoth's guitars are scathing delights that resonate like frozen fire across the punishing prowess of Faust, the tongue of Ihsahn spewing wretched poetry, the backbone of Tchort rumbling beneath like a ghastly march towards oblivion. The gorgeous sequence at 1:50 is strung out across the starlight like a chorus of waning angels, twisting into a powerful momentum worthy of even Bathory's epic Blood, Fire, Death, and at 4:00 you can prepare yourself for one of the most captivating, eerie melodies in all human history.
'My wizards are many, but their essence is mine
Forever there are in the hills in their stone homes of grief
Because I am the spirit of their existence
I am them.'
"Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times" travels from an icy momentum to a schizoid funnel of discordant, driving chaos, then back again as the snarling erupts, while Faust gets so much exercise that it's a wonder he didn't suffer one or many heart attacks during the recording. "Inno a Satana" fills out like a contaminated muse, licking the wind with soaring, clean vocals and more of the brazen, synthesized choirs that work as well here as on nearly any other recording on Earth, while "The Burning Shadows of Silence" thrives on stun, whipping breezes of dementia that adorn the scintillating ghostlike savagery of the keys. "The Majesty of the Nightsky" rolls over you, transforming you into some fallen, final chess piece before the sailing Nordic melodies around :40 sweep your ashes and sorrows into the dust of ages, and the 9+ minute epic "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" cycles through its grim, ambient intro to some of the most threatening but beautiful black metal to ever lock up the joints of men. Really, every fucking song on this album is unmitigated awesome, and I am nearly as awestruck today as I was when I first heard it.
You could say that Emperor were the first of their kind to take the 'high road' in black metal, to transform this vile and infectious new brand of extremity into something so much more grandiose than it might have deserved, while Darkthrone was well underway mastering the 'low road' of delicious primacy that was born of Hellhammer, Venom and Bathory. In the Nightside Eclipse is so desperate and inspired that even Emperor could not and never will surpass it, and clearly a standard was being set well out of the reach of most impersonators, even with over a decade of interim in which to refine it. Ambitious as they are, and try as they did, the later efforts do not possess this same level of consistency, exchanging atmosphere for the technicality inherent in progression, and the precision of bigger budget, studio accessibility. I wouldn't trade this album for a 100 Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, and to my ears, it remains one of the greatest of its kind, alongside A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, Transilvanian Hunger, Black Shining Leather and Blood Fire Death.
The production on this kills it a bit for me. It should be a lot better than it is really, when it kicks in after the rolling orchestral intro, those savage riffs and lightning-fast drums, combined with the thunder sounds and Ihsahn's shrieked vocals ("as the darkness creeps across the Northern mountains of Norway, and the silence reaches the woods, I awake and rise...") it really sets the listener up for a journey through "wastelands of phantoms lost" and "great vast forests".
And I won't lie, it does deliver. 'Comic Keys to my Creations and Times' is especially a highlight, some excellent melodies and it flows really well, and of course everybody knows 'I Am the Black Wizards'.
But - the overall sound really ruins what is (probably) great music. The guitar tone is really softly-rounded, and making a lot of the riffs really indistinct if not inaudible beneath the overly loud keyboards and thundering drums. People talk about how hard the album sounds when it kicks in, and how great that main riff is in 'I Am the Black Wizards', but don't much talk about the stuff in the middle. They just went too far trying to create that wall-of-sound and ruined it a bit for me, even if the material is still good I can't help but feel a better, perhaps less grandiose production job would really improve 'In the Nightside Eclipse', but as it is its an album with great songs and a terrible sound. Shame.
My version has two covers as bonus tracks, Mercyful Fate's 'Gypsy', which is an excellent rendition (second highlight after 'Black Wizards') and Bathory's 'A Fine Day to Die', which doesn't sound much different from the original.
If I didn’t know any better, I would say that this album was recorded through the use of a time machine to go to the future and record the end of the world itself! This is pure unsaturated black metal in all of its cold fury! The album starts with a bit of a pointless intro but it does lead into the first song and it does fit the album. After that you get some really complex riffs, sick drumming, and amazing symphonic keyboards.
The guitar playing, as I mentioned before, has some really complex riffs. The guitars are all over the place but it still has some sense or organization. It’s really neat how they get the riffs to intertwine themselves with the keyboards. And they manage to have shrieking over top of that! This is an unmatched aural assault! The best example of the complexity of the guitar playing is on the song “I Am the Black Wizards”.
The keyboards are really what this album is all about. This is SYMPHONIC black metal after all. The keyboards go along with the riffs and really add atmosphere to this album. Without keyboards this album would be really boring and hardly worth listening to. This is one of the few albums/bands that uses keyboards and actually needs them. This is not your lame Dimmu Borgir keyboard playing just for the sake of keyboards. They are an integral part of the music and the album just would not work without them.
The drumming is the backbone of any metal album, especially a black metal one. The drums are slow but consistent and in time during the atmospheric sections where the keyboards take over and they are really fast with well-timed blast beats during the fast aggressive sections (yes, symphonic metal can be fast AND aggressive!!!). The best example of the drumming on this album is the little drum solo on the beginning of “Inno A Satana”.
The vocals are shrieky like all black metal vocals and to some this can get a little monotonous. The vocals on this album are more high pitched than most and you can hear the difference between Ihsahn and other black metal vocalists. The best part about the vocals is how he is able to shriek and scream all of the lyrics overtop of the already complex and powerful instrumental sections.
This album is a masterpiece of the black metal genre and Emperor themselves are all musical geniuses. I recommend this to anyone who is trying to get into black metal or anyone in the black metal scene who miraculously has not heard this yet.
- Beginning of “Into the Infinity of Thoughts”
- Atmospheric section in “Towards the Pantheon”
- The riffs to “I Am the Black Wizards”
- “Inno A Satana”
A brief history of my time in the eternal infinity of the never ending under the trees black dark beyond all forests of Norway space:
I first got this album in 1995, December I think. Remember that this was when black metal was taking off and really big, and everyone that I knew was really hyped about Emperor, this album in particular (I preferred their songs on the split with Enslaved at the time). Truth be told, I didn't really like the album, I actually found it hard to listen to, and what is the point of that?
Fast-forward to 2002, I was in Taiwan, computer-less and desperate, and I saw the Prometheus album in a store, and picked it up, and really enjoyed it (I was starved for new metal then, Cannibal Ferox 'And then they ate his penis!' starved. So I thought 'Well gee, gosh, Lemmiwinks! Anthems was the suck, but maybe Emperor ain't so bad'.
With that in mind, I ended up in 2009 in China, where I found a digipack of this album in a store, for a measly 10RMB (less than two yankee dollah!), so naturally I, uh, picked it up like I pick lice from - I bought it.
So, what am I trying to say here? I'm saying, just like conservatism and incest, give this album a chance.
First criticism - this album suffers from a bad production. Yes, it's early second-wave Norsk Arisk Krush Joo black metal, but it's technical, and has a lot of intricacies, which unfortunately are hard to hear. And that's my biggest beef about this album, it sounds like you've just thrown a wet blanket over your speakers once you put it on; it sounds muffled, not raw, not 'true', just drowned out.
Second Christendom - while there are good riffs, after the third song, it is basically muzak, background music, until we hit 'I Am The Black Wizards', but when the riffs are there, holy cow they are good. Cosmic Keys To My Creations And Times has a great guitar riff in the beginning, as does I Am The Black Wizards. The vocals are fair enough, but all sound the same, in every song - don't expect a lot of variation, except in Inno a Satana, which has some clean (yet muffled) vocals.
Speaking of muffled (I love that word, reminds me of mumsy), the drumming is would/could/should be awesome, but once the blast beats kick in (yes, like Immortal, Emp uses 'da blasts') you can hardly hear them. Again, production issues. And therein lies my main gripe with this album, it seems like so much is going on, but you can't distinguish one thing from another. Sure, you have shining moments littered here and there, which is the album's saving grace, but I just feel that it could've been so much better. That said, I do enjoy this album these days, it has a nice background atmosphere, and out of eight songs, four of them stand out a lot (uh, long song titles), namely 'Into...', 'Cosmic Keys...', 'I Am Whack...' and 'Inno...'.
Obviously these guys are talented, and for a first album it is a great album, but the one-sided vocals, lack of bass guitar, and intermittent good riffs make me sad. There is a consistent/inconsistent feel to this album, half greatness and half 'huh?' and boredom, if that makes any sense.
So should you get this album? Probably, but it is not essential, yet for the time it was released it was 'groundbreaking', as it was a really different approach to black metal when compared to the likes of Darkthrone, Beherit, Burzum et al. It is safe to call this the first technical black metal album, with a classic black metal production, which it never deserved. If any album needs to be remastered it is this one, take away the muffling.
Ah, yes, Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse. Here stands the most revolutionary black metal album ever. In its time where other pioneers such as Burzum and Ulver were laying out there grim ideas backed up by simple guitar with complex chords and chilling keyboards, Emperor stood one step ahead of them with fast and dissonant guitar, complex keyboard rhythms, and mighty blast beats. It really takes quite the genius to not only create your own style of music, but beat the crap out of every band that tries to copy you. Alas, that is why Ishahn is my man crush (sorry Paul Gilbert). Most people ask how is it that the originals of every genre (for example, as Possessed is to death metal) are always the best. Well the way I see it is if you are smart enough to create and pioneer a new form of music, you obviously can create excellent music. This is an album so cold your furnace will explode. This is an album so grim you will never enter a dark forest again. This is an album so satanic; you will take Satan as your guide. Yes, this is every kvlt hater’s most despised album, In the Nightside Eclipse.
What is it that makes this album so special? Isn’t it just raw, repetitive, generic black metal? Wrong. After many listens and much time studying the written music itself one comes to realize the complexity and flow of the music. This album displays such a powerful mood of reverence reflected by the ambient keyboards and full, raw sound. There isn’t just grim lyrics reflecting the power of Satan and the beauty of nature, but the album actually draws the listener into the world beyond humanity. If you truly understand the music, you will be taken to the dark endless hills of Norway, as referred to in “I Am the Black Wizards”. The complex chord progressions were conceived purposely to create the effect of the lyrics. When Ishahn sings about gazing into the sky and its endless swirl of stars, the world we do not understand, and the beauty of the world as it is away from society, and into the fathomless depths of nature, the music reflects this feeling and theme. If you close your eyes at some points in this album you will awake in a world you are not familiar with, fathomless to your mind. You as a listener will not focus on what the musicians are playing, but how the sound combines as a whole.
Together Ishahn and Mortiis created some of the best lyrics I have ever heard. They are extensive and emotional, and reflect their connection to Satan and nature. Inno a Satana is a good example of the Satanism of this album. The lyrics speak of accepting Satan as your guide, as he will guide you through “hatred and strife” and in return you will endlessly serve him. Cosmic Keys to My Creation and Times is a song that represents the beauty and mystery of the unknown world created by forces we do not understand.
Ishahn really knows how to make the thick, ambient effect of black metal. The rhythm guitar and bass play chords that reflect the lead melodies, but are in the background and seem to glide slowly along the surface. At certain points a guitar will play a chord and then tremolo pick a single note, while letting the chord ring out, and this really creates an awesome dissonant effect. The keyboards don’t just sit there and hold out chords, but play eerie and cold melodies, or at least chords that move quickly. The sound projected by them is always a bone chilling symphony sound or a bright choir, displaying some epic feel.
The two best songs on the album are The Majesty of the Night sky and Inno a Satana. The Majesty of the Night sky is a more energetic song with ever so epic keyboards. The blast beats (sorry folks, no Trym) are fastest and most spread out in this song. Midway we get a really cool keyboard lead and a creative catchy beat. This is one of those moments where you feel yourself in a different, more reverent place. Ishahn speaks some of his pretty poetry and it continues a bit. But then the guitar plays by itself and ascends up the whole range of the guitar twice, higher each time, then out of nowhere every instrument is back in with a high energy ending that stops out of nowhere and an explosion rings out and leads into the next track. Inno a Satana is everyone’s favorite song. If you have not heard this song you are not a black metal fan. This is the song that offers yourself over to Satan, asking him to guide you. The lead guitar part is as epic as hell and is backed up by beautiful clean vocals, chilling harsh vocals, and reverent keyboards. At the end of the song we have the greatest minute or two of music history. This conclusion of the album will send chills down your spine and give you goose bumps. First every instrument breaks and the guitar starts picking a cool chord progression, and drops a major step back and forth. The rhythm guitar, bass, and drums join in and the blast beats start up until the end. The harsh vocals continue to shriek and the clean vocals chant “INNO A SATANA”. This continues with the energy building up and up and then the guitars bang out a lovely a minor chord while Ishahn whispers Inno a Satana, with the keyboard holding out the final chord and then fading out. If you are someone who has not heard this song yet, I suggest you do. The ending is really freaking epic.
The opening song is also really cool. It is Emperor’s longest song and has this evil mood to it and an awesome chord progression. It is the perfect opening track, with fast guitars, many breaks and transitions, and eerie lyrics.
So why is this album so good despite the fact it is just old and experimental black metal? Well, it really beats the crap out of every other black metal band. I have yet to find any black metal band, except for Bishop of Hexen, that creates music as good as this. This is the epitome of black metal and shall be loved forever and ever. This is a must have for your metal collection, especially if you are a black metal fan. Don’t worry, this isn’t your generic kvlt crap band, such as darkthrone, this is epic and excellent music.
Emperor's first album, remains their best, and only essential album in my opinion (Anthems to the Welkin At Dusk being an above average album, but nothing on this level), but this opinion is not shared by all. The usual complaints, production, writing, etc., are marred by a general lack of understanding of purpose. Emperor were still heavily inspired by the necro aesthetic of black metal, the use of space and sound and writing to create a landscape of darkness, and beauty in chaos and ugliness. These works are not just well crafted songs, but also beautiful soundscapes, black metal in purest terms, even though it bears little in resemblance to say Transilvanian Hunger. However to state there is no similarity would be incorrect, both feature production as an essential feature of the search for atmosphere, and both are fueled by hatred and love of their Norwegian landscape and a mysticism of death, evil and darkness.
In The Nightside Eclipse is a focused blast of cold icy emotion from beginning to end, reaching from Into the Infinity of Thoughts to grab you and take you into their dark world. Some songs go into more conventional material, for example there has always been a kind of punk like, Bathoryish aspect to certain riffs in The Burning Shadows of Silence to me, a kind of regressionism that stands in contrast to the murky symphonic beauty of such tracks as Cosmic Keys To My Creations and Times or Towards the Pantheon. But these regressionist sections also hearken back to the ugly primitive days of Wrath of the Tyrant, a necrotic recording that seems to breathe of dust and dungeon, whilst this album is the cold air of a winter mountain, where a dark emperor rises to bring the apocalypse, or ragnarok of sorts upon the sleeping men and women of Christianity.
The sheer malice and evil of purpose that is in the performances still burns with intensity to me. Emperor seem possessed on this recording, performing with a raw strength of will and a cold evil, not the primeval hatred of Ildjarn, but the calculating malice of a tyrant enraged to great warfare. This distance seems to be the true coldness of the recording, whilst they storm in their hatred, the melancholy of the truth of the world, and the longing for the fantasy to come true seems to veil all things.
The music itself is written with a cyclic style, riffs go to riffs, but return to their original place at times, a kind of motif is established in each song that is repeated, whilst the songwriting will often move into other more complex patterns, melodies and structures. Unlike the repeating with ever increasing variation of patterns and melodies that Abigor possessed, Emperor infuse a more Wagnerian aspect into their music, a sweeping narrative that is no true attempt at narrative, and lyrics and vocals simply amplify this. Lyrics are filled with a dark mysticism of death, evil and nature, a reveration of the true dark powers of the Earth. The repeating motif of the Emperor rising (which would be repeated in various ways in almost all of their recordings) is most strong on here, for it has with it the idealism and fantasy of youth. Perhaps this Emperor will join with Satyricon's shadowking and Immortal's ravendark horde and they will cover the Earth in Norse plague bearing darkness (note I am not poking fun at these bands, for I like this kind of stuff, simply showing it was a common theme).
In the Nightside Eclipse seems to bring to mind to me vision of Melniborne, the kingdom of Elric, from the writings of Michael Moorcock. Dark towers where beings beyond good and evil live in a way that seems unthinkably vile to any who possess normal "good" values, but a way that in of itself is not evil, simply a way of life. Perhaps is it just me adding too many things to something, but Emperor's music brings forth an atmosphere such as I get when reading those books, but this is a digression, not so much part of the review but a personal observation.
Complex, yet submerged in a mist, this album requires an attention span to understand, those without one are those who are most willing to spit upon it, or to state that it is not "true" etc. But I feel the best aspect of the old black metal scene was that each band was unique, this is unlike Immortal, Enslaved, Burzum, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Satyricon, and all the original second wave Norse bands, and yet it is tied to all, as they are all tied to each other in terms of symbolism, emotion and atmosphere. Many different pathways to a similar goal, this is the lesson that was lost somewhere in the development of the style.
Listen to this recording, you may or may not like it, I leave no guarantee, but I will state that it is one of the first black metal albums to draw me into the dark world of fantasy I feel most of these old bands sought to create, and it is in my opinion one of the essentials.
Emperor's half of the Hordane's Land split proved to be a chronicled classic in the Norwegian scene already, and the band's debut affirmed them as possibly the most progressive band from the country at the time. Their atmospheric tendencies and high degree of musicianship had put them above their countrymates who preffered clattering in the garage over making true epic art, and that is shown in spades on the band's debut.
If you thought that the split album showed the heighth of Emperor's songwriting abilities, you're in for a surprise. The re-recorded old material is now given a new sense of vibrancy thanks to instrumental intensity on all fronts, including the deep layering of ghostly, haunting synths. For proof of just how much the band have progressed, take a listen to the mass opener "Into the Infinity of Thoughts," which toggles atmosphere with vicious, epic black metal. Various sound effects of wind and thunder make their appearance, and the stand-alone passages of the synths give the song that forest-like, nocturnal atmosphere. Clocking in at almost 10 minutes, it is a beast to be reckoned with. None of the other tracks are nearly as long, but the band use their time wisely in capturing the listener into cathedral, wintry feelings. There is plenty of talent to boot here as well; Ihsahn and Samoth tastefully utilize clean minor chords on "Towards the Pantheon" before launching into a full assault with piercing keyboards, bludgeoning blast beats, and a maelstrom of power chords, and the sweeping ending of "Inno a Satana" has gone down in the black metal books as a true classic with legitimate reason. Regardless of what progressive tendencies may appear in the band's sound, it is still a pure black metal record, as proven by "The Majesty of the Nightsky." In the Nightside Eclipse is a flawless example of the black metal formula for songwriting; the narrative, epic structures that take listeners on a high-speed ride through frosty, nightside landscapes.
Ihshan's vocals are a minor qualm for me, though. His vocals aren't too prevalent in the mix, and when they are, it's generally somewhat irritating when they are. Parts of "The Burning Shadows of Silence" and "Inno a Satana" seem semi-whispered in harsh tone, but it's hard to make anything out because of the production. His screams are not as fierce or intense as what they were on the Emperor EP, and have a nasally, forced feel to them at some points. The clean vocals on "Inno a Satana" are also a listening challenge, and Ihsahn's voice itself was nowhere near to the point of power acheived on the band's following albums.
Though the production superbly aids the atmosphere, the claustrophobic and mid-range guitar tone makes some moments lose the power they could possess with a more "black metal" tone. Faust's drums sound significantly clearer and louder than the EP, and the progression of his semi-technical style is wonderfully displayed. The keyboards, I think, can be too overpowering despite the contribution in mood, as they can muddle the guitars and make things hard to dissect.
Minor squabbles aside, Emperor's debut is marked as a classic with damn good reason; their musical abilities were superior to that of their comrades, and they took the word "atmosphere" to an extreme with this album. Not to mention the insanely detailed cover art. Damn.
Realistically, few bands can truly claim to have so heavily influenced an entire musical movement. However, with regards to Emperor, the aforementioned claim seems particularly justified. Having already released a relatively successful split EP with fellow Norwegian metallers Enslaved; the band’s first full-length effort saw them delving much further into somewhat uncharted territory within the early, simplistic Black Metal genre.
The haunting and cyclic introduction of opener “Into The Infinity Of Thoughts” creates an almost supernatural ambience, drawing the listener deep inside its alluring splendour, until finally rupturing under a striking resonance of thunder. Immediately, the band, as if spawned from the storm itself, let their primal ferocity surface. Drummer Faust leads the way, guiding the onslaught with extreme precision and varying pace. The accompanying guitars of both Ihsahn and Samoth sound appropriately painful and malicious, with Tchort’s bass guitar also enjoying a suitable level of audibility inside the overall mix.
The overwhelming energy conveyed during this magnificent initiation is strengthened even further with Ihsahn’s employment of subtle, poignant keyboard passages throughout. The beautiful melodic segments towards the end of closer “Inno A Satana” and throughout the majestic “Towards The Pantheon” are both particularly prominent and memorable, illustrating an intelligent and well-considered song writing ability. Vocally, the multi-instrumentalist Ihsahn creates an array of rasping and guttural screams, placing further emphasis on the dark, austere feeling of the entire composition. This is particularly stressed whilst reading the lyrics in unison, which are full of shadowy images and depressing tales of medieval gloom and ghostly figures.
A major criticism of this album over the years has focussed primarily on the apparently poor production job, yet the truth is quite the opposite: the production, shrouded in noise and filth, is extremely fitting to the album’s overall theme of mystery and obscurity. It was characteristically recorded at the infamous Grieghallen Studios, the site of most early Norwegian Black Metal recordings, but still sounds wholly innovative in comparison to the works of many other acts of the time.
Whilst remaining faithful to the ideals of the genre, with this opus, Emperor effectively managed to begin to cut loose from the developing droves of generic and tiresome sounding Black Metal bands, undeniably creating an inspiring and grandiose masterpiece. Never a band to compromise their artistic integrity or to bear the brunt of predictability, “In The Nightside Eclipse” was the beginning of Emperor’s path to innovation within what would unfortunately become an overly stagnant and derivative music scene.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk
To call 'In the Nightside Eclipse' the best black metal album ever recorded would be something of a mistatement. Why? After due deliberation, a thought struck me: this isn't an album at all...
It is the Armageddon caught on tape.
When the world finally comes to an end, we can all be assured that this CD will be played, as it is the perfect background music to a decisive clash between good and evil. About fifty seconds into the opener "Into the Infinity of Thoughts", I felt as if the temperature in my room dropped twenty degrees and the lights had gone out. Yes, the album is THAT cold and evil. In fact, one sweltering 102-degree summer day, I gave the disc a spin and I was still shivering. The opening track goes on for nine minutes and not one second is wasted. Like any good opener, the tone is established for the remainder of the album. Of particular note throughout are the keyboard sounds. To me, they sound not unlike a choir of angels that mourn the plight of Earth's unfortunate, hell-bound souls during their final few moments alive. Ihsahn's demonic shrieks are like the voice of a vengeful god, meticulously annotating the whole spiel. The next song, "The Burning Shadows of Silence" isn't quite as frenzied as its predecessor, at least during the beginning. Like the rest of the album, the guitar work comprises primarily simple, tremolo picking, which is done well and tastefully. The keyboards also darken the atmosphere during this number, though they are more synth-stringy and not as organ-like as those used on the first track (which lent that apocalyptic feel to it). In case you had any worries about any light managing to peep through, "Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times" should be of some reassurance. The opening riff is the black of night in musical form. Whenever the moon is full, I make sure to give this song at least one listen--usually several! The organ-synths are back again, though the guitars take center-stage here, until the pace slows down and the keyboards are out in front again. Brilliant.
Track four unfortunately got saddled with a cheesy title ("Beyond the Great Vast Forest") but begins in grand style, featuring an intro riff that follows a rhythm reminiscent of the Maiden gallop. There are time changes and brutal, melodic riffs aplenty, and the keyboards change from the organ-synth to the synth-strings and back at just the right moment! The next song redeems itself in the song title department and carries the distinction of being the very first Emperor track I ever heard. Following the melodic keyboard intro, the ferocity kicks in, punctuated by Ihsahn's almost-reptilian vocals. I knew at about 2:10 in that I absolutely HAD to get my hands on this album. To this day, I'm not regretful about it in the slightest.The second half of this song features some pretty crazy riffage (though the instrumentation throughout the entire album is maniacal).
"The Majesty of the Nightsky" has this Nordic sound to it that (almost) makes me want to don a viking helmet and go on a expedition that entails much pillaging and massacre after having listened to the song. Additionally, there's this one section a little under two minutes in when the guitars almost sound like men groaning, a neat effect. At 2:23, things calm down and keyboards take over; adding to the ambience is the sound of a howling wind (as if the listener needs more reasons to feel cold). After the song ends on a chaotic note, the band's best-known composition, "I Am the Black Wizards" begins, with that infectious riff rumbling along in the beginning (and it reappears several times throughout the song, too!). At about one minute and three quarters in, one of the more harrowing moments pops up, featuring a doomy keyboard melody accentuated by Faust's carefully placed beats. The last third or so of the song is in a different meter than what came before it and features that catchy-as-fuck riff and a mixture of black vox and foreboding spoken words. The piece-de-resistance, "Inno a Satana" points at the direction the band would take in later works. This song differs from the other seven in that the listener gets to hear Ihsahn's clean vocals. I much prefer the evil shrieks, but he does a more than adequare job here. The Iron Maiden influence again rears its head in the rhythm for the first three quarters of the song, then the tempo gets kicked up about five notches and the madness finally concludes with Ihsahn fiendishly whispering the title.
As many have pointed out, the production is lousy on the album (are you there, Tchort?), but who ever said that Judgment Day has to sound all pretty and stuff? In fact, I view this as a plus, as the sound is absolutely HELLISH and cleaner production may very well have removed the frigid feel of the music (a reason I do not like this album's successor quite as much as 'Nightside'). Overall, this album is incredible. On the jewel case, Emperor proclaim that they play sophisticated black metal exclusively, and that claim is fully corroborated by the eight masterworks contained therein.
Emperor is an infamous name in black metal, however some people view the whole length of their career as a band. What release of the band you prefer depends a lot on what music you are into in general, as the rawer, harsh, melodic material of their first releases later morphed into more immense, epic concepts and later still into a more technical, robotic barrage. This aside though, In The Nightside Eclipse is for me an album that none of their other releases – nor indeed those of hardly any other band – can really top.
Although I said that Emperor moved to an epic, immense approach later on (Anthems…), this release is in fact arguably equally so. The buzzing guitars dance with distorted melody which even when fundamentally simple create an infinitely deep, hypnotising atmosphere, and the distant, tortured vocals add a great deal to this. Listening to tracks such as the opener – Into the Infinity of Thoughts – is like gazing into the dark lakes that feature lyrically, and at times actually jumping into them and being immersed and lost in dark, swirling sound.
The drums of Faust – often overshadowed by later drummer Trym – are competent and effective, being mid-paced but energetic, with blast beats and pulsing rhythms supporting the other elements well. Many of the songs feature great melodies which are both catchy and haunting, such as I Am The Black Wizards and Inno A Satana; both showcasing the high level of song writing that I strongly believe to be present in this album.
The production has been knocked by some, but I feel the texture that has been achieved is ideal, and delivers the music in perfectly eerie and epic waves. As mentioned, I personally enjoy the detached nature of the vocals, as they are not engulfed by the guitars but rather enhance the dark feel of the music. Where later releases offer a crisper, cleanly delivered attack this album comes at the listener in an organic, colder way which I really enjoy.
The use of keyboards I feel adds to this. While various modern acts are criticised for their leanings to keyboard use and such, the use of this instrument on this album is thoughtful and effective, without overshadowing the other instruments at all. They add further depth to the melodic ideas and are executed with great result.
Lyrically the album is more than competent, as many of the lyrics themselves bear an equally shadowy, eerie quality to the music. Those to tracks such as Beyond the Great Vast Forest help the listener to visualise the underlying themes of nature and beauty, while I Am The Black Wizards lyrically offers an alternative, fantasy subject matter, these being written by the infamous Varg Vikernes.
This album is for me one of few pinnacles of harsh, cold, melodic and beautiful black metal, and is certainly an essential of the genre, and indeed of any metal fan’s collection. Listening to this album truly takes you into the infinity of Emperor, and black metal overall.
Emperor's "In the Nightside Eclipse" is considered the genre-defining album for black metal. It certainly has all the right ingredients for good black metal. Heavy riffing, sinister keyboars snaking between the guitar lines, hard drumming, shrieky incoherent vocals that sound like they're coming from the seventh level of hell, and lyrics in praise of Satan. And unlike many other black metal releases that employ keyboards, this album uses them sparingly.
The album is not an easy one to listen to. Not because it's bad (far from it) but because it's one of those albums that needs to be taken as a whole; listened to completely and with each track in order to truly enjoy its majesty. The lyrics read like descriptive prose rather than poetry and are not overly convoluted. By being easier to follow than, say, Dani Filth's more convoluted writings, Emperor communicates its messages in a more understandable way that doesn't leave you scratching your head. The only hiccup is that some spelling and grammar errors are present, but I attribute that to English not being this band's primary language. Considering that, the lyrics run circles around those written by many native English speakers, so I definitely salute that.
Each song illustrates a stage in a journey to a darker form of enlightenment, from journeying through the mountains and forests to fulfilling the goal of becoming a dark wizard in service of the dark lord himself. Thus the entire album comes off as a sermon of stories. I listened to this album intently studying the lyric sheets as I went along. This is by no means casual listening. This is intense listening, requiring much concentration. This is not an album where I can just listen to songs willy nilly- this one that must be swallowed whole, head first. My favorite tracks are "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" and "I am the Black Wizards."
The album, while quite good, has its share of stumbling blocks. One is the production. The guitars sound somewhat muddy, the drums are slightly fuzzy, and there are too many instances where the vocals are drowned out by the instrumentals. This album would have benefited from better production, but has so many other positive merits, that many folks can overlook it.
The remastered version I have also features a pair of bonus tracks: a cover of Bathory's "A Fine Day to Die" and Mercyful Fate's "Gypsy." The production on these tracks is much better than the album proper. However, they are the weakest tracks on the album. The Bathory cover is rather boring, though Isahn's vocals are more coherent. The Mercyful Fate cover is nothing to write home about either.
So do I recommend the album? Absolutely. Despite the shoddy production and the fact that there are better black metal bands out there, this is still a very good album that I feel anyone who enjoys this style of metal should listen to. I certainly enjoyed this album and feel it deserves its place among the black metal elite. The whole storytelling format made this one of the more cohesive albums I've had the pleasure of listening to.
Sometimes, an album comes along that truly defines a genre. Of course, this is a subjective thing, as no one will agree on which albums define which genres, but it's safe to say that everyone has their preferences. Well, when it comes to black metal, Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse does just that.
For their first full-length release, Emperor combines blazing guitars, majestic synths, and amazing percussive texture to create a sound that is truly supreme in its sorrowful nihilism. From the beginning, the listener is awash in images of pagan legends, bleak soundscapes, and hopeless screams of anger.
It starts off with an ominous intro that reminds me of soldiers marching into certain death, and then blasts into the first song, Into the Infinity of Thoughts. It's the longest song at around eight minutes, and one of the best, with several breaks and tempo changes that create an epic feel that has rarely been rivaled. The next song, The Burning Shadows of Silence, has fewer lyrics than the rest, and is one of the bleaker tracks as it speeds along. Next is Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times, in which synths are masterfully used to create a whirling blizzard of sound, that builds to a climax and then comes down to a mellow conclusion. Definitely a highlight. Beyond the Great Vast Forest is one of the slower songs, and is a re-recording of My Empire's Doom from the Wrath demo.
The second half of the CD begins with Towards the Pantheon, which opens with a simple synth melody, then rips into one of the fastest songs on the album. A marvelous song. The next song, The Majesty of the Nightsky, starts out loud and at a moderate pace, and then cuts into an amazing synth midsection, only to resume the aggression later. Seriously, the synths in this album have to be heard to be believed. Next comes one of the best songs of Emperor's entire career, I Am the Black Wizards, which begins with pure aggression, and slowly winds down throughout the length of the song, until the end, where Ihsahn screams "I am Them" over a background of chanting. Truly mindblowing. Following that is Inno A Satana, which combines chanting and screaming for a truly magnificent combination. But, the power of this song lies in the climax, as the instruments are whipped into an orgasmic frenzy that culminates with Ihsahn whispering "Inno...A...Satana!".
Truly amazing CD. Emperor avoids the lyrical pitfalls that other bands fall into with pointless, cheesy, blasphemous lyrics (coughmardukcough) and creates lyrics that paint a picture of a fantasy vision of pagan Norway. The lyrics fit the music excellently, and the lyrics to Cosmic Keys and I am the Black Wizards were written by none other than Mortiis himself, a former member of the band.
Overall, this has to be heard to be believed, and no black metal release -- or any other metal release for that matter -- that I've heard can come close to surpassing the greatness of this release.