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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.