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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.