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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.