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A Ravenous Debut - 50%

CrimsonFloyd, June 4th, 2012

Wrath of the Tyrant is the debut demo from the legendary black metal act Emperor. This is by far the rawest, most primitive recording in the Emperor catalog. While there are a few impressive moments, this demo predominately reveals a band still searching for its identity. That shouldn’t be too surprising; Ihsahn and Mortiis are merely 17 years old and Samoth is 18. Samoth isn’t even playing guitar on this demo, but instead is on the drums. The compositions are a far cry from the exquisite pieces found on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk or even In the Nightside Eclipse. Wrath of the Tyrant is a piece of direct, violent and predatory black metal.

In general the production is what one would expect from a 1992 black metal demo: raw, slightly distant, and choppy and with a bit of hiss. That works well with the malicious nature of most of these songs. The major issue with this recording is the vocals, which are horrible both in execution and production. Ihsahn’s voice is way too far forward in the mix and is significantly louder than any of the other instruments. It’s also overloaded with reverb, which at times washes out the instruments. Furthermore, the vocal execution itself is really annoying. Ihsahn’s voice is really high and squeaky and has sort of a “fingernails on chalkboard” effect.

The quality of the songs on Wrath of the Tyrant is fairly strong. “Witches Sabbath” is an intense track, moving through a tension-building war march and then climaxing in a burst of trashing riffs and out of control screams. “My Empire’s Doom” is an early version of “Beyond the Great Vast Forest.” While this prototype lacks a lot of the layers that are present on the later version, it does demonstrate Emperor’s ability to traverse a wide range of moods and tempos within a single piece. A few tracks—most notably “Lord of the Storms”—display subpar musicianship, with sloppy execution and band members being slightly out of synch, but most of the time the performance is adequate.

In truth Wrath of the Tyrant is a somewhat obsolete release. Of the nine tracks, three were rerecorded on the As the Shadows Rise EP, two on the self-titled EP and one on In the Nightside Eclipse. That leaves three songs (two if you exclude the intro) that are available exclusively on Wrath of the Tyrant. In each case the rerecording does a superior job of displaying the compositional details of the songs and in many cases creates superior atmosphere. All of the rerecordings contain far superior vocal performances from Ihsahn. Still, there is an enjoyable novelty to hearing the noble Emperor in such a primitive state; for that reason Wrath of a Tyrant is worth a listen. However, this is far from the quintessential instance of raw black metal that it is occasionally made out to be.

(Originally written for http://deinos-logos.blogspot.com/)

A Soulside Journey could've been? - 79%

Evil_Johnny_666, April 4th, 2010

Ah, the early 90ies Norwegian black metal scene... Church burnings, suicides, murders - the murder of Euronymous - a revolt against society and the music scene, it all is particularly mysterious and has some kind of obscure aura around the bands and events that occurred. It all leaves you to wonder how a very young adult could've have killed a once fellow friend, how everything would have evolved had Euronymous not have been killed and continued his plans with Mayhem, what Varg himself would have released too. But something else that makes you ask a couple of "what if" is the transition of a couple of these bands from death to black metal. Darkthrone with their aborted sophomore death metal album Goatlord - or maybe A Blaze in the Northern Sky, what would've happened had they continued with their plan, what about their "unholy trinity"? It was after listening to my In the Nightside Eclipse vinyl that I decided to put my Wrath of the Tyrant one after a long time without listening to it. And it's while listening closely to the recording with fresh thoughts of an hypothetical logical follow-up to Soulside Journey that I began to feel that Wrath of the Tyrant was some kind of aborted album like the aforementioned Darkthrone album, Emperor's "Soulside Journey could've been".

Like Immortal and Darkthrone, the Emperor guys came from death metal backgrounds - Ihsahn and Samoth previously being in Thou Shalt Suffer - and were successfully convinced by Euronymous to try something new. Most see Wrath of the Tyrant as a black metal release, but in reality, due to its more or less close release date to the last Thou Shalt Suffer demo - which also means the songs themselves were written quite early - as well as a very bad production and overall sound of the recording, I'd say it's a transitory release between the death metal Ihsahn and Samoth played, and the black metal Emperor were known for; it is at its core what they formerly played, but you can hear - and see - plenty of elements they began to use.

First, a couple of stand-alone statements:
1. The production is bad
2. Fast picking isn't exclusive to black metal
3. Particularly not if you compare it to Swedish death metal (probably their main influence)
4. Black metal vocals doesn't necessarily equal black metal
5. The drumming is almost exclusively death metal (from what I can make out of it at least)

What I want to say, is that at its core it's principally death metal; the drumming - the beats I can hear at least - is as most riffs, some a lot more than others. Though, the vocals are obviously high pitched screeching with a lot of distortion and reverb, there is an instrumental (symphonic, like in black metal) intro and outro, the tone has a lot more reverb and some riffs are truly black metal. Hell, even "My Empires Doom" - pre-"Towards the Pantheon" - sounds death metal except for the main riff. The slower riffs are definitely akin to more crushing slower death metal. And what made me think more about the nature of Emperor's demo, is after listening to the only track that has never subsequently been re-recorder, "Forgotten Centuries". And seriously, the song kicks some serious ass, for some reason it's probably my favourite out there and I always wondered why they never did this song justice. It starts with a fast paced malevolent riff similar to the Swedish style, really shortly slows down to speed up again and slow down even more, some more melodic lines that could be some mix between black metal and the aforementioned Swedish sound, and then the song slows again in doom territory to speed up again for the end. It's below 3 minutes, but its construction and its quality makes it one of the most, if not the most, memorable tracks of the whole demo. And then listen to "Lord of the Storms", if that's not death metal... and forget the necro sound and vocals for a second, "Moon Over Kara-Shehr" also has some VERY death metal riffs, some slower, more crushing as some malevolent fast picked ones. Same for "Night of the Graveless Souls" which has been re-recorded as a completely black metal track, here, it IS death metal. Beyond the obvious very black metal production present in the Emperor MLP as well as additional keyboards, the drumming here is less relentless, has some snare and cymbal playing and some fills throughout the song that are absent from the aforementioned version. So if you listen very closely, you'll notice that while most riffs have been inspired by the Swedish bands, there is some of its own going on. "Witches Sabbat" is quite interesting as it starts out with a very death metal riff but with some single notes and a doomy riff, some effects and whispers, it shows an Emperor trying new grounds. And it sounds awesome, I'd say it's a mix of less groovy Swedish death metal, some slower - a couple of them doomy - riffs and a couple of Norwegian sounding ones, tones and aesthetics. There seems to be a very unique sound going around, but it's quite hard to go dissect deeper as the sound quality can even be worse at times. Well it's not that the production itself is that bad - it certainly is bad - it's just that the bass - or at least I think it is - destroys the whole thing, it creates this constant and annoying hissing that gets in the way of properly hearing the riffs and drumming. It's probably the reason why some songs sound better or worse than other; the speed and amount of notes being played by the bass. And the thing is, as many shitty sounding demos, you can't hear the bass anyway so why make it ruin the whole recording altogether?

And the sound quality must be Wrath of the Tyrant's tragedy. Sure only one track has never been re-recorded, but all the others have been reworked and got the whole black metal make-up with additional keyboards. As much as I like those re-recorded versions and Emperor in general, I can't go back to my treasured "Forgotten Centuries" without thinking about what if Emperor ever got around recording the demo for real as an album release. While some don't like the Sunlight studio production on Soulside Journey, I absolutely love it, and despite that, while it might not be the best choice for this hypothetical release - well maybe it would - it just makes me think of if Wrath of the Tyrant got the same treatment. Like Darkthrone's debut it would probably be some unique kind of death metal, another album in the practically non-existent Norwegian scene. But seeing how they were pretty much becoming a black metal band - hence the vocals and such - if anything, the album would've probably ended as the re-recorded tracks.

So really, I love Wrath of the Tyrant, hell even the bad production has some kind of charm, as it's some kind of unique death metal with some black metal elements thrown in like the vocals and a couple of riffs. It features some of Emperor's best material, and even if all the songs - excluding the intro and outro - except one have been re-recorded in killer versions, I think it's one of the Norwegian scene's tragedy that the demo - and the omitted track - never saw the light of day as a properly recorded death metal album, or even as a black metal one during the As the Shadow Rise session, and it would have still been a very unique album. The former would've been the less probable, but I still think Emperor shouldn't have been afraid of reworking the very death metal "Forgotten Centuries" and maybe have gone around making this a full-length even if it had to be short. And the more I'm thinking about this, the more I think As the Shadow Rise should have been a full-length, just listen to "Ancient Queen". Only the very In the Nightside Eclipse intro sounding outro makes you wonder at the possibilities. Instead, Wrath of the Tyrant is the only recording featuring all those songs together, and while it is of course enjoyable, the sound quality ruins the atmosphere and particular sound it may have as I'm sure it would have based on the music itself.

Forgotten Ashes Of A Long Dead Fire - 99%

hellhippie, March 26th, 2009

This band's name will always be associated the now infamous church burnings and yes even a murder that took place in the early to mid 1990's in Norway all in the name of black metal . Now while most of us have an opinion on this Norwegian black metal phenomenon I would really just like to focus on the music . The one thing that must be stated though is that many of these bands had what can only be described as total conviction and the utmost dedication to what they believed in . Emperor will always be known for making great music . They have produced countless symphonic black metal anthems and are praised as one of the longest standing or at least longest producing Norwegian black metal outfits ever (along with Darkthrone of course) . I honestly don't care about all that . Personally I can't stand symphonic black metal and find it to be an absolute abomination to the very definition of the core of black metal . Black metal has meant as much to me as death metal has in my life (and trust me that is a lot) . I saw and still see no need for such things as harps and synthesizers and anything that comes directly or indirectly from an orchestra to be associated with evil music . Sure an intro to a song is fine but the point must be made . Anyway Emperor's "Wrath of the Tyrant" demo violently vomited out anything that would ever be even remotely associated with an orchestra and for that alone I will never understand the direction this band took . I actually don't like Emperor after this demo's release but they did make this demo and that is all I need from them . This demo for those who have not heard it is completely different from anything they would produce after "Wrath of the Tyrant's" initial release .

This is black metal; period . The production is so raw that your knuckles will bleed after carrying this over to your stereo to play it . The intro on this alone will conjure up images of ancient unholy battle's for the heavens . It is the only place that a "symphonic" description would rear it's very unwelcome head on this demo . The intro also provides a perfect sonic precursor as to what is about to dominate the listeners ears, pure evil .

The guitar with it's suffocatingly grim tone plays some of the sickest riffs I have ever heard in my life . The structures of the songs are well ahead of their time on "Wrath of the Tyrant" and should have continued being produced exactly like this on this bands later works . They are perfectly executed on every second of this demo with many highlights scattered throughout this overall gruesome hateful body of work . I have always loved the opening riff to "My Empire's Doom" as it is both well thought out and perfectly delivered . Then there's the absolute devastatingly heavy middle slower riff in "Forgotten Centuries" also that shows that while the guitars can and do speed up with sheer blinding speed effectively, they can also slow down and be just as cold, grim and convincing . These are only two examples of the great guitar work contained on here and there are many others as well trust me . Simply put these are some of the rawest most perfectly evil songs ever written and should be treasured as such .

The bass is just as disgustingly delivered as the guitars and adds just enough bottom heaviness to the sound as to keep it somewhat grounded . Many later black metal releases contain a higher pitched endless assortment of trilling and grinding but this particular demo does not . Instead it holds a completely dominating ancient rotten heavy sound that sounds like a soundtrack for the armies of hell . The pureness of the drums alongside the bass are a masterful example of how this band made a song come together so perfectly . The constant cymbal crashes add an extra accentuating appeal on this demo as they are more prominent sounding in the mix . The drums are recorded well and played even better and somehow actually have a malicious tone to them . Now drums usually don't hold a tone as a guitar, bass or vocalist would but whether it's just the unbelievable evilness of the complete sound that Emperor produced here or that they simply do "Just Sound Evil" is a definite point of interest . At any rate, to me they simply do just that "They sound evil" . The way the ride cymbal is ridden or the way the crash cymbal is endlessly tortured adds an extra defining sound to the overall coldness of the music . It is a perfect drum sound for what is, in actuality, my favorite demo from any Norwegian black metal band .

The vocals are as evil sounding as one would hope to find in any form of heavy music . The continuous echo that dominates Ihsahn's grim, cold, black voice adds to the amazing feel that he had for the music produced here . The way he sonically portrays a message of pain and eternal suffering through his vocals are completely unique . You literally feel the fire burning his blackened soul as he more than gets his unholy ancient message across to all who would hear it . These vocals are so evil and so infested with hatred that it almost seems like he is singing through the devil himself . They are ancient sounding and have a dominating gruesome appeal . No other vocals would even come close to rounding this amazing demo out like Ihsahn's do .

This is a truly amazing release that would appeal to fans of other perfect evil releases like Darkthrone's "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" or Beherit's "Oath of Black Blood" . The unbelievably evil "Wrath of the Tyrant" is for me, the perfect black metal demo . So if your looking to hear what Emperor sounded like before they incorporated a string section into their music this would be the exact demo you are looking for . I still can't believe what happened to this band as they were along with Darkthrone the greatest thing that ever called itself Norwegian black metal . Truly Perfect .....................

Best demo ever? - 95%

Lord_Jotun, January 2nd, 2004

It was 1991 when Samoth, guitarist in the young underground Black/Death Metal band Thou Shalt Suffer, decided to leave in order to explore different musical territories. He was immediately joined by his comrade Ihsahn (another Thou Shalt Suffer member) and another artistically skilled individual named Mortiis. At the time, they were three unknown young Metal musicians who gave birth to a new project, named Emperor. Today, such a line-up would be heralded as Norwegian supergroup, and Emperor's name conjures a brilliant career marked by several acclaimed releases, a bold collective of excellent musicians who showed many new paths to other bands by venturing into unexplored territories in first place themselves.
The trio, consisting of Ihsahn on guitar and vocals, Mortiis on bass and Samoth on drums (although originally a guitar player), immediately devoted themselves to create their very own sound, and the first result o ftheir hard work was their one and only demo, "Wrath Of The Tyrant".
Recorded on a primitive 4 track machine, the demo was one of the best of its time, and despite the inevitable poor sound quality, the strength of the material was so overpowering that it quickly had the band signed to Candlelight Records, and ALL the songs on the demo (except "Forgotten Centuries") were later reworked to be issued on future Emperor releases.

Indeed, "Wrath Of The Tyrant" captures the band's immense potential despite missing several Emperor key elements, such as dual guitar work and clever keyboard inserts in the songs (due to the poor equipment, only one guitar could be recorded and keyboards were used only on the intro, where no other instruments appear). It shows a different side of the Emperor sound to come, and the impression is still very good.
The demo begins with a short, creepy keyboard intro created by Samoth (who, on a side note, called himself Samot at the time, while Ihsahn was known as Ygg) which soon gives way to the first proper song "Ancient Queen". The first thing we must notice is that for first and last time in their career, Emperor use dowtuned instruments, as the whole demo is recorded with drop D tuning. Whether this choice was determined by Samoth's and Ihsahn's more Death Metal based early days or adopted to create a tchicker sound to counterbalance the inadequate capabilities of the equipment, I can't say; it certainly adds another curiosity factor for the faithful Emperor fan. The sound is very harsh and crude, yet ot has a deep low end in contrast with so many other Black Metal releases; Ihsahn's guitar and Mortiis's bass (both rather heavily distorted) have enough power to let the melodies break through the wall of static and invade the listener's ears without losing too much power. The drums are the lowest instrument in the mix, while Ihsahn's vocals (which aren't as shrill as they would be on other early Emperor releases) are very loud and echoy, often overpowering the rest of the instrumentation, thankfully only for brief peak moments.
"Ancient Queen" is a nice opener, having a mid paced rhythm and several very good riffs, its simple structure allowing the listener to become familiar with the demo's sound without missing important elements of the song.
"My Empire's Doom" is next, and is much more complex and layered; Samoth does a really nice job on drums, and I love how Ihsahn's vocals follow the rhythm over the great opening riff (which makes me regret the absence of the lyrics even more). This track is way ahead of its time with all its several twists and turns, and would indeed make its way to none less that "In The Nightside Eclipse", although obviously after undergoing a deep rearrangement; new lyrics would also find their way and the song would metamorphose into "Beyond the Great Vast Forest". Curiously, this version closes with a rather abrupt fade out, which makes me wonder if the closing riff that appears on "Beyond the Great Vast Forest" was added later on or already existed at this stage but was cut off for some reason.

"Forgotten Centuries" is a short and complex song, the only one on the demop that wasn't reutilized later on; it has some unusual and interesting riffs but doesn't really fit among the rest, hence (probably) why it was dropped.
"Night on the Graveless Souls" makes the pace faster and the general approach more direct, with its nice collection of straight in your face riffs; Ihsahn creates some damn wicked noises with his throat here. This is one of the few examples on the demo showing that Emperor would later become a much faster playing band, as most of the songs here stick to mid to slow tempos.
"Moon over Kara-Shehr" is a bloody underrated atmospheric song; it has several killer riffs and equally numerous tonality and rhythm changes, plues even more echoy vocals from Ihsahn making the mood even more mysterious and great guitar/bass layering (the best way they could replace a second guitar sound). This track would later reappear on the "Nordic Metal" tribute compilation as a rehearsal version featuring Hellhammer (Mayhem) on drums and Sverd (Arcturus) on synths.

"Witches Sabbath" is probably the slowest songs on here; it summons a really dark atmosphere with its slow riffs and insane vocal work: here, Ihsahn's most possessed screams are joined by some low, unearthly chantings (which are promptly distorted by the recording equipment, but the effect isn't really negative) provided by Samoth and Mortiis. Not really typical for Emperor, but great for its own mood nevertheless.
"Lord of the Storms" is another surprise, being a very short and straightforward Metal blitz built on exactly two riffs (although one of them is played in two different keys), with a speedy part in the middle whihc is pure headbanging bliss. The songs lasts until some seconds after the two minute mark but actually finishes earlier, and is prolonged by long notes, drum fills and Ihsahn's demented screams.
Finally, the title track... another little gem from a songwriting point o fview, it opens with a plodding, menacing riff which turns into a mid-paced break via a courageous but effective key change, to become another fast and furious assault through a clever chromatic chord ascension. The song then switches back to the first riff, and ends on a very unsettling spoken part ("Nobody will escape the wrath of the tyrant... forever the beast shall wander the earth!").
The original edition of the demo and some re-releases have an outro (labelled as "The End" on some vinyl versions) which was left off the official Candlelight re-release for reasons unknown.

If you like Emperor, you probably know this one already. If you like raw Black Metal, you want to check this out. If you don't like Black Metal, you will loathe this to death, but then again what would you be reading this review for?

Brilliant - 93%

Black_Metal_Bastard, September 9th, 2003

This is the one and only Emperor demo, the infamous Wrath of the Tyrant, and it rules! The production is not even as bad as everyone says it is. After all, it was recorded on a 4-track home studio, so what do you expect? The music is not up to the level of technicality that it is today, but it is still good for the time period and the equipment it was recorded on.

Ihsahn's vocals are perfect for this, as they retain that necro feeling that the music brings out. The drums are played by Samoth and they are really good, not as good as Faust or Trym but still very worthy. The guitar is kept high in the mix and the riffs are catchy on songs like Ancient Queen and Lord of the Storms. The bass is a constant buzz, sounding like a chainsaw, but it's alright.

Mortiis wrote the lyrics, and it's a damn shame that they weren't printed in the booklet or anywhere else for that matter, because they have to be very poetic and enchanting.

This is one of Emperor's finest moments, and it already showcases the talent these guys have at such an early stage in their career. All hail the Emperor!

Poorly produced quality BM - 82%

Mourningrise, August 21st, 2003

Ok, lets get one thing straight. I am a HUGE Emperor fan. I have everything they have put out, including bootlegs and such. I have 8 of their t-shirts, including 2 long sleeves. I am a diehard fan. This demo is good music wise and atmosphere wise, but production wise, it is bad (not as bad as some other albums by other BM bands though.)

The vocals are loud, overpowering shrieks that have an echo effect added to them, probably to make them sound more "grim and necro." They are pushed way out in the mix to give them that extra feeling of evilness.

You can't hear the bass except for a loud buzz that permiates the entire demo.

The drums are actually pretty good. Samoth is on drums, and he is pretty damn good, even at their relatively young ages.

Ihsahn is on vocals and guitar. There are some very catchy riffs throughout this album, but they can be hard to hear at times because of the buzz that comes with them. I already discussed the vocals, so no need to go over that again.

Overall this is a good demo, better than most BM demos of that time period. You can already tell that this band had something. With their debut full-length, In the Nightside Eclipse, their potential was fully realized I believe.