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The split between Emperor and Enslaved remains a standout from the height of the Second Wave, but it owes its full significance to the achievements both acts would reach later on. Given Norway's hotbed status for black metal throughout the 90s, it's not surprising some of the best would team up at one point or another. Both bands were young, and still in the process of finding their voice when this split came out. The rest, of course, is history. If Emperor did not innovate the symphonic black metal sound (I'd say the credit goes to Master's Hammer) they certainly perfected it on their first two albums. As for Enslaved, their career's been nothing if not consistent. Viking-lore infused black metal ultimately gave way to a rich, progressive sound. Not that you'd ever guess that from the music here. As deceptively sophisticated as the arrangements here are, the impression is moreso one of primal molten creativity and rawness in the truest of black metal customs.
Effectively a combination of Emperor's self-titled EP and Enslaved's Hordanes Land, I loved this split years ago. Today I still do, though now it strikes me more as a pair of parallel works-in-progress. Both Emperor and Enslaved would make fantastic bounds for black metal with their first two respective albums. Emperor / Hordanes Land is made a bit less interesting by the fact that the former would re-record their best tracks in better shape for In the Nightside Eclipse. As for Enslaved's offering, I've come to see Hordanes Land as a much-welcomed expansion to their own debut Vikingligr Veldi. The two halves were made independently of one another, and were originally intended to be heard each on their own. Even so, with the two together, you get an impressive one-two punch. Both bands are impressive on their own; together, they complement one another, and there's more than enough of a distinction between the two to keep the music fresh.
When I call this split a "work in progress" for both bands involved, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. While it may have been less favourable to hear this rough display on a full-length, the bands here are making rough strokes already with a unique personality. Emperor's trademark speed and symphonic accoutrements are already in sight, although fans of In the Nightside Eclipse won't be surprised by anything they hear here. Although I prefer Emperor over Enslaved most days, I'd actually say the Hordanes Land offers the most promise here. The guys were in their teens and already playing with longer song structures and deeper orchestrations. The primitive mix of Viking metal with a primitive symphonic lean in the direction of their splitmates is a great combination, and I think the band pulls it off very well.
Both sides of this split were released on their own before getting paired up, and I think the halves ultimately deserve to be interpreted independently first, and as a split second. Although the In the Nightside Eclipse rerecordings make Emperor's side less essential in context, musically I'd ay the two are just as solid. It's a really interesting thing to hear two bands make their own unique statements on a single disc. If anything, Emperor / Hordanes Land goes to remind us just how individually talented that classic Norwegian hotbed really was. Since then, the two have carved out amazing legacies for themselves. As a fan of both, it's pretty cool to hear the two together when they were first starting out.
While it was a remains a fairly common gimmick in black and death metal, Emperor/Hordane's Land will always be the definitive split album, not just because it captures two legendary bands in the first full flowering of genius, but because it came at a magical moment in the genre's history. Early recordings frequently function better as historical documents than as creative statements, but while Emperor/Hordane's Land certainly has great appeal in that historical sense, both bands succeed fully as artists as well.
Arguably, Enslaved's portion of the split is stronger (though it should be emphasized that this is a six-of-one-half-dozen-of-another situation), but it is the Emperor half that is definitely more interesting historically, due largely to its considerable divergence from the band's later material. Some of the expected elements are present, notably the precision in instrumentation, but on the whole, this is not the same Emperial beast that would be heard on In the Nightside Eclipse. This is a more restrained Emperor. The claustrophobic production values and jarring progressions of the band's subsequent work give way here to a more contemplative music that is, if perhaps a touch more conventional, also more fully developed across a broader spectrum of sound and idea. Strangely, despite its more 'primitive' approach, Emperor's efforts here achieve an enveloping, symphonic richness missing in their later material. This is most evident on "Night of the Graveless Souls" and "Cosmic Keys to My Creation and Times," where synthesized strings form a sinister counterpoint to the tremolo-picked guitar melodies, rather than simply serving as sonic shading. Throughout, the band really allows its material to breathe and gather momentum naturally, making for a dynamic, intense experience that immerses the listener in the stillness at the center of universal chaos.
For their part (Hordane's Land), Enslaved evoke the awsome power and majesty of battle. Each song opens with a leaden marching cadence only to explode into violence before reaching a point of self-sustaining equilibrium that is gradually transformed into a glorious triumphalism. This repetition of a basic theme in epic variation vaults the listener into an eternal past that serves as a reminder of what could be, extracting from the tragedy of the things lost the hope of a future that can be again.
(I’m going to review this album on the whole, rather than reviewing the EP from each band individually)
This album shows the early works from two highly-regarded Black Metal bands, Emperor and Enslaved. It combines Emperor and Enslaved’s first releases outside a demo.
I’m going to admit: the bands don’t really go that well together on one CD. The sound of bot EP’s are different, and the mood set by Emperor’s outro track isn’t a great song to go alongside Enslaved’s intro, though if you treat the album for what it is – two EP’s that just happen to be on the same album, and not as one album that is meant to flow – then this release is fantastic.
The CD starts off with four Emperor tracks from the era Mortiis was still in the band. If you’ve heard Emperor’s Nightside Eclipse, then you’ll be familiar with two of the songs. To be fair, the songs on this EP aren’t “worse”, they are “different”. The keyboard will be one notable different (there’s less of it here), and also the guitars sound different. There are some good songs on this EP, though overall they are nothing special compared to other Emperor releases.
The Enslaved EP is by far the best Enslaved I’ve ever heard. The booklet lists Enslaved as being tracks 5-11, but there’s really only 3 tracks. There is fair variation through each track, which makes for an interesting listening experience. The tracks on Hordanes Land use different sounding keyboards for each track, so it is different from other Enslaved for that reason.
Total time is 20:18 for Emperor and 30:45 for Hordanes Land. The CD is 51:03 total – a fair length. Highlights of the album include Emperor’s “Wrath of the Tyrant” and Enslaved’s “Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor”.
This is a great collector’s album, and a great CD to keep in a Discman, for example, as it has two great EPs on one disk. These EPs can, however, be obtained elsewhere. Emperor re-released their Wrath of the Tyrant demo along with this EP on the same CD, and Enslaved released Vikingligr Veldi with the Hordanes Land EP as a bonus CD.
If you have one of these EPs already, you may as well spend the same amount of money you’d otherwise be spending on this CD to get one of the aforementioned albums, so you get the EP plus a bonus album. If you don’t have either of these EPs yet then this album is recommended.
This classic split album presents the early sound of two great black metal bands - my favourite, Emperor and Enslaved. Both of them went far away from their original sound throughout the years - this is the occasion to hear how they sounded in the way they were created.
The first side is the Emperor one. The band presents its raw, but still a bit melodic and pleasant side, though it's much closer to typical black metal. There's less speed, keyboards are used rarlier and not as offensively. The vocals are very screetchy, the production is not good, so the music has its black, evil atmosphere. However, the Emperor part consists of four great, classic songs, featuring such anthems like "I Am the Black Wizards" - one of the truly best songs black metal ever bred.
Enslaved's side is held in similar atmosphere. It is also raw, more evil and black than later albums, the most recognisable Enslaved elements are still marked. Great, cold riffs are combined with acoustics, keyboards and so on. What I really love in this album and in Enslaved at the whole, is the fact that those elements are used really thoughtfully and it is still riffs that build the album. In addition to all of that, the vocals are really great and maybe they are even the best I have ever heard. Enslaved makes its best in the last track, with all these things brought up to perfect.
All in all, this album shows the best of the early Norwegian classics. In my opinion Enslaved is a bit better here, though Emperor shows a very high level. However, we all know these bands of their later albums and this one will always be only an interesting part of their work.