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Gaze upon the frozen kingdom - 100%

BlackMetal213, January 28th, 2017

You know, I may start doing reviews of classic albums more often. Emperor was one of the first bands to truly get me into the black metal genre and it was with this album, "In the Nightside Eclipse". This was released in 1994 but was not Emperor's first offering. Prior to this, they released the "Wrath of the Tyrant" demo in 1992 as well as the 1993 self-titled EP that would be released as a split as well, with Enslaved. "In the Nightside Eclipse" includes two songs that were previously released from the "Emperor" EP in the names of "I Am the Black Wizards" and "Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times". These songs remain unchanged to my ears save for the sound of the production. This is considered a definitive classic for black metal and for good reason. The atmosphere and rawness of this album is instantly recognizable. Let's get into it.

The album begins with the epic "Into the Infinity of Thoughts". After that brief opener, which sounds like Satan himself rising from the deepest depths of Hell, the actual song begins. Being my first Emperor song ever, this brings back many memories whenever I hear it. It is chaotic yet wonderfully beautiful. This is actually a commonality among all of the songs here. Black metal is known for its extremity of course but the atmosphere is just as important. Guitars on this album are extremely fuzzy and distorted yet complimented greatly by beautiful keyboards and hateful vocals. The vocals here are kept mostly harsh save for some clean moments we can here in the closer "Inno a Satana". But I digress, and I will touch more on the other instruments later. Guitar wise, this is not as complex as Emperor would become on following albums. There isn't as much of a progressive nature in the song structures at this point. For sure, "In the Nightside Eclipse" is the blackest Emperor's brand of metal ever was. Instead of technical guitar solos, which this album completely lacks, we hear a bigger focus on melody and simplicity, and of course, atmosphere. Make no mistake, however, this is NOT just simple music. In fact, it's one of the most musically "huge" albums I've ever heard.

"Towards the Pantheon" begins with a gorgeous clean guitar melody and, like most of the songs, follows a traditional symphonic black metal formula with huge sounds and grandiose melody. I would like to discuss two more songs. "The Majesty of the Nightsky", with its title alone, does the overall sound of this record a huge justice. Literally, this is the soundtrack for gazing at stars on a cold winter's night. Or wandering a frozen forest at dusk. I think my favorite song on this album, even after the amazing opener "Into the Infinity of Thoughts", is "I Am the Black Wizards". This is a rerecording of an older song that, with this album's production value, sounds far better here. The fuzzy guitars compliment the gorgeous melodies quite well. For instance, the tremolo riff during the song's introduction and through the first verse. This is repeated in a slow, almost doom metal-esque fashion later on. Really, the guitars are what make the album sound as cold as it does but they certainly are not the ONLY contributing factor to this.

Being a symphonic black metal album, the orchestrations are just as important as the guitars most of the time. Such as the case with the guitars (including Samoth, who also provides guitar work here), Ihsahn also records keyboards. Keyboards play a key role in every single song on this album. Usually they are in the background behind the guitars, but still audible. At times they do get their own sections and a bit of a break from the distorted madness. Some of my favorite moments are when they soar higher than the guitars in songs like "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" during a bit of a break. One thing that sticks out is how unorthodox the song structures are here. According to Varg Vikernes himself, the musicians in this scene worked very hard to assure they strayed away from traditional song structure. On this album, that becomes very clear.

Symphonic black metal has become somewhat of a parody in itself thanks to bands that "made it big" and aren't "true" such as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth (come on, I HAD to mention these bands at least once in this review). Emperor, after "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk", moved into a more "friendly" and "easier on the ears" style of symphonic/progressive black metal with their final two albums "IX Equilibrium" and "Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise". This caused a bit of a divide within the fanbase and many people were not too happy about the change, assuring that Emperor had "lost it". I don't really agree. While "In the Nightside Eclipse" IS Emperor's magnum opus, most important album, and them at their best, it is not the ONLY Emperor album. I enjoy "Anthems" quite a bit and even the final two are good to my ears, with "Prometheus" actually being my second favorite Emperor album. It really does suck that the band split up and after 2001, ceased to write and release new material aside from live albums and such from reunions. Ihsahn's solo work is extremely good but I would for sure kill for a new Emperor album. Unfortunately, that probably will never happen. So, thank the gods we still have this!