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"There is no noise, only sound." - 92%

Qayn, January 12th, 2015

Ihsanh was once questioned about what he would suggest to a first time listener of "In the Nightside Eclipse". He answered that he would advise to "try and listen beyond the noise", to listen to the music and the expression within it, in his own words to "listen to what's inside the music and not the extremity of music". I would like to start with "the extremity of the music".

"In the Nightside Eclipse" is the first full-length of Emperor, released in 1994, alongside Mayhem's "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas", Burzum's "Hvis lyset tar oss" and Satyricon's "The Shadowthrone". This marked a historical year for Norwegian black metal, the controversy surrounding several church arsons was in the public press. In May 1994, Burzum's Varg Vikernes was found guilty for burning down Holmenkollen chapel, Skjold church and Åsane church, Emperor's member Samoth (Tomas Haugen) was sentenced to 16 months in prison for participating in the Skjold church burning alongside Varg. Faust (Bård Eithun) was also arrested in the same year, convicted to 14 years imprisonment for Magne Andreassen's murder. Tchort (Terje Schei) was convicted to 2 years imprisonment for assault. This left Ihsahn as the only band member remaining outside of prison, and Emperor didn't release another album in three years.

Black metal was given a lot of media attention during that period, and a lot of people were dragged into this new "black metal scene", that was still in its embryonic stages. Some people were simply curious about this new extreme anti-Christian and misanthropic group of individuals and to find out a reason behind their actions, others wanted to sink deeply to this new "occult satanic circle", some read about the underproduced raw and violent sound in musical magazines and wondered what it was all about.

When one approaches black metal, one will find extremity in the expression, music and attitude of its practitioners; Emperor was no exception to this rule. The "underproduced" Lo-Fi sound in albums released from the Norwegian scene in 94 would be part of this counter-culture movement, "In the Nightside Eclipse" is one of the pinnacles of this movement, one that would inspire several practitioners of black metal for years to come and it too opted via this aesthetic choice. This Lo-Fi approach has been justified by several means - to stay true to the genre's underground roots and to make the music sound more "raw" and "cold", and an attempt to make black metal inaccessible to the mainstream and "those who are not committed", in most cases however it meant simply a lack of resources to record better.

Ihsahn's advice, for me, has several different meanings. The "extremity of the music" would be not only the harshness of the recording, but the whole layout surrounding the release itself and how it is consumed. Any form of art is emotional either in its creative process or how it is perceived by those exposed to it. Black metal once was a genre that people usually were invited to be exposed to by close friends, people could also choose to be exposed to black metal after reading about the "Satanic cult in Norway". There was a sense of being a part of something almost forbidden, something exotic and new, and this adds to the uniqueness of the experience of enjoying an album. This was an age when most people used cassette players - friends would agree upon who would buy which album so that they could all afford to buy the maximum variety and then record each other's purchases in a cassette that they could take home and enjoy, these were "little rituals" that people growing up with vinyls and cassette tapes are very familiar with, and this added to the listening experience. This, for me is part of what made the albums of this generation so intense, so adored and looked back upon with such nostalgia.

The Lo-Fi approach of the albums of this generation, for me granted the opportunity to quietly enjoy an album surrounded by those closest to me. People would sit there, silent, paying attention to what was being played. Anyone who spoke would make it difficult to understand anything behind this constant "humming" noise in the album, so everyone would just listen. And that, this silence, this is what I believe is something that is lost, and will not be recovered so easily. "In the Nightside Eclipse" is an album to be enjoyed in silence for what it is - various musical nuances dancing behind a "mist", a mist that would hide this ritualistic dance if anyone was to break silence. This "quasi religious" silence, in the likeness of what is found while attending any religious meeting adds to the emotion of the experience, and imprints its footprint in our memories for years to pass. "Religiously" being a part of something, can be a very extreme feeling, and this is part of the extremity of the music we find in black metal and on "In the Nightside Eclipse".

20th-century American composer John Cage thought that any sound can be music, he believed that "There is no noise, only sound." and Emperor's first release, for me, takes part in this concept.

The album was recorded in the Grieghallen Studios, a music hall named after Edvard Grieg (who was music director of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra from 1880 until 1882). Several black metal acts were recorded in the same hall - Gorgoroth, Immortal, Burzum, Mayhem and Taake all made recordings in the very same studio. The artwork was inked by Kristian Wåhlin, also know as Necrolord. He is also responsible for several other album covers - Dark Funeral's "The Secrets of the Black Arts", Dissection's "Storm of the Light's Bane", Mercyful Fate's "Dead Again" and Blut aus Nord's "Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry" to name a few.

The album was recorded by Ihsahn, Samoth, Faust and Emperor's one time bassist Tchort. Songwriting was handled by Ihsahn and Samoth along with the guitar playing we can ear on the record, Ihsahn also performed all the keyboards. Faust handled all the drum work on all tracks. The lyrics were written by Ihsahn and Samoth, with the exception of "Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times" and "I Am the Black Wizards", these were written by former bass player Mortiis, and the songs themselves are re-recorded versions that originally appeared on the "Emperor" EP.

The music found in this release is influenced by its musicians side projects and previous musical endeavours, Thou Shalt Suffer had already released the EP "Open the Mysteries of Your Creation" and the demo "Into the Woods of Belial" and these are often cited as big influences on "In the Nightside Eclipse" by the band members themselves. Recording a Full-length would be the next logical step for Ihsahn and Samoth and they fulfilled this via Emperor and Thou Shalt Suffer prepared them for this. Faust had been in the studio before, performing drums on Thorn's "The Thule Tape" and Tchort had recorded "Hallucinations of Despair" on the death metal act Green Carnation.

This is a group of musicians that had been in the studio before, and this can be noted in the way "In the Nightside Eclipse" was recorded. There are several elements in the music that we could trace back to Bathory's "Under the Sign of the Black Mark" and even to Iron Maiden's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". The eight songs (counting "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" as one with the intro) in the album, feature high pitched vocals performed by Ihsanh, that display a characteristic tone quality that sets is apart and immediately recognizable to any black metal enthusiast. What makes the album special for me, is the way the compositions employ various rhythmic crescendos and diminuendos, this way the songs end up having more strength the moment the emotional intensity erupts, take for example "Towards the Pantheon", the section found between 2:50 and 3:50 is a great example of how this is employed, and the abrupt explosion of sound from rising from silence in the transition between this piece and "The Majesty of the Nightsky" is another testament to what would make Emperor unique in its craft - the ability to use sound and the way the dynamics of sound can affect our most intimate nature.

"In the Nightside Eclipse" is a release that molded future black metal musicians to portray black metal not as noise, but as sound.

Originally posted on http://shrineofmadlaughter.blogspot.pt