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Thou art the Emperor of Darkness. - 100%

The Clansman 95, August 12th, 2019

Emperor have always been a unique act among the Norwegian black metal scene. They have always leaned towards a rather epic approach to black metal, and probably they were the very first to do so, not to mention the idea of incorporating in their sound keyboards and orchestrations, thus creating an unmistakeable (and possibly one of the most appealing) brand of extreme music, at least for what's concerning the 90's timespan. This theory may as well be proved by the fact that they are one of the best-selling black metal acts of all times, having sold more than 500,000 copies of their records up to nowadays, something that is really saying something, if you think that they always stayed really true to their roots and their artistic identity, writing music always for the sake of their passion and their beliefs, rather than landing on poppish or commercially winking releases.

That said, Emperor are, and always will be, among the "big four" of Norwegian black metal, alongside with bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem and Ulver, holding the place of both creators and innovators of an incredibly resonating musical reality, thanks to masterpieces as their first full-length, named "In the Nightside Eclipse". As I stated above, Emperor have always had a certain inclination for the epic side of the compositions, as fully displayed in their second release "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk", but they never underestimated the importance of atmosphere when it comes to write their music, a fact that is true for the entirety of their discography, but most of all for this specific album.

Although the keyboards are extensively present for the whole fourty-eight minutes of the CD, they are employed mostly to create the atmosphere, with protracted chord arrangements and synths, building a sense of mystical and freezing daydreaming, complemented by the occasional orchestration matching the guitar work. Speaking of which, this album stands as a monolith for anyone who claims black metal can't technical: the guitars play beautifully intricate and malevolent patterns, and they often play different riffs that perfectly complement each other, as clearly displayed in tracks as the famous "Inno a Satana". The drumming is really varied as well, alternating furious and monotonous blast beat sessions with calmer and more atmospheric parts, adding depth and complexity to the songs' structures.

The vocals consist in high, desperate shrieks performed by an (at the time of the recording) ill Ihsahn, a circumstance that ended up making the album even more emotional and passionate. Add a perfect production, matching the "raw" and primitive attitude of black metal with not-so-lo-fi mixing values, and the recipe is complete. I could go on for hours talking about each track of the lot: from the full blast of "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" to the evocative epic "Cosmic Keys to My Creation and Time", passing for the ominous "Beyond the Great Vast Forest", to the legendary ending duo of "I Am the Black Wizards" and "Inno a Satana", the album is not only a work of art, but also a real declaration of intents, a spiritual testament speaking directly to the listener's soul, both on the musical and the equally studied lyrical side. I suggest you to have an appropriate listen of this masterpiece, if you haven't heard it already, or to listen to it again, if you haven't in a while: albums like this are the reason why metal music deserves not only to be listened to, but also respected, revered and handed down from our generation to those who will follow. All hail the mighty Emperor: for Thou art the Emperor of Darkness.