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Black Metal Gorguts - 90%

Vortic, April 4th, 2018

Behold, the almighty Emperor! The main progenitors of symphonic black and perhaps the first band to break the stereotypes. Multi-layered composing, melodic riffing and just fucking consistent playing. The mastermind behind this group, Ihsahn, is known for his very diverse taste in music and his incorporation of those elements into his solo career. While that wasn't so much present on their first releases it is here when he took matters into his own hands and wrote 100% of this record that his abilities began to shine. Further deviating from the norms Ihsahn shows he can think as an actual composer, which is more or less comparable to people like Luc Lemay.

I generally don't like guitars that have more than 6 strings. Perhaps the only band for me that can make proper use of 8-stringers is Meshuggah and even those guys abuse them too much. For some reason Ihsahn decided to use such guitars here and it kind of worked. Yeah, I still don't really enjoy the lower frequencies that much but the fact they aren't overused is a relief. And the riffs, oh boy, the riffs. See, I drew that comparison in the title for a well justified reason. While it doesn't really come close to Obscura or Colored Sands, Prometheus is very dissonant and dependable on sharp harmonics. The guitars are multi-layered and played meticulously, never lacking in proper fillers, chaotic yet still atmospheric. The bass is where my problem with Emperor and Ihsahn's solo carrer lies. WHERE THE FUCK IS IT?! I am not exaggerating here, I've listened to this on Razer fucking headphones with maximum bass and I still can't hear it. I can catch moments of it here and there where it does some interesting things but for the majority of this record it is nowhere to be found, so that is one element of composition lost. But I am willing to ignore that and focus on stuff like the vocals. This record might just have my favourite vocals EVER! Both the harsh and clean ones are harmonic, Ihsahn recorded multiple tracks here and there that are interdependent in melody which shows the guy knows his music. His technique is original and sensible, which helped him preserve his voice. Keyboards have always been an important part of the band's work and even though they aren't used as much here they are still an important part of the atmospbere and compliment the riffs. Also, the intro to "The Eruption" is one of the most beautiful harpsichord pieces EVER. The drumming is surprisingly fitting into the whole thing, mostly up-tempo blast beats but nonetheless performed excellently and properly.

Twenty. It took me twenty fricking listens to comprehend the musical maturity of this album. There is a lot of detail the listener has to notice in order to enjoy this. There are no catchy melodies, no 3-minute easy-listeners, the entirety of this record is comparable to classical music in terms of arrangement. The multiple guitar tracks that drive this album's sound, the beautiful keyboards that go with them and the stunning and creative vocal work that beats basically any band in terms of singing. These are very minor details that the average person will never have the patience to sit and search for. This is in no way similar to Emperor's first two releases, it is still black metal but a different breed of it. The crystal-clear production helps all of these elements take their proper place in the structure of the tracks while still maintaining an anti-commercial attitude.

And so, to conclude this review I will say the following. Emperor's repertoire, however small it may be, is filled with excellent music that is true art. Prometheus is the ultimate conclusion to this band's legacy, peaking in musicianship. Ihsahn can be ranked with artists such as Luc Lemay, Mikael Åkerfeldt and the guys of Dream Theater in terms of composition. Attention to detail is key to all art and it must be present not only by composers, but also listeners. You need to understand the thought process of the musician in order to enjoy their work. Take your time and you will be greatly rewarded.

A proud demise - 80%

Demiror_Moritur, June 6th, 2017

As much as silly fan-boys of a certain era love to criticize and rant about how Ihsahn almost ended up making a solo project of his out of Emperor by taking pretty much all matters regarding the latter albums such as this one right here into his own hands, that still doesn't really affect the final outcome whatsoever, even if it's true, no matter how much that may piss some people off.

“Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise” is a fantastic, glorious album. The epic scales and shifting rhythms plaguing the somewhat lengthy 9 tracks-long colorful landscape all exemplify the top-notch musicality embraced by the band, and all the while make for some of the genre's best pretty, diabolical anthems, without ever compromising or failing their true roots, still being firmly built on a solid, bullet-proof black metal foundation, as evidenced by the intermittent blast-beat drum patterns that powerfully erupt from the shadowy orchestral background elements to take the unprepared listener by storm, serving as a reminder of the true nature and meaning of Emperor since its very conception. Upping the production values with every consequent release since their magical 1994 debut, this album stands today as the perfect embodiment of the heights reached by the non-stopping maturing process undertaken by the band until their retirement, yet you can be damn proud of quitting if you leave something like this behind to speak for yourself as your last statement.

Making a solid, well-rested case for both light and darkness on this album, Emperor are capable of reaching a rich mixture of certain both clean and more dirty styles that make for an all-encompassing album with many different stages and emotions to present, proving the journey through the music within to be nothing short of exciting; a pleasurable challenge through varied types of compositional arrangements and different depths of levels of classic comedy and imminent dramatism, intertwined to create the ultimate delightfully sinister opus, bending the limitations of the black metal genre to their full extent. Adding random outbreaks of clean old-school King Diamond-style of vocals into the mix, together with rougher, harsher growls and screams, prove Ihsahn's wide range of both vocals and ideas. The wild solos throughout the album also play their part into making this album a milestone, as they're basically playing the role of the icing on the delicious cake that this work is. The instruments in general are all tightly and proficiently played, and since I always like to make a separate case for the drums, as their sound tends to have a big influence on how I regard black metal albums as a whole, I'd like to point out they're just amazing. Only in rare occasions have I ever been able to witness drums that sound so fitting and in such proper consonance with virtually all music that's on top of them, and this album is one of those.

I am glad Ihsahn took the lead on Emperor, as it has only become clear with time how he was the creative figure and main reason behind the band's quality and acclaim, and rightfully so. No matter who is by his side, it's more than evident that this Norwegian multi-instrumentalist is truly one of a kind, and it takes no more than a listen to this album right here to prove just that.

A Towering Masterpiece - 97%

A Friendly Observer, July 15th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, Candlelight Records (Slipcase)

It says something unfortunate about the metal community that Emperor's later works at times seem to be more-or-less disregarded by the majority of their fans when held up against In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. In the Nightside Eclipse is without a doubt a metal classic -- but its heavy reliance on atmosphere, its evocative-but-generic lyrics, and the frequency with which compositions seem to drag on forever, owing to a lack of care behind the song structure -- ie, Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times, I Am the Black Wizards -- make it evident that it was the work of gifted adolescents rather than young men reaching intellectual and emotional maturity.

There is simply no way to say this without sounding haughty and pretentious, but -- Prometheus is an album only for a few. The concept of the album -- which is not a 'concept album' -- is the extremes of emotion discovered in philosophic contemplation. No longer are Ihsahn's lyrics reliant primarily on imagery and atmosphere. On Prometheus, he speaks strikingly and viscerally about the quest for knowledge and skill in things beautiful, and the high-highs and low-lows that accompany that quest -- from magnificent opening track 'The Eruption,' which convincingly explores the experience of having our illusions stripped away from us -- to centerpiece 'The Tongue of Fire,' about the inextinguishable desire of an artist to grow in creativity and wisdom, lest he perish completely -- to fitting closer 'Thorns On My Grave,' featuring fiery symphonic blasts that declare 'The Emperor is dead -- long live the Emperor!' -- Prometheus is a force of nature, and Emperor's crowning achievement.

(Yes, we must note that Prometheus is primarily the work of Ihsahn, with Samoth's role limited to providing 'additional guitars' -- but Trym's forceful drumming is exceptional, and the difference between the drumming on this record and the drumming on Ihsahn's solo works should make this evident to all who believe this is simply Ihsahn's album.)

Prometheus is stunningly complex -- though seldom simply for its own sake -- and at first is nearly inaccessible: at any given time, there's so much going on that inattentive listeners might begin hearing little beyond a wall of noise. Ihsahn's sung melodies -- which comprise 10-15% of the vocals -- are unusual and counter-intuitive ('The Prophet,' 'The Tongue of Fire'); the constant interplay between the guitars, and the rapid-fire stream of beautiful melodies come and go at a breakneck pace, and the orthodoxy-defying blend of black, progressive, symphonic, and even death metal require sustained attention and receptive ears. Yet it remains highly cohesive, like a metal symphony with various movements, motifs, and variations on its many themes. If 'IX Equilibrium' is a little scattershot, Prometheus is tightly-knit and seamlessly conceived.

Anything negative I have to say about this record is utterly trivial compared to the grandeur of its towering achievements. Albums like these are why I listen to music at all. It is not an album for black metal purists or those who care most of all about consistency in genre or -- least of all -- about the image a record projects, an it is not an album for those who are not willing to invest time and energy in it -- but for those to whom this album speaks, it will undoubtedly endure one of the records in their collection that shows to have lasting value -- to which we can return again and again.

Grade: A
Best songs: The Eruption, The Prophet, The Tongue of Fire, In the Wordless Chamber

Enduring appeal - 99%

The_Ghoul, July 2nd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, Candlelight Records (Slipcase)

I am different from many people, in that instead of cherishing the music I listened to in my formative high school years, I pretty much have abandoned it. Cradle of Filth and Children of Bodom lost their appeal, and thus have been absent from my playlists for years, likewise I don't really listen to bands like 1349, Dark Funeral, Marduk, Dissection, Venom, Bathory, Burzum, and even Emperor's older works, or Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, although for these bands I still do go to their shows when I can. While most people seem to settle in a nostalgia featuring an endless repeat of their high school/early adulthood music, I have largely abandoned those black metal staples of the past. I simply moved on.

Except for this album. Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise still entrances me with its labyrinth of sonorous windings and surprises that still keep me on my edge and the neck hairs standing up. This is a feat in itself -- to create a work that can be listened to over and over, and still have new insights about it. From Ihsahn's clear understanding and use of counterpoint, to the ebb and flow of the dynamics, to the pastiche of emotions floating around this juggernaut -- it becomes clear that this is a monument. The hate this gets from black metal kiddies notwithstanding, this album wasn't meant to be black metal, and outside of the occasional shriek, sounds almost nothing like black metal. This is prog album, and outshines nearly every single prog album I've heard. In the ten or so years I've had this album, it's still residing near the top of the heap. While some bands act like they belong on the bench, Emperor (I don't care if it's only Ihsahn and Trym at this point) are clearly the alpha dogs here.

Many words must be spent solely about the use of melody here. While most bands seem to use cliche' pop harmonies, and even the ones who dare to break the mold and expand on structure and melody beyond the level of pop simplicity, few can approach the subtlety displayed here. The chords used, the order in which they're used, how they're voiced through the instruments, and how it plays out in the larger scope of things, leave little room for improvement, and lay far beyond the reach of most, and I'd need a dose of humble pie if I insisted that this level of composition is within my reach. It's not. This is stuff most college students studying harmony and music theory, typically the best pool for classical composers, can't touch this. Everything interacts, and rarely do things move unilaterally, but when they do, they have that much power in the presentation. Whether the substrate is reserved, like in The Tongue of Fire and Grey, or dramatic and incendiary, like in Depraved, or in the poignant album closer Thorns on my Grave, the effect is still equally stunning.

Those looking purely for aggression probably stopped reading way before this point, so I'll address the use of symphonics. Which are amazing, might I add. The swelling interlude of In the Wordless Chamber conjures up rich imagery, so rich it makes my ordinary life pale in comparison in a realistically depressing way. Real life is never this beautiful. These moments pop up over and over again, where all the layers that have been building up melody after melody finally click, like the moment in Depraved when the harmony suddenly switches from predominantly dissonant to being highly consonant, or when the guitar lead comes in He Who Sought the Fire, pretty much blowing the band's black metal past out of the picture, replacing the cold tremolo picked lines of yore with a more chunky progressive approach. This seems to be the pattern of Prometheus: Discipline of Fire and Demise -- we'll have moments of great dissonance, clashing string sections, and Ihsahn's alternating vocal style that brings in a significant falsetto, with swirling horns and melodies that slowly convolve before erupting in the grandest of harmonies, almost like a wave of sonic euphoria.

One great thing about Prometheus: Discipline Of Fire and Demise, is the encompassing sense of dynamics. Like many classical composers, in addition to having varying volumes and tonal densities, different sounds are used for different dynamics, giving us not just quantitative dynamics (i.e. loud vs. soft, dense vs. light, etc...) but also qualitative dynamics, in that the tonal color of the mix varies throughout the album, never providing for a boring moment. Tempos, as well, range from slower like in The Prophet, to the fast paced closer, and no matter what tempo the music is operating in, Ihsahn manages to keep it all quite interesting. Much like a suspense movie, this album keeps me on the edge of my feet as the unfolding tragedy in the music/lyrics reveals its terrible majesty, through the incredible contrasts all these sections provide. In all, I would say this album is, if nothing else, a case study in contrasts. For the uninitiated, I surmise, it would be hard to believe that the breakdown in The Tongue of Fire would be made by the same band and same album as a song such as Depraved. Not only that, but the aforementioned suspense seems to still hold after knowing about this album for around ten years now. That, in itself, should be the testament to this album's power and staying allure; after all these years, and after getting jaded, I still appreciate this. The only thing that bothered me were the spoken word parts in The Eruption and Depraved, but that's a minor issue as this album is truly momentous in its scope.

Exit stage left hemisphere - 90%

autothrall, December 22nd, 2011

It's no accident that Emperor's fourth (and final) full-length would be branded with the title of Prometheus. Like the mythic titan, who stole fire for mankind and thus ushered in a new era of prosperity and innovation, Ihsahn had moved peripherally into a creative space which would stoke several new blazes of inspiration. Perhaps the obvious alteration to the core concept is that Prometheus is no longer resting upon the laurels of its black metal forebears. In fact, without Ihsahn's vocals (clean and rasped) drawing a direct lineage from the prior album IX Equilibrium, this might even pass for an entirely different band, so it's no wonder it was met with such a divisive and varied reaction from both the band's long-standing audience and extreme metal buffs all across the spectrum.

There was a lot less involvement from Samoth here, who was presumably quite occupied with his other, touring band Zyklon at this time, and you can notice a distinct change in the riffs. Gone are the primarily tremolo-driven, traditional black metal sequences and in their place what might best be described as a hybrid of progressive death and thrash metal. Dense grooves are backed up by explosive, intricate flurries of clinical mayhem, and the symphonic elements are dialed up from any of the previous albums, playing a more crucial and central role. However, Prometheus is remarkable at balancing these two halves off against one another, and Ihsahn and Trym keep the songs compelling throughout nearly the entire track list, exquisite in their detail. My earliest experiences with the album were those of lukewarm appreciation, having felt that the band were fielding a more varied alternate to IX Equilibrium, but unlike that work I have become more attracted to and appreciative of this material, and these days would rate it second in their rather limited pantheon of studio efforts.

Doesn't make a whit of difference to me if it's not 'the true Emperor', if we must consider this 'extreme prog metal' or 'ZOMG a ghey Ihsahn solo album using the established brand name'. When the music is this passionate and well written, I take notice. Interestingly enough, that same level of production and polish which failed to recapture the malevolence of In the Nightside Eclipse on its previous successors functions far better in the context of this material. It's sleek, modern and admittedly quite plastic in execution: a perfect fit to this more futuristic treaty on humanism and ambition, and if it must be said, a noteworthy transition into Ihsahn's first official solo effort The Adversary. Aesthetically, this is not the Emperor you'd likely encounter on some remote glacial mountainside, but one you'd find in the local psycho ward, having broken free of its rubber room and now tormenting the nurses and orderlies. An 'Arkham Asylum' of Norwegian extremity, mirrored by the video for "Empty" which transitions from forest to gurney and back again.

There's not one song on here I'd snub my nose at, but I certainly have favorites. One of these is "In the Wordless Chamber", a cathartic and symphonic surge of madness which culminates in this brilliant and hilarious warlike march (first at 1:30) above which these beautiful strings simmer and a horn blares, Ihsahn growling like a hag. Even more surprising is how the songs dissolves into this lush, tonal ambient sequence at 3:00, before Trym returns to pummel the listener which some of the most gut-rupturing double bass in his repertoire. "Depraved" is also a firm standout due to the schizoid arching and toiling interchange of the guitars; "Empty" a razor straight charge into the depths of emotional dissolution, harried and punctual mutes serving as an anchor to the pop of the maddening melodies. "The Tongue of Fire" also deserves mention for how well it incorporates the symphonic side of the band directly into the chugging undertow, plus the fucked up King Diamond higher pitch that Ihsahn revisits.

But trust me, they're all pretty fucking sick. Even if the individual riffing doesn't earn a 100% ratio of hits over misses, the fact is that not a moment goes buy of these 52 without something interesting happening, some stylish climax, many of which you can't hear coming from a hundred yards distance. And I enjoy the hell out of it. Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise is frankly more intelligent, engaging and surreal than most black AND death metal albums in its class, even if that comes at the price of having to clean up their studio sound simply so the listener can absorb all of the minutiae in the composition. Riffs, riffs and more riffs, colliding and retracting through a more cerebral and less confined space than any of their previous albums. A proficient and paralytic waltz of mockery. A swan song with Bedlam in its beak, electrodes wired to every fucking feather.


Behold The Masterpiece That Is Prometheus - 100%

EchoesOfDecimation, November 7th, 2007

I could not agree with the first reviewer more in saying that it is “The most horribly under rated album of all time”. This album is easily one of the most well constructed and well written albums I have ever heard. From the first symphonic sounds on “The Eruption”, to the last blood curdling scream on “Thorns On My Grave”, this album is flawless from front to back. Before I dive into this album, I must stress, although I’m sure as a reader you know this already, this album for most people, is either complete hit or complete miss.

I happen to be in the minority here, and yes, this is my favorite Emperor album. Anthems is a close second, but for me, this album reigns supreme. The only album that sounds even remotely anything like this album would be “The Adversary” by Ihsahn, for obvious reasons, those being that Ihsahn solely wrote both albums in their basic entirety. I feel bad for those who feel Emperor peaked at “In The Nightside Eclipse” because, although a great album in its own respects, they will never experience this album for what it really is; a masterpiece.

I will not do a track by track analysis but I will cover standout tracks. The album starts off with a few brief spoken words and then the strings come in and continue for roughly a minute and then the song really begins to start. A cymbal crash leads to the first sound of actual guitars and it continues to build until the song picks up a very fast pace, and Ihsahn’s harsh vocals come in for a brief period and then you hear the lovely clean vocals (that have only progressed from album to album and sound perfect on here). Then at 4:17 the song goes into a very abrupt and fast paced solo that leads into yet another string oriented part. The song ends on an eerie note, with notes ringing out and more spoken words, which leads into the next song “Depraved”.

“The Prophet” starts off was a slow, heavy as all hell riff that continues as the drums pick up bit by bit and only add to the heaviness of the song, it then takes a very surprising turn and goes into clean vocals with beautiful strings in the background. The song stops abruptly not once, but twice, the first time for more eerie ambience and the second time is much shorter; this time there is no ambience, just Ihsahn saying in a very grim manner: “and pain joined his urge to perceive”. With barely any time to register that the song stopped, it immediately goes into the main heavy riff from the beginning and continues until it eventually fades out.

Those two songs happen to be my favorites on the album, however each song has their own unique and amazing aspects to their respective selves. The very epic sounding trumpets on “In The Wordless Chamber”, the part at 3:24 of “The Tongue Of Fire” and the merciless beating your ear drums receive on “Thorns On My Grave”. The production fits this album perfectly, my main focus though, is the drums.. Trym’s playing on this album is his best I’ve ever heard, because, although he has shown his prowess on other Emperor albums, Enslaved and Zyklon, he shows his versatility and that he is more than just speed and fast-as-hell blast beats. The drum sound is not super heavy, which fits the album perfectly because if it was anything else it would take away from the overall sound.

I feel as if every time I listen to this album I am bound to find something new, this album is complex in ways no other album I have ever listened to, is. If one can accept the mere fact that this IS Emperor, and can look past the name, and simply look at it as a musical piece without comparing it to older albums (which is unfortunately quite hard for most people), they will thoroughly enjoy this. I can not recommend this album enough to anyone who has an open mind and is willing to hear something different.

A failed experiment - 20%

Noktorn, September 11th, 2007

While any further commentary on Emperor and their works is probably unnecessary at this point, I can't help but have some desire to let my opinion on their final album be heard, despite how my views are most certainly not very unique in the metal community. Like most others, I see 'In The Nightside Eclipse' as by far the band's greatest work, and everything else as a steady decline from there, with 'Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise' being the ultimate nadir of their artistic output. That fact isn't really in question- what is in question is what 'nadir' would precisely mean when it comes to Emperor; some people (like me) find it mediocre or even terrible, while others find it to be an incredible work. There's a few weird people that think this is their finest work, but such people are generally filthy commies. What I find consistently surprising is the number of people who profess to enjoy this release, or even find it to be a masterpiece of heavy metal. I've owned this album for several years now, and have listened to it a huge number of times, and I have simply not grown to enjoy it. I have grown to understand what Emperor were attempting, and to appreciate the craftsmanship and ambition involved, but I do not like hearing it anymore now than I did when I first placed it in my CD player. Conclusion: it's a great idea executed completely terribly.

As numerous others have stated, calling this an Emperor album is quite dubious. Properly, this is an Ihsahn album before his solo project even began. All music was composed by Ihsahn, all lyrics were written by Ihsahn, shit, Ihsahn practically plays all the instruments, though Trym still provided percussion and Samoth is given the hilariously minimal credit of 'additional guitars' (no wonder they broke up so soon after this). The music really has nothing to do with black metal apart from appearing to be derived from it; it's actually so far from black metal that it even seems unconnected to the previous LP, 'IX Equilibrium'. The label 'symphonic extreme metal' has been applied to this sort of thing: the most obvious other bearer of such a title being Dimmu Borgir. And when you examine the music, it's not too far removed from Dimmu Borgir: yeah, it's a great deal more complex and ornamental, but it depends on the same general ingredients to cement its style. Massive, overpowering keyboards and swells of symphonic score, dramatic vocal performance composed of 'black metal' rasps and screams and clean choruses, bombastic, fill-laden drum performance, frequent tempo changes; the two artists share quite a surprising commonality, don't they? Yes, one could argue that those elements are pretty vague and could be applied to numerous bands, but listen to this album side by side with 'Death Cult Armageddon' and tell me that you can't hear any similarities in delivery. The riffing is more complex, and the overall tempo is generally faster, but that's about where the differences really end.

You know, the faster something goes, the closer it gets to standing still, and the more noise something makes, the closer it is to being silent, and in this case, the more that's musically going on in this record, the less content there really is. 'Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise' is packed to the brim with musical detail, with multiple layers of sound, varied melodies, and various tones and timbres of delivery being changed constantly. So with all this going on, why is the music so, for lack of a better word, boring? Why can I remember all the riffs but not particularly like any of them? It's a 'progressive' record, but it doesn't really seem to be 'progressing' towards anything at all. That word, at least in the metal community, seems to be related to things that aren't very progressive at all: keyboards, atypical song structures (which metal is packed with regularly anyway), unusual instruments or methods of playing, and generally, a high degree of technicality. All these things are present on Emperor's final work, but they don't construct anything at all. It's just a jumble of elements, given some degree of cohesion, but still essentially insignificant on the bigger scale. The band is trying almost unbearably hard to impress upon the listener that they're talented, and they lose sight of actual songwriting in the process.

Much ado is made of this being a concept album, but this concept is pretty damned loose as a narrative. It seems that most bands who make 'concept albums' like to make them intentionally vague because, well, they didn't have much of a concept to begin with. Case in point: 'Once Was Not'. The same syndrome is here: the band is attempting to communicate some overreaching idea or meaning in the songs that just isn't present, or if it is, only in a very raw and imprecise form. And it's not that I 'just don't get it', because there's about five different interpretations of the fantastically obscure lyrics that all seem just as valid. Of course, many would say that this is a good thing, that it leaves the album up to the interpretation of the listener. But isn't a 'concept album' supposed to be a bit more direct in its delivery? Isn't it supposed to communicate ONE narrative, not the possibility of multiple? And if not, what makes it a 'concept album' at all when there's no specific concept to be communicated? To me, there isn't one. I've never been one to pick apart metal lyrics anyway, particularly on 'concept albums' like this one.

For an album of such variation, it seems to repeat itself a hell of a lot. The worst crime of this is Ihsahn's vocals: on literally almost every line, he uses the EXACT SAME VOCAL RHYTHM. Raspy, rolling words that end in a screech on the last syllable. Really, say "The dog jumped over the feeeeeeence. The dog ran across the fieeeeeeeeeld. The dog enjoyed chasing miiiiiiiiiiice." out loud. Doesn't it sound stupid? Now do it in a black metal rasp and think about repeating that for the better part of an hour. It's bad. The clean vocals use the same delivery, and they were never very good to begin with. It's not just the vocals though: the riffs are surprisingly generic as well. Atonal, death metal derived midpaced stuff mixes with atonal tremolo riffing; note the conspicuous lack of melody? That's because it's pretty much missing entirely. All the riffs are awkward, craggy, atonal things that, while memorable just based on how bizarre they are, aren't actually enjoyable to listen to at all. I can appreciate a band wanting to be atonal and atypical; I love many bands in that vein. But the least Emperor could have done is give a couple throwaway references to 'I Am The Black Wizards' instead of this endless field of squealy, twitchy riffs. Some melody is provided by the keyboards, but when I listen to a metal album, I'm not in it for the keyboards. Keyboards are to be used as a counterpart to the guitar riffs, not as the only purveyor of melody at all.

There are only two songs on here that I listen to with any regularity at all, and that's because they're the closest to black metal and 'traditional' music, and these are the opening and closing tracks. 'The Eruption' has some cool riffs and a good set of blastbeats, and 'Thorns On My Grave' actually uses the keyboards gracefully and packs the best riffs on the album. Both these tracks are great when they're going fast, but then they feel the need to drop into that midpaced bullshit that no one except Ihsahn likes. Why do bands do this? It's like late Cradle Of Filth, where they feel some compulsive need to put shitty, boring parts into songs because they think it has to be there. WHY. Why is it necessary, when you've got really good tremolo riffs and blasting, to drop into those goddamn wonky chords instead of continuing with what's good? I think it all comes right down to Ihsahn, whose entire musical career has been based on his own sense of self-worth and pretense instead of actually making something enjoyable to listen to. You know, such distaste for the audience is generally something I like, but I'm hard pressed to think of an instance of it that's more malicious yet retardedly designed than on this album. It's not just that Ihsahn hates the metal scene, it's that he's not even good at repeating the stuff that makes it generally good: it's like someone laughing at you for stumbling right before they walk into a tree. And before you say that it's not Ihsahn, and that he created great, traditional black metal early in Emperor's career, let your gaze rest back on 'Samoth - Additional guitars' and tell me that doesn't speak VOLUMES about the musical goals of Ihsahn and the members of Emperor in general.

No one's going to be able to convince the people that love this album that it sucks, nor will anyone ever convince me that it's brilliant. I quite simply don't like it and think it's an empty album that doesn't stand up in any way to Emperor's previous works. But if there's one overriding thing about this album that is important to remember, it's that, despite the logo on the cover, this isn't an Emperor album. This is an Ihsahn album with some well known session musicians. I just wish its delivery was a little more genuine and a little less pretentious: it would have made this CD a lot better.

Emperor - Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire... - 95%

Technogoat, March 23rd, 2007

Every so often, bands come along that truly shape the direction of a musical genre and, in Emperor’s case, their sophisticated style of Black Metal led to countless bands becoming far less anxious with the idea of experimentation and the addition of original and fresh elements to simple music. However, inevitably all kingdoms must fall and “Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise” was to be Emperor’s farewell to the scene which they had inspired so deeply.

What makes this composition so different in comparison to Emperor’s previous full-length studio albums is that, whilst guitarist Samoth and drummer Trym were touring with their newly formed Death Metal side project Zyklon, main man Ihsahn wrote the entire opus single-handedly and recorded the majority of the tracks in their absence. This evidently gave both the song writing and recording processes a far more focussed atmosphere, as the nine tracks contained within are truly some of the most grandiose and powerful songs that the band has ever put to disc. Opening with an eerie harpsichord melody, “The Eruption” quite literally explodes into typical Emperor fashion, radiating supreme musical proficiency and a strong sense of passion through the musical and lyrical content combined.

Ihsahn’s employment of both harsh, rasping vocals and exceptionally well-performed clean singing is more assertive than ever and, throughout the entire album, he sounds like a man who is beyond doubt the leader of these Black Metal masters. His remarkable talent both musically and vocally is superbly highlighted in “The Prophet”, a more mid-paced yet extremely compelling track. Intricate guitar riffs, bass lines, keyboard arrangements and drum patterns are in abundance all the way through the album, with pace and mood constantly shifting and retaining the listener’s curiosity. Songs like “In The Wordless Chamber” and “Thorns On My Grave” seem to build up all the way through purely to reach their outstanding climaxes, leaving the listener gaping in awe and with a strong desire for more.

Simply put, although this release was to be the final resting place of Emperor, it is at least reassuring to know that such a fantastic and influential group were able to disband in pride and with a remarkable legacy behind them. “Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise” not only fails to blemish this reputation but serves to further strengthen it and truly deserves a place amongst the great milestones of Black Metal.

Originally written for

Clearly Not For Everyone... - 98%

Graf_Georg, August 9th, 2006

And really, it shouldn’t be. Emperors final album, “Prometheus: the discipline of fire and demise” really is… special, for it is clearly a progression from the last, yet still fits in to the legacy of the mighty Emperor. Of course, there are those of you who believe Emperor sold out, but why? They use clean production solely for the purpose of enhancing the musical experience, something that I personally rarely enjoy, maybe even only in the case of Emperor.


This masterpiece of musicianship is, technically, at the highest level, it seems to me that if even one single note or drum beat were different the whole thing would fall together and fail completely for the listener. This is an album one does not merely listen to, one is just fascinated. Fascinated by the incredible precision, the atmosphere of this CD, the story Ihsahn so cunningly tells, everything on this album appeals to me. Just listen to the songs, The Eruption starts out with a keyboard-cembalo playing a melody to create atmosphere and lead you into the world of Emperor. Then the guitars break in and turn to a furious fusion with the drums and bass, the vocals, Ihsahn is really a master of this, well, what need I say? They’re just really “imperial”. The next track, really a highlight in my opinion, features some of the most fabulous riffs I have ever endured, accompanied by the drums, this song flows from one riff to another, in perfect harmony. “Empty” features a fusion of classical instruments and guitars, with incredible musicianship, as expected from this band, and a nice middle part, getting kinda groovy at this point, yet only to wander back to the furious storm in the beginning. The next track, “the prophet”, is a very good song, featuring a memorable refrain and an interesting break. Kinda a doomy feeling to that one. “The tongue of fire”, well what can I say? A great song with great guitar parts, great drums, heavy, always has a perfect flow, just incredible how Ihsahn managed to compose all of this incredibly sophisticated music. “In the wordless chamber” is a very emotional song, really fast drums at points, dramatic keyboards, furious vocals… it mockingly proclaims imperial wrath, even has army-like snare hits at some points. “Grey”, another great track (they all seem to be to me, huh?) starts out with a groovy beat and a very interesting riff, flows into another part led by a guitar playing a… well… creepy melody. Jumps to real beauty after this part, jumping back and forth and then returning with clean vocals… really a great track. “He who sought the fire” is a ferocious outburst of musical fireworks and uncontrollable emotions. Some incredible synth parts here, never thought those could sound good, but they do… what can I say? Great guitars in this song, nice blasts from the drums too, just a furious track. Synth flows into the last *sniff* song of the album, another furious one, starts out with low guitars, and incredibly fast blast beats, then flows into an interesting middle part with matching vocals and guitars, then back to the beginning furiousness and waves farewell of one of the best extreme metal bands of all time…

Higher up I mentioned that this CD clearly isn’t for everyone - in fact, I believe it can only be fully appreciated by the chosen few who can understand it. Its so complex and varying at times, it would clearly outdo many a listener. I think it can only be loved by those who fabricate music themselves, especially classical music. This is by no means a “light” album. I’m sure at times it may seem to many listeners as if Ihsahn is combining 3 songs and just playing them at the same time (see track #3, Empty)

Maybe yet another listener may think that because of technicality the “head banging” factor had to decrease? Not in any aspect. There are still great bang-riffs you’ll want to break your neck to, don’t worry about that (see tracks #2, Depraved, #6 In The Wordless Chamber, #7 Grey, #8 He Who Sought The Fire, #9 Thorns On My Grave.)
So, I come to the conclusion that this CD is sheer genius, great overall atmosphere and musicianship, yet clearly not for all. And hence I ask you, was black metal (yes, this also has black metal elements, Emperor won’t deny their roots) ever meant for the general public of ignorant abominations? No, I think not. It was meant as a revolt against commercialized death metal, led by originality, but anyway, it would take far to long to describe the history of black metal music in its entirety. Anyway, I’d like to finish this review with first off saying that this album kicks fucking ass and that the mighty Emperor lives on, and second of all by a quote from the mighty Dead (RIP) of (the one true) Mayhem:

“Death Black Metal is something all ordinary mortals should fear, not make into a trend!”

Ending their career on a good note ... - 93%

LifeInAFireBox, January 29th, 2005

What we have here is another great work, devoid of respect by the close-minded. I'm going to have to completely reiterate myself if I have to point out why mindlessly hating this band is asinine. Hence, I'll stick to the specifics in the contempt towards this CD.

Exertion of talent, known in the black metal circle I suppose, as "pointless complexity", abounds on this album. Along with originality, so, if you're into "true black metal" and nothing else, just stop reading this review right now.

This is probably the least heavy and most symphonic of their releases. As always, it's very dark. They pull off the most abstract chords, atmospheric breaks, and over all some of the most Hellish music they ever did, on this album.

The music is technical - and not overly complex. Firstly, this is not on the level of complexity that is - say, a progressive band. No solos, no time changes, no odd time signatures. Furthermore, I wouldn't even say it's complex for a style that is supposed to be more straightforward. Definitely enough so to satisfy a person who prefers technicality (that being myself). I know technicality hurts people's heads, and it's hard for them to comprehend. But fear not, those who are one with the drone. This probably won't hurt your head.

In all seriousness, there are some broken beats, and the guitars weave back and forth (if you would credit this to technicality) but there is nothing here that I would call "pointlessly complex". I'm assuming this is supposed to mean it adds no effect, and doesn't better the music. Which is completely false, it adds heavily to the depth, and fullness of the music.

The keyboards often be backing the guitars, in a lead progression, but will feel much more like a a rhythm section. They play parts ranging from classical, with beautiful melodies and a very full sound - to ambient, unearthly low tones - to hateful, ugly, awkward chords.

The guitars swap sounds fairly frequently. Sometimes they actually can sound death metal, somewhat of a Necrophobic/Dissection sound. It isn't all the symphonic, melodic stuff here either. There is still some seriously harsh blasting with thrash/black guitars burning through some parts of certain tracks.

Despite all my bringing down of the values of "true black metal" there are even still some noteworthy true black metal riffs here too. I believe that Ihsahn intentionally turns down the harshness of his voice at the more symphonic parts, because when these more ugly, traditional black metal riffs come in, his tone becomes more harsh as well.

I'd also have to disagree about this being a "wank-fest". First off, I don't know about any of you, but I don't masturbate with two other people. That is to say, the term "wank" is more applicable to Steve Vai, or something like that. Emperor is still playing music here, they're still playing well written songs, and if you want to call it "wankery" it would have to be that ONE person is the focal point of the music, and it's never so. The intricacy in the songs is well done, and put together in such a way that you can clearly follow it, it's not mindless. It's remarkable, sometimes beautiful, sometimes tenebrous, sometimes harsh, always fun to listen to - never, mindless.

Final thoughts: You could call this "progressive" black metal - you could call it softer, but you can't deny it's originality, and it's occational seriously kick as thrash/black metal riffage. Like I said about the album before this one - if you can be open-minded; pick this up.

*Yawn* - 51%

Snxke, November 7th, 2004

The champions of goth-core-black-metal end their career on this careening (and pointlessly complex) record that delivers little to challenge their early legacy. Honestly folks, are you so easily impressed with pseudo-classical music that this is to be hailed as being the "perfect" black metal record? In reality we find Emperor (more a vocalist and a drummer of what used to be Emperor and Samoth doing "additional guitars") grinding through pseudo-epic "black metal" material. This is impressive if you enjoy pointless wank-fests filled with formless tunes (perfect for you Opeth fans) that snake and fall into self-indulgent oblivion. The band has become the technical monster they always wanted to on this release - but the songwriting simply isn't there.

If I was forced (painfully) to pick favorites I would cite numbers as "Thorns on my Grave" and "Into the Wordless Chamber" as my picks. Much of this matrerial may entertain me if I'm extremely high (hence unable to follow a pattern) or extremely tired (same symptoms) but in actuality shows a band trying to impress with it's ability to do what people have been for years rather than concetrating on actual songwriting. "Anthems..." may be a debatable work due to it's conversaion to more "bombastic" themes but an "Anthems..." this is NOT. (If you really want the best from it God damnit.)

Emperor were thrust into the spotlight too quickly and got lost in the same "vampyric" bullshit as too many other classic black metal bands. It's good that they called the gig on this record and left the legacy intact as it could be though.

Hopefully a few other bands will follow suit before they ruin their legacies to the point of humiliation.

If you did techno-pointless-grind-black-goth-metal pick this up. If you think that "Wrath of the Tyrant" and "In the Nightside Eclipse" are amazing pieces of work...skip it.

Not that good - 52%

Cheeses_Priced, August 31st, 2004

This album feels like both a continuation of the last one and a complete change. It was written entirely by Ihsahn, so right away we can expect more progressive, "avant garde" leanings. I also remember that prior to this album's release Emperor announced that they'd no longer be a touring band (this was of course before they decided to disband) and I have to wonder what relationship that had with the creation of the music, as it would be difficult, to say the least, to reproduce the kind of music heard on this album in a live situation. In its processed production, wall of guitars, and array synthesized symphonic instruments, it is markedly a studio creation, and it is, by a comfortable margin, the most technical music released under the Emperor name.

The complexity, the musicianship, the increased presence of the artificial symphony, the clean production - all of these, in and of themselves, I generally consider positive, and a pretty logical continuation of the Emperor sound. Going back to In the Nightside Eclipse, or even a little further, and looking at what defined Emperor and separated them from the bands surrounding them, and then extrapolating based on that, one might imagine that they'd end up in this general realm. In that sense, at least the band has followed an expected linear progression over the course of their career.

But, paradoxically, they've become simpler as they’ve become more complex. On their album prior to this, IX Equilibrium, it was noticeable to me that although the music had become more technical and densely layered than ever, the band had, on the other hand, gone back and drawn on influence from more traditional styles of metal. The result was a more strictly riff-based album that felt artificial next to the involving melodies of their earlier material.

And on this album... are those... guitar solos I hear? Indeed, but those are less a problem than a symptom - this album sounds less like some sort of "next level" of the style Emperor played in their early days than a smarmy prog rock band's impression of what symphonic black metal sounds like. As they take one step forward into more and more elaborate productions, they take two steps backwards into the "normal music" that black metal evolved from to begin with.

Still, this is not Dimmu Borgir. At the end of the day, Ihsahn is no idiot, and I imagine he's probably too proud to put out a blatant money-grab album, so there's still much here that's worthy of praise. I do find it pretty empty, though. There's a lot to admire, but not so much that you can bite off and chew. Lacks substance.

When Emperor Speaks, You Shut Up and Listen - 96%

michinoku, May 10th, 2003

Emperor has over the years elevated the often unlistenable genre of black metal into something of elegance, utilizing extremes and atmosphere in order to create musical brilliance. Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise is the band’s most progressive album yet, but while the album features numerous symphonic and neo-classical elements, the keyboards are restricted to atmosphere, chiming in at key moments during certain tracks in order to round out the chaotic song structure. Like previous Emperor albums it is sheer brilliance, an album that requires several full listens through for it to be really appreciated

A concept album which tells an almost Oedipus-like story of a traveler who leaves the ruins of his kingdom, Prometheus manages a full balance of heavy, quickly alternating guitar riffs and blastbeat drumming traded off with synthesized orchestral elements that meet a near perfect balance. Ihsahn is one of the great visionaries of metal (as seen not only in Emperor but in his avant-garde side projects Peccatum and Thou Shalt Suffer,) and his songwriting is in top form here. Chunky riffs will stop on a dime to make room for the strings to come in, and often in mid verse Ihsahn will alternate his vocals from deep and growling right into clean, nearly operatic singing. Ihsahn plays the role of a superman here, and his influence and appearance on the album is far more prevalent than in previous Emperor albums. While this leads to some fine songwriting, the real loss by Ihsahn’s major role on the album is that the equally talented Zamoth gets very little time on the album, which is disappointing compared to earlier albums like '97's Anthems. But when the twin guitars of Zamoth and Ihsahn are in synchronization, playing off themselves and each other, the music is even more brilliant, but there are often many passages in which Zamoth is forced to the background. Trym, Emperor’s 3rd drummer over the years, is not their most talented (that title is reserved for the incarcerated Faust), but he keeps up with the breakneck pace and section changes of the compositions.

The album’s opener, The Eruption, is sheer brilliance, from the harpsichord introduction that is soon accompanied by the synth orchestra and then the bass and guitar, which carries the listener right into the speed maintained for most of the song. The twice occuring downtempo sections in which Ihsahn flexes his Hansi Kursch-like vocal range accompanied by guitar and synth in nearly perfect synchronization certainly bear the potential to slap a listener in the face who thinks they’ve just purchased a standard black metal album. The way The Eruption flows almost directly into Depraved is also impressive, and the variation in that track is also quite brilliant. And one of the most unrelentingly fast songs in history, He Who Sought the Fire, is made no less so because of the presense of synth, but rather more so. And if for the opening alone, album closer Thorns On My Grave is a masterful blend of metal and symphonic elements.

It’s sad that Emperor broke up for many reasons, but particularly because a band able to maintain their metal sound while experimenting wildly is sorely needed when so many bands (of varying talent) stick solely to tried and true formulas. Progressive for reasons other than shredding and length of songs, Prometheus is a dense album that requires a full attention span, and will invariably play some tricks with the listener’s head. But with this album, Emperor has shown the world one last time that black metal isn’t all static and overproduction.

What... was... that?? - 36%

UltraBoris, April 20th, 2003

Well, I listened to the whole thing in entirety... (which is saying something, since some albums don't even make it that far) and I can't remember anything outstanding from the whole thing! There's a few parts that made me think "hey this sucks more than average" and some parts that are "well, this is better than average" but unfortunately none of this really shone through to the end.

The worst... probably the whispering vocals. I'm sorry, but whispering is not metal. See the intro. Then it crops up in some other parts too. Also, the "oh dear I've really got a stomachache" vocals which are not whispered but are just as bad. They just kinda drop all the guitars and bring in... that. Otherwise, I really can't differentiate between the actual songs - it seems like one long passage that never really goes anywhere. Sure there's the occasional cool riff, but I couldn't tell you where it is. For the most part it's a lot of random guitar and keyboard parts, the occasional annoying drumwork (though not as prevalent as some other albums, like the new Cradle of Filth for example)... and then a lot of general snoozework that just doesn't go anywhere or do anything.

The vocals are not nearly as geigh on average as in those few segments, but they really don't do much either. The lyrics are incomprehensible and there's a lot of dragged-out shrieking that would make Dani Filth proud. It's not an abysmally bad album, when all is said and done, but there really isn't any section that remains overwhelmingly cool for more than about 30 seconds. Just a lot of mishmash, a lot of random crap thrown in, just because. (See also: Dimmu Borgir.) I think if they took all the cool riffs and put them together, there would one good five-minute song... but they managed to distribute it over about 52 minutes or whatever, and managed to do this distribution so evenly, that one would be hard-pressed to dig up all the good stuff and splice it together again. Otherwise, it's just pseudo-random guitar and keyboard parts that really don't make any sense.

Well, there's something I never have to listen to again.

The most horribly under rated album of all time. - 90%

Dead_Meat_Industry, March 4th, 2003

"Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise" by Emperor has recieved bad reviews everywhere for no reason. First of all, everyone says the keyboards no longer convey the feeling of a triumphant medival empire. Well, they're not supposed to! These keyboards, which are more symphonic than ambient, are meant to give the feeling of sorrow and demise, which goes right along with the theme of the album. It creates the perfect atmosphere. Also, many people criticize the guitar work, saying that it's not complex in comparison with their previous albums. Again, I believe it fits the overall atmosphere of demise and self suffering. It is more "headbanger" type guitar rather than the usual black metal "buzzsaw" guitars, but works well. However, there could be less random guitar twangs that don't fit the songs.

The lyrics are still as well composed as always, and the drums are much more than a pulsating thumping noise as in their previous works. Of course everything was written by Ihsahn, as in the last album. Overall, it's most definetly not as good as "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk", or "In the Nightside Eclipse", but it sure beats the hell out of any Cradle of Filth album.