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A Ravenous Debut - 50%

CrimsonFloyd, June 4th, 2012

Wrath of the Tyrant is the debut demo from the legendary black metal act Emperor. This is by far the rawest, most primitive recording in the Emperor catalog. While there are a few impressive moments, this demo predominately reveals a band still searching for its identity. That shouldn’t be too surprising; Ihsahn and Mortiis are merely 17 years old and Samoth is 18. Samoth isn’t even playing guitar on this demo, but instead is on the drums. The compositions are a far cry from the exquisite pieces found on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk or even In the Nightside Eclipse. Wrath of the Tyrant is a piece of direct, violent and predatory black metal.

In general the production is what one would expect from a 1992 black metal demo: raw, slightly distant, and choppy and with a bit of hiss. That works well with the malicious nature of most of these songs. The major issue with this recording is the vocals, which are horrible both in execution and production. Ihsahn’s voice is way too far forward in the mix and is significantly louder than any of the other instruments. It’s also overloaded with reverb, which at times washes out the instruments. Furthermore, the vocal execution itself is really annoying. Ihsahn’s voice is really high and squeaky and has sort of a “fingernails on chalkboard” effect.

The quality of the songs on Wrath of the Tyrant is fairly strong. “Witches Sabbath” is an intense track, moving through a tension-building war march and then climaxing in a burst of trashing riffs and out of control screams. “My Empire’s Doom” is an early version of “Beyond the Great Vast Forest.” While this prototype lacks a lot of the layers that are present on the later version, it does demonstrate Emperor’s ability to traverse a wide range of moods and tempos within a single piece. A few tracks—most notably “Lord of the Storms”—display subpar musicianship, with sloppy execution and band members being slightly out of synch, but most of the time the performance is adequate.

In truth Wrath of the Tyrant is a somewhat obsolete release. Of the nine tracks, three were rerecorded on the As the Shadows Rise EP, two on the self-titled EP and one on In the Nightside Eclipse. That leaves three songs (two if you exclude the intro) that are available exclusively on Wrath of the Tyrant. In each case the rerecording does a superior job of displaying the compositional details of the songs and in many cases creates superior atmosphere. All of the rerecordings contain far superior vocal performances from Ihsahn. Still, there is an enjoyable novelty to hearing the noble Emperor in such a primitive state; for that reason Wrath of a Tyrant is worth a listen. However, this is far from the quintessential instance of raw black metal that it is occasionally made out to be.

(Originally written for