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Parallel works in progress. - 77%

ConorFynes, February 17th, 2016

The split between Emperor and Enslaved remains a standout from the height of the Second Wave, but it owes its full significance to the achievements both acts would reach later on. Given Norway's hotbed status for black metal throughout the 90s, it's not surprising some of the best would team up at one point or another. Both bands were young, and still in the process of finding their voice when this split came out. The rest, of course, is history. If Emperor did not innovate the symphonic black metal sound (I'd say the credit goes to Master's Hammer) they certainly perfected it on their first two albums. As for Enslaved, their career's been nothing if not consistent. Viking-lore infused black metal ultimately gave way to a rich, progressive sound. Not that you'd ever guess that from the music here. As deceptively sophisticated as the arrangements here are, the impression is moreso one of primal molten creativity and rawness in the truest of black metal customs.

Effectively a combination of Emperor's self-titled EP and Enslaved's Hordanes Land, I loved this split years ago. Today I still do, though now it strikes me more as a pair of parallel works-in-progress. Both Emperor and Enslaved would make fantastic bounds for black metal with their first two respective albums. Emperor / Hordanes Land is made a bit less interesting by the fact that the former would re-record their best tracks in better shape for In the Nightside Eclipse. As for Enslaved's offering, I've come to see Hordanes Land as a much-welcomed expansion to their own debut Vikingligr Veldi. The two halves were made independently of one another, and were originally intended to be heard each on their own. Even so, with the two together, you get an impressive one-two punch. Both bands are impressive on their own; together, they complement one another, and there's more than enough of a distinction between the two to keep the music fresh.

When I call this split a "work in progress" for both bands involved, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. While it may have been less favourable to hear this rough display on a full-length, the bands here are making rough strokes already with a unique personality. Emperor's trademark speed and symphonic accoutrements are already in sight, although fans of In the Nightside Eclipse won't be surprised by anything they hear here. Although I prefer Emperor over Enslaved most days, I'd actually say the Hordanes Land offers the most promise here. The guys were in their teens and already playing with longer song structures and deeper orchestrations. The primitive mix of Viking metal with a primitive symphonic lean in the direction of their splitmates is a great combination, and I think the band pulls it off very well.

Both sides of this split were released on their own before getting paired up, and I think the halves ultimately deserve to be interpreted independently first, and as a split second. Although the In the Nightside Eclipse rerecordings make Emperor's side less essential in context, musically I'd ay the two are just as solid. It's a really interesting thing to hear two bands make their own unique statements on a single disc. If anything, Emperor / Hordanes Land goes to remind us just how individually talented that classic Norwegian hotbed really was. Since then, the two have carved out amazing legacies for themselves. As a fan of both, it's pretty cool to hear the two together when they were first starting out.