As a part of Black Metal History Month, we will be looking back at some essential black metal albums that any fan should be listening to. Here is a look at two essential Emperor albums.
When I first listened to Black Metal, I tried out several of the original “inner circle” bands to see if the sound was something I could get into. From the very outset, Emperor emerged as my favorite Black Metal band. Choatic and violent, yet also intricate and majestic, Emperor carried much of the grim aggression of their peers, but with a more easily identifiable style that made them stand out from the rest. With early releases like Emperor and Wrath of the Tyrant, Emperor established themselves as a bulwark of the Norwegian Black Metal scene. But it would be their subsequent releases that would forge their legendary sound. Though it’s clear the band never made a bad record (Curse You All Men! was the song that made me an Emperor fan), I think In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk are the two most essential Black Metal releases to focus on.
In the Nightside Eclipse
The much heralded and influential classic, In the Nightside Eclipse is astonishing in its all-encompassing aura and endless streams of brilliant song-writing. Back in my days as an English undergrad, I actually played Into the Infinity of Thoughts while conducting my presentation on Ragnarok, the Nordic tale of the apocalypse. With all the sweeping progressions and foreboding, the 9-minute epic opener provided the perfect soundtrack. Obviously, one cannot ignore fan favorites like I am the Black Wizards and Cosmic Keys to my Creations and Times, but I’d like to direct your attention also to Beyond the Great Vast Forest. In my mind, the song stands as a masterpiece of symphonic Black Metal, especially when I think of that moment when the chorus first hits at about 1:55. Though the band had begun to distinguish themselves with this release, Ihsahn’s vocals still strongly resemble that of the typical Black Metal style. That, and the production still has a crudeness to it, one which I like, but one that still sets it in a certain style.
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
While Eclipse probably stands as the critics’ choice for Emperor’s most essential release, I still think of Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk as the perfect Emperor record. With seven tracks, the band effortlessly bridges the gap between their classic Black Metal roots and the approach they would later adopt on IX Equilibrium. Welkin has a much cleaner production and features many more clean vocal harmonies, and shows Ihsahn develop his signature guttural snarl as opposed to the standard Black Metal screech on the previous record. Every song here has its own flashes of brilliance, but my favorites would have to be Ye Entrancemperium, The Acclamation of Bonds, With Strength I Burn, and of course Thus Spake the Night Spirit (check out the live version too!). Acclamation has all the elements of a great Emperor song, with its brutal ferocity in the foreground, and beautifully contrasting symphony track in the background. With Strength I Burn and The Wanderer serve as an excellent closing duo to an album packed with chaos, riffs, and stunning musicianship.
To make a long story short (too late), your Black Metal collection is not complete until you have both of these essential records in your possession.