Review Summary: Emperor goes a different direction with IX Equilibrium, although some fans see this album as a mistake it is still worth a listen to any metal enthusiast.
Throughout the years, Emperor has certainly been a band to leave their mark on the extreme metal scene. With a vast underground success in the release of albums such as In the Nightside Eclipse
and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
, Emperor showed what the Norwegian black metal scene was all about. In addition to the typical black metal sound, Emperor intertwined symphonic elements into their songs. However, not until after IX Equilibrium
was released, did the true potential in the symphonic elements show its’ shell. IX Equilibrium
was the start of something new for Emperor, and without a doubt in my mind was a step in an interesting direction.
Brining out the symphonies was not the only changes Emperor made with this album. Clearly Emperor started to become more serious, after all the band changed up their image a bit, and satanic lyrics became a thing of the past. All of these changed might leave one to ponder whether this album is even relatively close to the classic Emperor releases. The truth is that IX Equilibrium
is a big change in the bands sound. Everything from Ihsahns’ vocals to the guitar playing separates itself from old Emperor.
Do not let these changes discourage you from trying this album out. Emperor is still at large here with some spectacular riffs and overall song deliverances that black metal has to offer. Songs like “Curse you all Men” open up with some truly memorable and ass-kicking riffs, and never let up throughout the songs entirety. Ihsahns’ clean vocals get a lot more time to shine in this album as well. For example “Elegy of Icaros” has a good deal of Ihsahns’ soaring, clear-toned singing that fits perfectly with Emperors new sound style.
Soloing is also something that has played a larger role throughout this album. For example “Of Blindness and Subsequent Seers” has a very enjoyable middle-eastern style guitar solo. In general, this album shows the musicianship of all the band members a lot more than previous Emperor releases. Tryms’ drumming is at an all time high exhibiting some superb double bass work and other quick beat techniques dispersed all throughout the songs. Unfortunately like most extreme metal the bass guitar is not brought out enough, often being overshadowed by all the other instruments. Song repetition is not too common, despite some tracks following a similar structure. For the most part though, all the songs stand out as individuals.
As stated earlier, Ihsahns’ vocals are, to some extent, different on this album. Instead of the high pitched goblin esq. screech used on earlier albums, his voice is much more of a controlled rasp and is much more comprehendible. Another contributor to the more clear sound is the improved production quality. Although it is not over-polished, the more refined production makes it easier to digest the music. Synthesizer work becomes much more apparent in this album and is done quite well by Ihsahn. All of the songs are given a great symphonic feel by the high use of keyboards. This is especially noticeable on “Warriors of Modern Death”, with the excellent background the keys contribute.
Progressing, when done right, is certainly a superior aspect in music, and Emperor certainly accomplished that. IX Equilibrium
is a without a doubt a fantastic and wild piece of extreme metal. With its’ out of this world symphonic features, and intense speed this album proves Emperor are capable of doing so much. Although fans of classic Emperor may not be happy that the band went through several changes, this album should not be passed by. IX Equilibrium
should appeal to many, and although different, is another gem in the very impressive Emperor discography.
What was good about this album
+Strong progression from the band
+Instrumental talent shows quite well
+Superb harsh/clean vocals
+The symphonic elements really add a lot to the quality of the music
What was bad about this album
-As usual, the bass wasn’t brought out enough
-Fans may not like this side of Emperor
-The album is only 44 minutes long, although that is not extremely short, I craved more
Final Rating 4/5