Some bands are generally accepted as good bands. You can count on them to deliver good album after good album, with a generally high quality discography, but some flaws here and there. You have great bands, who do that and get recognition for it. And you have bands that are just so good that they have become immortal.
Emperor, with their first full-length release In The Nightside Eclipse, are one such band. Never has the bar for black metal quality has been set any higher than with this release. The guitars banish, the drums are lucky to be whole after the thrashing they've been given by Faust, the keyboards add just that extra symphonic and melodic tinge to the violence and Ihsahn screeches like never before, a Satanist troll from Norway. Everything that made the genre so popular with the metalhead community is to be found here, and more.
Admittedly the production and sound quality is rather poor and raw (though not on the absymal levels of Darkthrone), and it makes the guitars sound a little thin, but it's better than anything their contemporaries did. Admittedly the music is more an act of violence, aggression and fury (the guitars you'll hear have the subtlety of the asphalt when you're in free fall) than it is crafted for its complexity, but Emperor's innovativity lies not in what had already been done by the rest of the black metallers. It lies in the atmospheres of cold-blooded darkness they create with the symphonic overtones in this album. Never do the keyboards dominate, however; they are just high up enough in the mix to be discerned and admired but they never water down the album quality or drown out the standard black metal elements.
Of course, there are some minor qualms with the album: the lyrics are monotonously about darkness and Satanism. This isn't hindering in any way, because you can't hear anything Ihsahn is trying to say through his incomprehensible troll screeches which (thank god) are put low in the mix. Most black metal bands emphasise their vocals; Emperor doesn't, which on the whole is a wise decision.
The band also isn't huge on changing up the tempo. The band remains fast, furious, and brutal all the way through the album, occasionally moving down into slower rhythms but never abandoning the aural bombardment they create with their instruments. The album may seem repetitive and long-winded at first, therefore; but the trick is to not focus on the music and let yourself be sucked into the album. You'll feel like you're in Norway burning some churches, too.
And in the end this is what sets this album apart from its Norwegian peers. Where other acts descended into self-parodic overkill (Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth), managed to get themselves locked up in prison, like Burzum (although Samoth and Faust managed to do this too; however the quality of Emperor's work never suffered at the hands of it), or are just plain horrendously incriminating pieces of dissonant ear destruction (Mayhem, Darkthrone), Emperor succeeded in making an album that unifies all the good things about black metal into one, solid, coherent album without sounding like gimmicks of themselves. And for that, Emperor will always be hailed as the band that set the standards and wrote the rulebook for Black Metal.