Emperor. A name most people in the Black Metal community are familiar with, a name which signifies one of the most influential Black Metal bands ever, and one who made the symphonic black metal genre what it is today. Their first full length album, "In The Nightside Eclipse" showed everyone that Emperor wasn't your average Black Metal band, they meant business. Vocalist/Guitarist/Keyboardist Ihsan knows what he's doing, and with both "In The Nightside Eclipse" and "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk" showcase some of the best songwriting Black Metal has to offer. The overall mood and atmosphere of this album is suffocating, utilizing keyboards not as a crutch but instead as a forefront instrument that accents the work of the guitars, contributing to the effectiveness of the atmosphere that is so crucial in the overall sound of the Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk.
The opening track "Alsvartr (The Oath)" is quite a fitting intro to this album, albeit a bit unexpected as the smooth clean guitar flows you easily into the tone of the album, steadily growing darker as it progresses. It's a deceiving track, one that shifts towards a darker atmosphere fronted by an electric melody and incoherent vocals that prove to be a stark contrast to the calming riff that began the song. The next track, "Ye Entrancemperium", hits you like a ton of bricks. The overbearing guitars and drums give you no time to adjust to the furious, almost insane, pace of this album. You get the first taste of the vocals on this album here, and if you're not used to it, it may seem odd. The vocals take a back seat to the instruments, because the guitars and drums are much more audible than the vocals. But the screams are great nonetheless, being typical Black Metal screeches, but I enjoy them a lot. Also used here which isn't used much in other Black Metal offerings are clean vocals. Ihsahn has a great, great clean voice. It's very epic, reminds me of Jari's clean vocals from Wintersun and Ensiferum, very nice indeed. Another thing to take note of on this album is drums. My God, Trym knows how to play the drums. I mean really, the guy basically plays double bass for 48 minutes straight, a feat of sheer endurance that also increases the intensity tenfold. At the same time he's breaking his bass drum he's pounding away like a madman on the cymbals and snare and what have you. "Ye Entrancemperium" shows you what Emperor is all about, a great track. "Thus Spake The Nightspirit" opens with a sweet riff, with the keyboards and guitars blending seamlessly together. Ihsahn lets out a long scream before the guitars and keyboards lace together again. The vocals unleash themselves afterward, before a sick guitar solo is let out, showing that Emperor can play the guitar just as well, if not better, than any other Black Metal band out there. This is great track for those who like guitar work, its very fast and complex. Samoth and Ihsahn know how to wield their weapons very well. The song fades off toward the end, giving you the first bit of silence since the beginning.
It's short-lived though, as "Ensorcelled by Khaos" lets out my favorite opening riff of the album, its fast, not that melodic, but really furious. The vocals and guitars on this track go together very well, adding a sense of emotion and desperation to the song for the first time this album. At about 1:20 there is a cool short intermission from the guitars to make way for a cool electronic session, before the guitars and vocals kick up, backed by that same sweet and dark sounding synth work. Thats one of the biggest things which sets this band apart, and it is probably most notable on this track. The thing I like about this track is that it takes it's time, despite it being very fast it is a long, drawn out sound, a full song, not one of those crappy short, rushed songs. Props to Emperor for the songwriting on this album, especially this track, one of my personal favorites on this album. "The Loss And Curse Of Reverance" is probably the fastest song here. It has a weird guitar riff which sounds very suitable for this type of music. There is double bass shredding through almost the entire song, with the synths fading in and out, some parts being full of electronics and others left to simply the grinding guitars and drums. The riffing on this song is more melodic but still heavy, showing a side more typically associated with Melodic Death Metal. This track is probably the best one in terms of electronics, because they pretty much make the song very, very unique. Another great song, nothing less than flawless.
"The Acclamation Of Bonds" begins straight away with a incredibly memorable and enjoyable lead. Truly crazy how after all this the band still manages to create an opening like that. The guitars and symphonics once again melt together to create a wall of Black Metal fury. Once the vocals come in, it makes the song even better. At this point of the album I can't really believe what I am hearing and I wondered how I had never heard of this album before. The vocals never really change up, but the instruments around them are constantly in motion, changing the pace and riff many times over the course of a single song, keeping you guessing at what Emperor will dare to throw at you next. What a track this is (I can say that for any song on here, but hey, listen to this album and you'd say the same thing), this is one of those songs you want to listen to right away when you begin playing this CD. The last few minutes add an eerie tone to the song, very ominous and dark, showing yet again how things constantly change with this band.
"With Strength I Burn" is the epic long player of this album. Clocking in at 8:17 prepare to listen to every second when you start to play it, because those 8 minutes will go by quickly. The double bass flattens you right out of the gate, with the electronics setting that eerie atmospheric tone early on in this song. This song goes back and forth from quick, brutal versing to slower electronic interludes to epic clean vocal sections to crushing heavy parts. The clean vocals are used a great deal in this song, probably the most out of any track so far. At 3:30, the instruments stop, except the symphonics, with some strange spoken lyrics which are placed very softly in the background, before breaking into a sweet section of epic clean vocals. Another guitar solo thrown in to add that technical touch, and we are back to the brutal heavy verses. Around 5:40 is one of my personal favorite moments on the album, when the vocals slowly come into play as the crunching guitars and drums speed up, a section which put a big smile on my face when I first heard it. The song ends with a melodic riff slowly fading off into the distance. One of the strongest, well-executed songs on this album. A masterpiece in itself. The closer, "The Wanderer" is an instrumental. The guitars, synths, and drums fade into place, playing a slower, more depressing riff than the intro song. This is the point in our journey when we reach the edge of the world itself, knowing our imminent doom, searching frantically for a way out of this godforsaken land.
Emperor really nailed it with this one. This album is their finest one of their great careers, marking a point when Emperor was at it's best. What is contained in this CD is the pinnacle of what symphonic Black Metal has to offer; an effective and complex sound which any fan of the genre, and even of metal, can enjoy. If you haven't heard this classic yet, you must, because I wish I had heard it long before I actually did.
I actually bought this album without knowing really what Emperor sounded like. I heard one song off "In The Nightside Eclipse" and it was good, but I heard this album was their best so I bought this one. I had no idea it was this good.
I got this a couple months ago, only listened to it a couple times though. I really like it so far but it really deserves more attention from me. The review looks good, I need to read the whole thing through. If I like it I'll pos it. Looks better than the last one though.
Vanir- I agree with you on what you said about it being '97, I was a bit off there. But even with the keyboards and all that ambience the guitars, drumming and vocals still have that raw feeling to it, or at least thats what I thought, but I can see where you're coming from. I always enjoy constructive criticism, because I'm still fairly new to Black Metal.
???? I'm confused, how can this review be too long? This is actually one of my shorter reviews. I enjoy long reviews, especially for great albums like this, there is just so much to describe.This Message Edited On 05.29.07
I can't decide if this or ITNE is better now, this is a little stronger all around imo, but ITNE has three of emperor's four best songs (Into the Infinity of Thoughts, I am the Black Wizards, and Inno a Satana)
Best track here is definately "With Strength I Burn," my second favorite song by the band, behind ItIoT.
I agree with you there, but ITNE has a few more standout tracks like I said before. The only one here that has really hit me hard was "With Strength I burn," maybe "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" as well. I still need more listens to decide though.