Review Summary: A Spectacular Farewell.
Emperor have always been my favourite black metal band. For me, their sweeping compositions, abounding in technicality and melodic exertion, yet remaining firmly rooted in black metal stylistics, bring a progressive element to the genre that displays their artistic integrity and endowed musicality that forgoes the superfluous need for a black metal outfit to sound primitively malevolent. Their fundamental principle seemed to be solely in creating challenging and stirring music.
And I believe this is no more evident than on 2006‚Äôs Live Inferno, a two CD set comprising the bands reunion performances at both the Inferno Festival and Germanys Wacken Open Air. The open air recordings really do lend a vastness to Emperors sound, the grand resonance afforded by the mix giving the tracks a invigorated brightness, a certain clarity which illuminates tracks such as I Am The Black Wizards and demonstrates the intricacies present in Ihsahns and Samoths guitar work which may have gone previously unnoticed because of the questionable (yet typically black metal) production of the earlier studio releases.
The band themselves are phenomenal, as they execute their set flawlessly. Thus Spake The Nightspirit is undoubtedly a highlight, the orchestral strains, the dynamic shifts and the watertight phrasing means the song washes over you with a swirling intensity (the vocal harmonies towards the end are fantastic), yet it still retains a relentlessly aggressive energy. Curse You All Men! also makes an electrifying impact, the bludgeoning onslaught of riffs, chaotic lead work and unremitting double bass eventually giving way to a beautiful, symphonic section which drives us back into a pummelling conclusion.
Indeed, throughout, the album is all about dynamics, as Emperor take us through a journey of vibrant songs that twist and turn from exquisite melodic refrains to blistering periods of instrumental fury. The symphonic touches are light and subtle, imparting the sound with a charming addition that heavily compliments the sonic barbarity.
This album acts a summation of the legacy that Emperor leaves behind. The set list, spanning the bands entire career, will act as a lasting reminder of how Emperor helped not only create their genre, yet also develop and advance it, impelling not only themselves but as well their devotees to make sure Black Metal remained both demanding and still wholly wreathed in passion and antagonism.