Before internet changed once and for all the face of information, the fame of bands such as Thorns lied only in misty speculation and rumors. It was a common belief that while Bathory and Celtic Frost provided the “know what” to the first wave of black metal bands, it was Thorns who provided the “know how”, through a small set of obscure demos, filled with underdeveloped, yet amazingly innovative and terrifying ideas. They quickly became the well hidden secret of the scene, and by 1998, they had reached a legendary status, yet very few people knew actual facts about their music.
“Thorns vs Emperor” gave them the chance to release some of their intimidating magic to the world. Emperor’s role here was trivial actually, their main purpose was to give their good friend Snorre Ruch, the brains behind Thorns, the publicity he needed to make a fresh start and finally go for an official recording. Let’s not forget that Emperor were at the time the absolute black metal superstars, commercially speaking. All they offer is a cover to Thorns Aerie Descends, pretty close to the original, and two keyboard driven instrumentals.
Thorns on the other hand wouldn’t miss that chance. Their participation on the EP starts with Aerie Descends, which is an instant classic for the genre. Thorns introduce not only their corrosive sound and asphyxiating atmospheres, but also their trademark spiral riffing, which was, from their demo days already, the most inspirational thing in black metal since Under the Sign of the Black Mark.
Melas Khole and Discipline of Earth, are pure madness. Thorns do not care about any of the fixations reigning in the black metal scene, neither in these two songs nor in Aerie Descends. They use speed as much as they use slowness, they even use speed to create slowness (that’s the main goal of the spiral riffing), they use strength as much as they use terror and they are bitter as much as they are magnificent (Satyr, who took over the vocals, is the perfect tool to that). Thorns in fact cover their early relatively naked sonically selves, adding a dark industrial scent to their sound, in order to perfect the dark aesthetics of their music.
The final track, which is Thorns’ cover to Emperor’s Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times, this one totally black but not metal, as an idea sums up pretty much everything Thorns offered to black metal; The transformation of the obsessive, “romantic” approach to the devotion about everything dark (which until then appeared in black metal as occultism, Satanism and paganism) to a more urban, evolved state of bleakness, set the grounds for the renovation of black metal, (through bands like DHG, Satyricon, even the Mayhem we get in Grand Declaration of War and of course Thorns themselves) and ultimately contributed to its very survival.