Thursday, September 11, 2008

Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse (1994)


In the Nightside Eclipse is the definitive Emperor album. It lacks the poor production that plagued Wrath of the Tyrant, while still possessing some of the necro element. This was recorded in Grieghallen during the seventh full moon of 1993. It was produced by Pytten, known for his work with Mayhem, Burzum and Immortal. The cover featured artwork from Necrolord, who did the covers for the first two Dissection albums, among countless others.

After a brief intro, "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" explodes with icy cold riffs that seem to take some influence from Mayhem. In fact, the album is dedicated to Euronymous. The fast tremolo riffs, blasting drums and unrestrained vocals strive to create a soundscape of darkness and evil. The one main drawback is that the keyboards are too loud in the mix, and tend to drown everything else out, to a degree. Also, I think that a lot of the atmosphere created through using keyboards could have been done with the guitars. Actually, that touches on another point: the album would lack a lot of its atmosphere without the synth, which is not good. The synth should add to the atmosphere rather than provide the majority of it. Musically, underneath the synth, a lot of the riffs and drumming reminds me of Immortal's Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism. At any rate, the first song does possess icy riffs and an epic feel. The quiet parts, with the dark guitar melodies and the sound of freezing winds drag the listener into the world depicted on the cover.

"Cosmic Keys To My Creations and Times" begins with a masterful tremolo riff that should have lasted a bit longer. As the blastbeats increase in speed and the keyboards become more dominant, this riff is lost. Actually, everything underneath the synth seems lost for a while, with the exception of the hateful vocals. Once the song slows down again, and the synth allows the guitars to breathe once more, it is easier to be drawn into the darkness being created. However, I can't help but wonder how this would sound if the guitars were much higher in the mix. The tempo slows down, near the end of the song, and this is one of the more memorable moments, as the guitar riff carries it along.

Next is "Beyond the Great Vast Forest". In various places on the album, one will find sections that seem to regress back to the more necro times of Wrath of the Tyrant, creating mental imagery of blackened dungeons. An appropriate sentiment, since much of the music from that demo was rearranged and used here. It is almost difficult to notice as the overpowering synth takes command, early on. The extra lead harmonies added to the slower section really help the atmosphere. During its best moments, this L.P. is like the cold air of winter, blowing down from the snow-capped mountaintops, awaiting the end of the world. The band manages to create an epic, somewhat apocalyptic feeling, at times.

"Towards the Pantheon" follows and begins very quietly, creating an eerie and uneasy feeling. Ihsahn opens with a very lengthy, almost inhuman and breathless, scream that stretches on forever. There is an intense hatred, accompanied by a melancholy for the truth of this life, and a deep sense of longing for a different world... a realm of fantasy. Beneath the layers of synth is a song of pure Black Metal. As with the last song, this one takes the listener deeper and deeper into the darkness and creates a sense of urgency and panic.

Throughout In the Nightside Eclipse, the music itself is arranged in a cyclic style as riffs flow into riffs, then return to their original pattern at times; a kind of theme is established in each song that is repeated, while the songwriting will often move into other more complex patterns, melodies and structures. "The Majesty of the Nightsky" begins with fury and speed, yet a almost calming melody pervades and changes the mood. Emperor infuse a more Wagnerian aspect into their music, a sweeping narrative that is no true attempt at narrative, and lyrics and vocals simply amplify this. Lyrics are filled with a dark mysticism of death, evil and nature, a reveration of the true dark powers of the Earth. As the instruments stop, nothing is left but the synth melody and the sound of cold winds. A thunderous sound accompanies the return of the drums and the sorrowful guitar riffs join with a spoken words piece that imbues the listener with a sense of calm and relief. As if the blood is flowing freely from your veins as you gaze up into the darkness, soon to be liberated from this world. As the song speeds back up, it carried your spirit into the nothingness that surrounds.

"I Am the Black Wizards" begins with a brilliant tremolo riff, that is followed by something slower, reminiscent of Burzum, but only briefly. As the song gets going, the main theme returns and this is probably one of the best melodies on the album. The atmosphere gets even darker as the pace slows down. One gets images of dark towers where beings beyond feeble concepts of good and evil live in a manner that seems vile to any who possess normal "good" values, but a way that in of itself is not evil, simply a way of life. Late in the song, a new riff is introduced that is pure evil. It carries with it doom and the promise of agony. Hellish screams are followed by a serene, if not mournful, melody that finishes out the song.

"Inno A Satana" closes the album by introducing clean vocals, for the only time on this album. They are accompanied by wretched screams and some cold and lifeless riffs, hearkening back to early Burzum. As the riffs build up, the song ends with Ihsahn whispering:

"Inno a Satana."

In the Nightside Eclipse is definitely complex and it requires a decent attention span. This isn't something that can be absorbed by simply turning the CD on and continuing to do other things. This requires the focus of the listener. The music creates an atmosphere of reverence for the dark beauty of the night and the sinister shadows of the deep forests. Emperor manages to find solace in those things that humans dread the most. Ihsahn's demonic shrieks spread hatred as the riffs carry you higher and higher, toward the glowing moon high above, before suddenly letting you fall to the frozen earth below.