EMPEROR — In the Nightside Eclipse (review)

EMPEROR — In the Nightside Eclipse album cover Album · 1994 · Symphonic Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Black Metal had been out for about a decade by the point of this album's release. We already had a revolution that was beating Venom at their own game, a dorky club pretending to be a cult before someone killed the founder of the club, and of the genre, and the same year as this album was the long awaited release of Mayhem's debut studio album. By this point, Darkthrone had cemented itself as one of the greatest metal bands on Earth to the masses, and Immortal was just starting. It had a crazy run before we finally got to Emperor. Unlike grunge, black metal lived on because it was a niche market that relied on negative rep. Emperor might've lost their lead influence, but they didn't lose their willpower.

In the Nightside Eclipse was their first outing, and to this day it remains one of the most emulated black metal albums on Earth. In fact, this album represents a lot of firsts. The most notable "first" of this album is the dungeon synthesizers, which were an unholy sin that even black metal fans wouldn't commit. That's boldness for ya'. And it's not ham-fisted or cheesy in anyway shape or form; they're gorgeous in their Gothic behavior, creepy as hell and add a thick layer of personality without being overused. Another one is the clearer production. The guitars might be quite dirty, but through the clean production you get not only the most of the beautiful synths, but the most of the guitars. let the shredding handle the, ahem, dirty work.

Our singer, Ihsahn, has that absolutely perfect voice for the job. If you're familiar with their second album, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, you might recognize something about this album. It sounds more like typical black metal, right? Right and wrong. These guys were one of the first bands to really perfect what the pure sound of black metal is with the right production, except they also had a symphonic sound to work with. So instead of being Darkthrone knockoffs, they became something more medieval, fantasy-inspired and epic. In a way, they totally beat Darkthrone, making a new sound even more fresh, something these guys would do continuously throughout their four album streak. They were a great bridge between melodic, traditional and the newly formed symphonic brands of black metal. In other words, this album is purely essential by any definition for technical and melodic proficiency. On top of that, it sounds exactly like its incredible cover wants you to think it sounds like, so there's a perfectly fitting cover, and one of my personal favorites.

Although it must be said that most of these songs sound very much the same. I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't point that out. Maybe I need to compare this to their "worst" release, Equilibrium IX, but I feel that they had every ability to try to write songs with different approaches and they completely neglected that in the long run, relying on smaller surprises in a few areas rather than trying new things. At least the album never gets boring. But on top of that, I think there's a newfound diversity that's still there, especially for its time. On top of the aforementioned balance between traditional, melodic and symphonic black metal, there are notable traces of gothic metal and prog metal to it, so despite its obvious flaw it's actually quite revolutionary. Because of this, there's a constant aura eminating from what could be a perfect black metal sound in general, something that's difficult to achieve, and Emperor somehow found a way to make it look easy on their first album.

In the Nightside Eclispe will be iconic throughout the rest of metal history. It's going to serve as an example of how to perfect the black metal sound, even though it suffers from monotony in comparison to more creative outings by not only Emperor but by other bands. If your going to check out Emperor, I suggest you do it in chronological fashion. This is the kind of album that will keep you headbanging throughout its entire run. For all of its innovations, this is at least a mile ahead of the earlier traditional black metal classic, A Blaze in the Northern Sky by Darkthrone.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
2 months ago
Great run of Emperor reviews. Recently did a marathon. One of my fave metal bands of all time.


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