For our first black metal review, we'll tackle an easy one. In The Nightside Eclipse, Emperor's full length debut, is often cited as one of the strongest Norwegian black metal albums from the formative years. Amongst the crowd of essential releases from the "black circle," this one is the most instantly accessible, so it's a good place to start.
Emperor were one of the first black metal bands to really incorporate keyboards as a main instrument, and not just for atmosphere. On their debut, the keyboards sit as a dark melodious backdrop for the fuzzy guitars and screechy vocals. This is a musically dense album with multiple changes in tempo, intricate riffs, and complex song structures. "Beyond the Great Vast Forest" is a good example - expansive ambient passages interspersed with an almost grindcore sounding blastbeat riff.
The production of ITNE is what really sells it for me. Everything, and I mean everything, sounds like it is off in the distance. But somehow, every instrument is discernible and it doesn't become a muddy wash. This sounds like music performed by demons in the cold Norwegian forest - it's perfect black metal sound.
ITNE is an easy album to get into, even for black metal noobs, because it is riff-driven and adheres to many metal traditions. The atmosphere is present, but it is not achieved through repetition which is a big complaint from people who struggle to get into the genre. The gothic-themed melodies presented here became the templet for mainstream black metal acts like Dimmu Borgir and England's gothic-themed neo-black metal act, Cradle of Filth.
"I am the Black Wizards" is the best track on here, and it's also the funniest translation error in the black metal world that I am aware off. The main melodies in this one are fantastic, and quite infectious. It moves through transitions of heavy metal and gothic bliss and never lets up.
Emperor hit the nail on the head with this album - it is near-perfect. When the weather turns cold, it's one of the first albums I hit. It gets a 5 out of 5.
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