Thursday, 12 February 2015

Emperor "In The Nightside Eclipse" (1994)

As a young teen I found myself drawn like a magnet to the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 90s. Not long after finding my way to Metallica and Metal music I was scouring the Internet with a thirst for more. I'm not exactly sure where it started, but quickly I was ordering obscure import records from Norway, utilizing the Internet at a time when online shopping was in its infancy. Having heard very little of this music I was sucked in by the mystic, pagan artwork and before long I was picking up records from bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum etc.. At first I barely knew what to think of this dark and overwhelming music. It was loud, a noisy claustrophobic dive into a dark and mysterious world. Somehow I knew it was the music for me, and as time went by I got deeper and deeper into this dark and wondrous music. Emperor's "In The Nightside Eclipse" was one that at the time that "broke the ice" and was the first record I really understood. Almost 15 years later I still can't get enough of this masterpiece. Last year had the privilege of seeing it played live in its entirety, something Ill never let go.

Nightside was released when the scene was in its infancy, more specifically right at the beginning of controversy and intense media scrutiny surrounding the scene as a result of the church burnings, murder and satanic rituals that had become linked to the music scene at the time. Black Metal's original concept revolved around "anti-music", the idea to intentionally make inaudible, low fidelity, harsh music that was everso rebellious in nature. Taking on a stark image through corpse paint and satanic symbols, the scene quickly attracted extremism that would result in the aforementioned controversies. Nightside is where things changed. Emperor took the aesthetics and dark sound of Black Metal, and used it to write deep and intelligent music while fusing a symphonic element into their sound, a move that at the time would of seemed "experimental" but would inspire a generation of bands to come.

A whirling storm of evil and descending eerie synths march to a thunderous noise as the record plunges us "Into The Infinity Of Thoughts", a title fit to set the tone of the vivid ride through your imagination this album will set you on. Blitzing blast beats and hazy, tin guitars tremolo pick a furious melody. Ishan's snarly, raspy screams crash into the fold with the symphonic keys, revealing their glory immediately. The vocal like choir synth expands the record into a new dimension, brining an enormity and epic feel that quickly and almost subtly shifts into one of many beautiful moments on this record. The key shifts up and the dark sound reveals hidden beauty, descending strings amplify the underlying majesty of the music and we get our first taste of what makes this experience a transcending one. Diving further into the track, it breaks from the relentless onslaught and between thunder strikes and cavernous winds the choirs calm like the quiet before the storm and then plunge us into symphonic, melodic bliss with a stunning imagery of limitless magic.

The rest of this album marches forward triumphantly through seven more tracks that further explore the principle and theme so well expressed on the opening track. Without repeating themselves, Emperor dive into the majestic eternal world and steer us through the mysterious ancient. The vivid imagery is painted through timeless riffs and choirs that make every song a sheer joy to indulge in. As the album draws close to its end the infamous "I Am The Black Wizards" plays out some of the most memorable riffs, leading the song into an epic climax as endless synths ooze their glorious absorbing sound over the bass and guitars. The song then plays into what could almost be described as a "breakdown" riff before ringing out a timeless melodic lead as the song sorrowfully concludes with Scandinavian clean vocals and snarling screams.

From a technical standpoint, this record sounds claustrophobic and messy, but more so than ever does it play into the charm of the record. The extremity of the musical delivery, the noisy shell it resides in further amplifies the distance from reality this record exists in. The dense guitar chords and thin tremolo leads are bombarded by nauseous drumming, the synths bleed their way through the wall of sound and this is where the magic happens. The keys come from a far and are absorbed into the fold, leaving a tonal wonder instead of clarity that compliments the mystic themes perfectly. Plenty of technical errors and noises can be heard, but they don't detract anything from this record as the tonal sound the mixing style achieves just amplifies the immersion and wonder. Its a strange thing to describe, as it captures the magic through what could be perceived as inferior, but thats the way it works. "In The Nightside Eclipse" is one of my all time favorite records, one that has never failed to excite and invigorate me. A timeless record I can listen to endlessly.

Rating: 10/10