EMPEROR In The Nightside Eclipse (Back On Black)
My, but this is a challenge. On this 1994 album, considered a classic of the black metal genre, Emperor build a kind of trebly buzz from manic, flailing percussion, portentous chord changes and vocals that sound like the creature who bursts from John Hurt’s chest in “Alien”, all called things like “Into The Infinity Of Thoughts” and “I Am The Black Wizards” and wrapped up in photos titled “Transylvanian Ruins” and “Demongate”. Ihsahn, Samoth, Tchort and Faust (possibly not their birth names) clearly take themselves and their music very seriously indeed, something I struggle to do, unfortunately. To me it sounds like Tolkien and Metallica sharing some very bad drugs indeed, but I suspect I’m spectacularly missing the point.
There’s the occasional tantalising moment of light in the gloom – the keyboard wash that opens “Cosmic Keys To My Creations And Times”, the atmospheric acoustic-guitar-and-proper-singing introduction to “A Fine Day To Die”, the borderline harmonious interludes that pepper “The Majesty Of The Night Sky” – but they don’t last long before the battering and phlegmy screaming kick in again. The album’s most approachable moment to the unconverted is a bonus track cover of Mercyful Fate’s “Gypsy”, which almost overcomes the handicap of those wailing, keening, grunting vocals.
This is the first of the several Back On Black reissues I’ve bought to actually be pressed on black vinyl. It doesn’t make much difference to the sound quality, though. Presumably this bass-shy, distorted, compressed ball of noise that nags at the ear like Alice’s dentist drill is the result of a singular artistic vision.