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Metal - Released May 12, 1997 | Spinefarm Records UK

With the remainder of Emperor's lineup in jail, bandleader and chief composer Ihsahn returned to his rural home near the town of Notodden and began writing the band's second album. Once his longtime collaborator Samoth was freed and able to help complete the material, Emperor regrouped with a new rhythm section consisting of bassist Alver and warp-speed drummer Trym (ex-Enslaved). The result was Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, a magnificently conceived and executed opus that fulfills all of Emperor's promise and ambition. The biggest difference from its predecessor is the crisper, clearer production, which allows details in the arrangements to emerge far more readily. While black metal purists might miss the rawness of the debut -- and/or decry this move toward (relative) accessibility -- Anthems is still widely viewed as an uncompromising work of art that immediately announces itself a masterpiece. "Emperor performs Sophisticated Black Metal Art exclusively!" boasts the back cover, and in truth that's a pretty accurate assessment. Everything about Anthems feels more fully realized than its already classic predecessor. There's greater use of classical flourishes, heightening the majestic feel of the band's already epic compositions; the keyboard work is more complex and melodic; there's more audible guitar interplay between Ihsahn and Samoth; and there's greater variety in Ihsahn's vocals, including more clean chanting à la the last album's "Inno a Satana." The album is both a refinement and expansion of the band's core sound, maintaining the vicious wall-of-noise attack of In the Nightside Eclipse while fleshing out the more progressive and esoteric influences that album merely hinted at. It definitely builds on the groundwork laid by extreme metal pioneers Celtic Frost and Bathory: the former with its restless experimentalism, and the latter with its determination to create something quintessentially Scandinavian. Indeed, Emperor has never sounded more Norwegian than on the multi-faceted epic "With Strength I Burn," which covers just about everything in their bag of tricks and marks one of the high points of their career. Highlights abound; elsewhere, the band pays tribute to scene godfather Euronymous by building album-opener "Ye Entrancemperium" on a riff borrowed from an obscure, bootleg-only Mayhem song, and offers their first music video for "The Loss and Curse of Reverence." Taken as a whole, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk cemented Emperor's reputation as black metal's greatest band, and Ihsahn as its foremost musical visionary; it also firmly established black metal as an art form that wasn't going away any time soon, and opened up a wide range of creative possibilities to the more progressive, eccentric wing of the genre. In the Nightside Eclipse might epitomize black metal better than any other album, but divorced from outside context, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk is black metal's greatest stand-alone creative achievement. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Metal - Released October 21, 2001 | Spinefarm Records UK

If there's one band that truly embodies anti-commercialism, it's Emperor. Generally regarded as the one true master of the Norwegian-bred black metal art form, the band concocts a staggeringly violent whirlwind of carefully constructed noise resulting in nigh-impermeable records piled high with complex arrangements and heart-bursting violence. So it's no surprise that, for its swan song, the band would issue Prometheus, a birth-to-death concept album of such weight and density that it takes roughly two dozen listens to even begin to appreciate the depth of its composition and its painstaking attention to detail. Accompanying the release of Prometheus was the announcement that it would be Emperor's final word as a band, and listening to the record, it is increasingly apparent that the bandmembers were beginning to take divergent musical paths; drummer Trym and guitarist Samoth had started expressing more interest in gut-level power punches, while frontman Ihsahn wished to pursue more cerebral art, evident in his classical project Thou Shalt Suffer, and the strange, progressive output of side band Peccatum. With Trym and Samoth investing the majority of their time in their relatively straightforward, speed-obsessed black/death unit Zyklon, Ihsahn willfully conceived, wrote, and produced the psychologically rigorous record in its entirety, handling all vocals, bass, keyboards, programming, and the majority of guitar tracks himself. Earlier albums were certainly more collaborative, although Ihsahn's influence was always prevalent in Emperor's work. Previous release IX Equilibrium was more immediate and simply arranged, albeit still putting forth the brainy, symphonic battery of much-praised earlier records In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk -- but Prometheus is an altogether different beast that still manages to stay true to the Emperor canon, boasting the group's best production to date with a mix that emphasizes clarity by pushing guitars to the forefront, more carefully integrating the keyboards, and bolstering the flat drum sound that marred previous recordings. In addition, Ihsahn more cogently utilizes his variety of vocalizations, from mid-rangey black-throated screams to King Diamond-esque operatic singing to a deep, echoed spoken tone, all tying tightly into the lyrical story line. Meanwhile, a tangled maelstrom of instrumental madness swirls behind him, the occasional melody or riff leaping out of the storm like a viper striking out from thick brush -- a device that Emperor easily mastered during their career. Middle three tracks "The Prophet," "The Tongue of Fire," and "In the Wordless Chamber" are the album's most prominent manifestos, balancing memorable hooks with molten-hot, broiling ebullience, especially the latter track, which sports a Viking-horn call that rallies the chainmailed troops for battle. "The Eruption" is an apt opening cut, kicking in with a delicately ominous harpsichord intro before bursting with effervescent rage, and "Thorns on My Grave" is a fittingly cold, harsh, and chaotic finale to both Prometheus and Emperor's legacy. Those willing to invest a significant amount of time into Prometheus will be thoroughly rewarded on intellectual and emotional levels -- especially when drawing parallels between the album's elaborate concept and Emperor's musical reign -- while more practical listeners unwilling to slap on headphones and willfully ingest the lyrics will find the record impenetrable. Certainly, In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk will still stand as two of the genre's defining moments, both albums redefining the creative boundaries of black metal in the mid-'90s, but Prometheus should proudly stand beside them, full of sound and fury, signifying a whole hell of a lot: Emperor, being all it can be, plunging the sword into its own breast after winning its most important battle (and possibly the war), willfully doing so before the plague of weakness has a chance to infiltrate its body. No act could be more anti-commercial. © John Serba /TiVo
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Metal - Released February 21, 1994 | Spinefarm Records UK

When the world first discovered Norwegian black metal, it was largely thanks to a well-publicized crime spree that left several scenesters dead or in jail. Most of the music available at that point -- by bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Burzum -- was intentionally ugly, poorly produced, and proud of it. It might have been easy for outside observers to dismiss the music itself as inconsequential noise; that is, if Emperor's debut album In the Nightside Eclipse hadn't arrived at exactly the right moment. Released just a few months before the well-publicized murder trial of Varg Vikernes, the album would itself soon find three of its four performers imprisoned. But for anyone drawn in by the surrounding sensationalism, In the Nightside Eclipse resoundingly demonstrated that there was real musical substance and ambition in the world of black metal. Its epic vision didn't mesh with the general "anti-music" mind set of the rest of the scene, yet somehow managed to capture the essence of the genre while completely rewriting its rule book. All the basic black metal trademarks -- furious blastbeats, tremolo-picked chords, raspy reptilian vocals -- are here, but combined with atmospheric keyboards, symphonic grandeur, and poetic (if indecipherable) lyrics about nature and ancient Scandinavian paganism. (Well, OK, and Satan too.) This is music that's extreme yet expressive, meant to evoke not just darkness and death, but the chill of a Norwegian winter, the dread underpinning traditional folktales, and the harsh and unforgiving landscape depicted on the front cover. Even if the keyboards mostly just outline basic chord changes, they add a melancholy air to all the furious extreme sounds, turning the one-note ugliness of black metal into something emotionally complex. Original bassist Mortiis had already moved on to a solo project, but his pagan poetry and interest in dark ambient music have left their mark; his earliest co-writes here, "I Am the Black Wizards" and "Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times," are among the most striking tracks on the album, even if his input was only lyrical. It's true that the raw, lo-fi production -- in keeping with the standard black metal aesthetic of the time -- obscures some of the music's detail, rendering it an impenetrably thick wall of noise. For many fans, this actually enhances the much-vaunted ambience of the album, since it's hard to pick out individual elements, everything washes together into a monolithic whole. It does take a few listens for even the most memorable riffs and melodies to emerge from the maelstrom, and of course, that outward inaccessibility is exactly what black metal purists demand. Nevertheless, it was pretty clear that Emperor's ambition wouldn't stand for not letting their listeners hear everything they were doing, setting the stage for a major production leap on their next album. In the meantime, though, In the Nightside Eclipse took its place as perhaps the definitive black metal album. It pointed the way toward greater use of atmosphere and melody; it was the first to fuse black metal with progressive and symphonic elements, setting the stage for a bevy of future experimentation in the genre, and it created a template for using folk traditions and melodies from one's homeland as inspirations for material. As such, it certainly possesses the farthest-reaching legacy of anything from Norway's bloody first wave, and ranks as one of the most important heavy metal albums of the ‘90s. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Metal - Released February 21, 1994 | Spinefarm Records UK

When the world first discovered Norwegian black metal, it was largely thanks to a well-publicized crime spree that left several scenesters dead or in jail. Most of the music available at that point -- by bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Burzum -- was intentionally ugly, poorly produced, and proud of it. It might have been easy for outside observers to dismiss the music itself as inconsequential noise; that is, if Emperor's debut album In the Nightside Eclipse hadn't arrived at exactly the right moment. Released just a few months before the well-publicized murder trial of Varg Vikernes, the album would itself soon find three of its four performers imprisoned. But for anyone drawn in by the surrounding sensationalism, In the Nightside Eclipse resoundingly demonstrated that there was real musical substance and ambition in the world of black metal. Its epic vision didn't mesh with the general "anti-music" mind set of the rest of the scene, yet somehow managed to capture the essence of the genre while completely rewriting its rule book. All the basic black metal trademarks -- furious blastbeats, tremolo-picked chords, raspy reptilian vocals -- are here, but combined with atmospheric keyboards, symphonic grandeur, and poetic (if indecipherable) lyrics about nature and ancient Scandinavian paganism. (Well, OK, and Satan too.) This is music that's extreme yet expressive, meant to evoke not just darkness and death, but the chill of a Norwegian winter, the dread underpinning traditional folktales, and the harsh and unforgiving landscape depicted on the front cover. Even if the keyboards mostly just outline basic chord changes, they add a melancholy air to all the furious extreme sounds, turning the one-note ugliness of black metal into something emotionally complex. Original bassist Mortiis had already moved on to a solo project, but his pagan poetry and interest in dark ambient music have left their mark; his earliest co-writes here, "I Am the Black Wizards" and "Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times," are among the most striking tracks on the album, even if his input was only lyrical. It's true that the raw, lo-fi production -- in keeping with the standard black metal aesthetic of the time -- obscures some of the music's detail, rendering it an impenetrably thick wall of noise. For many fans, this actually enhances the much-vaunted ambience of the album, since it's hard to pick out individual elements, everything washes together into a monolithic whole. It does take a few listens for even the most memorable riffs and melodies to emerge from the maelstrom, and of course, that outward inaccessibility is exactly what black metal purists demand. Nevertheless, it was pretty clear that Emperor's ambition wouldn't stand for not letting their listeners hear everything they were doing, setting the stage for a major production leap on their next album. In the meantime, though, In the Nightside Eclipse took its place as perhaps the definitive black metal album. It pointed the way toward greater use of atmosphere and melody; it was the first to fuse black metal with progressive and symphonic elements, setting the stage for a bevy of future experimentation in the genre, and it created a template for using folk traditions and melodies from one's homeland as inspirations for material. As such, it certainly possesses the farthest-reaching legacy of anything from Norway's bloody first wave, and ranks as one of the most important heavy metal albums of the ‘90s. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Metal - Released February 22, 1999 | Spinefarm Records UK

Emperor needs little introduction. As one of the leading exponents of the extremely ill-reputed Norwegian black metal scene (known for true-life demonic acts ranging from church burning to outright murder), the group's fearsome reputation -- on and off the stage -- precedes them. And with their third full album, IX Equilibrium, the group once again shows absolutely no mercy for lesser mortals by delivering another sonic onslaught of nearly impenetrable proportions. Drummer Trym doesn't so much keep time as pummel his kit incessantly, while guitarists Ihsahn and Samoth contribute an equally oppressive wall of sound laced with keyboard textures so demonic they were seemingly concocted by the great horned one himself. The third track, "An Elegy of Icarus," is the first to scale back the violence during its heavily symphonic intro, but the furious pace resumes immediately thereafter, never to slacken again, albeit briefly on the nearly melodic "The Warriors of Modern Death." Far from a masterpiece, but hardly a stinker either, IX Equilibrium falls quite short of the group's earlier albums through sheer lack of diversity, and will prove indigestible to all but the most committed black metal fans. But that was most certainly Emperor's goal in the first place. © Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
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Metal - Released September 28, 1998 | Spinefarm Records UK

Often credited as an instrumental force in shaping Emperor's sound, original bassist Mortiis had very little opportunity to record with the group before fleeing Norway and beginning a solo career. Originally released as an EP in 1992, with subsequent reissues adding four tracks recorded for the Hordanes Land split EP, Wrath of the Tyrant includes nearly everything Mortiis recorded with the band. It's a fascinating opportunity to trace the development of one of the most influential underground metal bands of the '90s. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Metal - Released April 20, 2009 | Spinefarm Records UK

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Metal - Released April 20, 2009 | Spinefarm Records UK

The last will and testament of Norway's Emperor, undisputed monarchs of black metal, is captured on the two-disc LIVE INFERNO, which features two complete performances from their 2006 reunion tour. Core members vocalist/guitarist Ihsahn, guitarist Samoth, and drummer Trym donned the corpse-paint and leather one last time, as they headlined Norway's Inferno Festival and Germany's Wacken Open Air Festival, captured on Discs One and Two respectively. Rarely has a black metal performance been recorded so crisply, with keen attention to sound quality and other live nuances. LIVE INFERNO is also available as a deluxe DVD. © TiVo
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Metal - Released March 12, 1997 | Spinefarm Records UK

Drum & Bass - Released December 3, 2018 | Critical Music

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Electronic - Released September 23, 2020 | UKF

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Metal - Released May 15, 2000 | Spinefarm Records UK

One of the best-known Scandinavian metal bands of the 1990s, Emperor was widely considered to be among death/black metal's top live bands, and the 2000 DVD Emperial Live Ceremony doesn't disappoint. Recorded during a tour stop in support of the IX Equilibrium release at London's packed and sweaty club LA2 (on May 14, 1999), the quintet rips through a total of ten tracks, including such dark compositions as the opening "Curse You All Men," "I Am the Black Wizards," "Night of the Graveless Souls," and "Inno a Satana," among others. With the group having retired from the concert stage by the early 21st century, Emperial Live Ceremony may be the closest thing to an Emperor concert that new admirers will be able to experience. © Greg Prato /TiVo
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Dance - Released February 26, 2016 | Inspected

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Drum & Bass - Released July 17, 2020 | Vision Recordings

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Metal - Released March 25, 2003 | Spinefarm Records UK

Of all the black metal acts that have come down the pipe from the great northern climes, Emperor is the single unit that has held steadfastly to the music's original ethos while furthering black metal's reach and depth. Emperor's sheer malevolence and aggression have been superseded only by the willingness of the bandmembers -- Ihsahn, Samoth, and Trym -- to stretch themselves to the limits by incorporating extreme feats of technical prowess, to the point where they engage in but do not succumb to prog rock. There are 27 cuts on these two discs, and the set is divided evenly. The first is a collection of covers from various tribute albums to Darkthrone, Mayhem, Mercyful Fate, and others, as well as material from the now-fabled Thorns vs. Emperor split. The remainder of the cuts on disc one are from various EPs and singles. Disc two culls cuts from their albums. While there is nothing unreleased here, these selections include the finest moments from a career that has no weak spots. There is one pseudo-rarity here, an Ulver remix of "Sworn" that was included as a bonus track on the limited edition of IX Equilibrium. While hardcore fans may have everything here already, this is an opportunity for those who have missed a few EPs and such to catch up. It also serves as a stellar introduction to the best black metal band on the planet. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Electronic - Released September 16, 2020 | UKF

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Electronic - Released December 4, 2020 | Drum&BassArena

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Drum & Bass - Released February 10, 2021 | Forbidden Society Recordings

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Drum & Bass - Released February 17, 2017 | Critical Music

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Electronic - Released May 19, 2021 | Drum&BassArena