Emperor - Emperor/Wrath Of The Tyrant
Candlelight Records
Black Metal
13 songs (50:47)
Release year: 1998
Emperor, Candlelight Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

What’s the first black metal band that you recommend to a newcomer to the genre? What band sums the genre up best? And which band was the best? We all have our own answers to these questions, and indeed, I wouldn’t answer all of these questions with the same band, but all would agree that if you don’t answer at least one with Emperor, you either know far too little about the genre, or far too much! And leaving aside the usual drama about which of the band’s studio albums is the best, it’s always been the case that their pre-In The Nightside Eclipse material goes without comment, despite the rather excellent re-release from Candlelight in 1998 with its subsequent updates. Bringing together the 1992 Wrath Of The Tyrant demo and the 1993 Emperor EP (also to be released as part of the Hordanes Land split with Enslaved the same year), this compilation is the definitive lesson in early Emperor. With a classic line-up that includes original drummer Faust and pointy-noised ambient troll Mortiis on bass, Emperor’s first two releases are vital for students of the development of black metal, obviously as well as fans of the band.

The two releases brought together here are quite different. This collection opens with the Emperor tracks, two of them with little real difference to be noted in their forms here from that on Into The Nightside Eclipse. Apart from a slightly rawer production and keyboards, and a vocal performance from Ihsahn that shows him at his most snarling and shriekingly deranged, those familiar with that album will recognise said tracks instantly. Opening with eternal classic I Am The Black Wizards and closing with Cosmic Keys To My Creations & Times, it’s the middle two tracks which really grab attention, the less well-known Wrath Of The Tyrant and Night Of The Graveless Souls. Both also appear on the demo that takes the former’s name, but both are more developed here, quite revelatory in their embracing of the pre-ITNE spirit but shifting it into different, unfamiliar forms. Wrath Of The Tyrant is quite perfect in style, riffs and surprisingly complex drumming seizing your attention as distant, almost ambient keyboards add a atmospheric chill... Although Night Of The Graveless Souls is perhaps a little more straightforward and aggressive, with a keyboard melody that verges on the misplaced and a disappointing fade-out, the two together are a good taste of Norwegian black metal at its early best.

After Emperor, the Wrath Of The Tyrant tracks are even more of a step backwards into time. If Emperor is darkness itself, then Wrath Of The Tyrant is the sheer primordial coldness that existed before said darkness was called into being. Beginning with an Introduction that’s part Burzumic keyboard ambience, part Hammer Horror tinkle, the raw slither of Ancient Queen soon bursts into undead motion, all blurry bass/guitar rumble and echoing vocal rasp. A kind of melody soon becomes apparent beneath the mire, but it’s all about Ihsahn’s vocal performance – a shrieking madness that is quite disturbing if you’re more used to the austere artist of latter days. This continues through the vaguely familiar My Empire’s Doom, plodding riffs exuding dread that is seized upon and corralled by Ihsahn’s triumphant howls. Forgotten Centuries has a strange death metal vibe to it, almost as if Emperor were here creating a Soulside Journey of their own – but this lacks the technicality of that early Darkthrone opus, being all about the rawness and atmosphere. The likes of Moon Over Kara-Shehr and Witches’ Sabbath are atmospheric pieces of raw metal par excellence, headbanging riffs not allowed to steal your attention from the fact that they could well have been recorded at such a Sabbath, the latter with its uncanny droning especially otherworldly. The Hellhammer-esque rocking vibe of Lord Of The Storms is a nice surprise, and the freakish scream that opens this version of Wrath Of The Tyrant will invade your dreams.

That sums this collection up well, something truly transcendental, the dark nocturnal art that bands like this would go on to strive towards with Church-burnings and murders, little realising that perfection lay at their grasp all along. I love the various experimental paths that Norway’s various black metal hordes took, but I love the rawness of their early, faltering steps just as much, and those interested in said later steps should discover their favourite moments’ birthplace, in a storm of raw darkness. We all have our favourite Emperor albums, but don’t forget to tip your metaphorical hat to these legends’ earliest works as you indulge in their later periods of artistry.

Killing Songs :
I Am The Black Wizards, Wrath Of The Tyrant, Cosmic Keys To My Creations & Times, My Empire’s Doom, Moon Over Kara-Shehr, Witches’ Sabbath, Lord Of The Storms
Goat quoted no quote
Other albums by Emperor that we have reviewed:
Emperor - Live Inferno reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Emperor - IX Equilibrium reviewed by Aaron and quoted 89 / 100
Emperor - Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk reviewed by Daniel and quoted CLASSIC
Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse reviewed by Valefor and quoted CLASSIC
Emperor - Prometheus - The Discipline Of Fire & Demise reviewed by Danny and quoted 88 / 100
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