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shadow Music Ryan Harding Review by
Ryan Harding
Re-release - 2004
Candlelight Records / Century Black

You'd have to hate being in EMPEROR's place. You've gained an unprecedented notoriety for your music as opposed to your image thanks to ANTHEMS TO THE WELKIN AT DUSK, and you've even managed to become "The Best Black Metal Band in the World" instead of "That Band Whose Guitarist and Drummer Went to Jail!" Whatever you do next, no matter what, will be either acclaimed or condemned with no in-between. Your intricate songwriting will be incredible or pretentious, your vocals inspired or weak, your album classic or farce. For those untouched by any of these preconceptions, you will find IX EQUILIBRIUM to be a labyrinthian, unique, and solid expression.

At some level it stops being "true Norwegian Black Metal" and just becomes EMPEROR, and that is really the only way you can describe this album. Its musicianshp is the product of three: Ihsahn (guitar, bass, vocals, synth), Samoth (guitar), and Trym (drums). Each song requires the listener’s complete attention, otherwise it won'’t work. Ihsahn and Samoth have a pension for simultaneously playing different riffs, and along with those are the synth accompaniments and Trym’s individual presence with the percussion to absorb.

The vocals have taken new shape as well, as Ihsahn becomes more confident in his singing ability, particularly in "An Elegy of Icaros" and "The Source of Icon E." These moments call more attention to themselves than the clean moments on ANTHEMS, but remain strategic and not necessarily overbearing. The primary vocals are blackened with the appropriate influence of Quorthon, and indeed, you can hear a touch of Bathory in "The Source of Icon E" and "Nonus Aequilibrium."

Not always mentioned in conjunction with EMPEROR is the speed element; when they floor the accelerator, utter chaos ensues. Such is the case with "Sworn" and "Decrystallizing Reason," where build-ups suddenly give way to blast passages of supreme intensity.

The album clocks in at an unassuming forty-four minutes, covering and exploring far more ground than virtually all their other contenders could. How these same elements could be used to condemn this album stands testament to a very selective scene, but hopefully many will find that EMPEROR'’s namesake is well-deserved.


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This review copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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