I have decided not to review an album this time but an EP. Back in 1992, Emperor decided to record their first EP “Emperor” and it is regarded as one of the first, if not the first, black metal releases to feature keyboards, and this EP to some extent gave birth to what we call now “Symphonic Black Metal”. With its moderate sound quality, aggressive riffs, kickass drumming and Ihsahn’s pre-mature yet menacing vocals, the EP clearly showed that Emperor isn’t just a black metal band, Emperor is THE black metal band.
The EP contains 4 tracks: 2 re-released tracks and 2 new tracks: Wrath of the Tyrant and Night of the Graveless Souls (both tracks were included on an Emperor demo called Wrath of the Tyrant), I Am the Black Wizards and Cosmic Keys are the new tracks (both got re-released and were featured on the first Emperor album “In the Nightside Eclipse”). When I heard the EP at first I didn’t like it much since it sounded poorly recorded and I thought that it was noisy and annoying. However, after listening to it several times it grew on me and I realized how important and great it is.
I Am the Black Wizards
This is by far Emperor’s most famous song and why wouldn’t it be? It is perfectly mastered in every way possible. However, this version of “I Am the Black Wizards” is different from the re-recorded and “known” version and in my opinion it is better than the newer version. Although the newer version was enhanced, quality-wise, this version is actually rawer and sounds more aggressive. Ihsahn’s vocals fit this version more than what his vocals were going to become; they are not as high pitched as his usual vocals but nevertheless they don’t fail at sounding just right!
Wrath of the Tyrant
This is one of the re-released tracks and it is also the title of their 1992 Demo “Wrath of the Tyrant”. This release is different from its predecessor in a sense that keyboards have been added to it. The quality is also much much better than the older version. The song is one of the relatively slow songs and the keyboards play an important role on this track, and they make the song sound somehow atmospheric and the guitar riffs also help in achieving an atmospheric atmosphere. What really stands out on this track is the outro since there are clean vocals and harsh vocals together, and it foreshadows a lot of songs to come in the future Emperor albums where clean and harsh vocals are featured together simultaneously and it is most apparent in their 2nd full length album “Anthems To the Welkin at Dusk”.
Night of The Graveless Souls
Let me just add this that most of the members during the recording of this EP were 16 – 17 years old. Now many people might say that age is just a number, but I dare any 16 year old to make any song or attempt to make a song similar to one on this EP. Night of the Graveless souls is the best song on this release, this song is also a re-release and it was also included on the Wrath of the Tyrant. The song is so aggressive, not to mention that the drums sound somehow “thrashy” making it more of a “traditional” black metal song. However, suddenly everything calms down, and then the keyboards enter the song with a simple yet mesmerizing melody. After that the song peaks with an amazing guitar riff, again having a “thrashy” feel to it. The song then goes back to its first verse and ends with a fade out.
Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times
The last song on the EP was re-recorded and included in “In the Nightside Eclipse”. The latter version however is much better than this version, since this version sounds “weak” at some parts.
In nutshell, this EP won’t sound close to being good to any non black metal listener, since the quality isn’t relatively good. However, black metal fans will enjoy this release and realize how significant it is. This Emperor’s first “different” album and it was the first album to divert from the black metal scene because it included the keyboard! This is Emperor’s first symphonic black metal album and it gave birth to Emperor’s best album which is, in my opinion, “In the Nightside Eclipse”.
The Emperor is dead…Long live the Emperor.