Emperor_-_in_the_nightside_eclipseHas it really been 20 years?  Goddamn, I feel old. In 1994 PG (Pre-Grymm), I was a high-school sophomore with an in-between mullet/long-hair, burnt out on mainstream metal (“90s Metal Weirdness,” anyone?), and I was looking for darker, heavier, faster affairs. With some recommendations from friends as well as some trusty advice from the long-dormant-and-majorly-missed Metal Maniacs magazine, I would be introduced to a slew of new (to me) bands, including one by a bunch of teenagers from Norway who would be creating, and later changing, the blackest of all musical landscapes to come and in the process, shaping my future musical tastes.

Yes, In the Nightside EclipseEmperor‘s scene-shaping full-length debut, turns 20 this month.  Yes, you know the controversy surrounding this album, and respectfully, I’m not going to go there. Besides, while their contemporaries in Norway had been in the papers due to similar crimes or actions (Burzum and Mayhem, to name just two), how many of them could back that up with quality, thought-provoking, and challenging music with multiple layers to peel away and expose to the bitter winds? Yeah. So this will strictly focus on the music and not the extra-curricular bullshit.  Onward…

With a foreboding, ominous keyboard introduction giving way to thunder, “Into the Infinity of Thoughts” is an unforgettable opening track. The blackened, rotting ingredients were all there: tremolo-picked melodies, frenetic blast-beat drumming, Ihsahn’s unearthly screeching and howling, somewhat audible bass (if you purchased one of the later re-issues, that is), choir-like keyboards, eerie spoken word, sudden abrupt endings… all of it. Sure, it’s all been done to death by many lesser hands since (*leering at Cradle of Filth*), but Emperor kept it tasteful not only in the opener, but throughout the album.

emperorHow Ihsahn and guitar co-hort Samoth were able to craft such a dense atmospheric aura at such a tender young age is still baffling. Closer and perennial live favorite “Inno A Satana” featured impressive clean singing by Ihsahn, precise drumming by Faust, and of course that majestic intro tremolo melody. It was clear why Ihsahn would lead the charge in the music and lyric-writing. Even at the young age of 17, he already had a good grasp of layers, melody, atmosphere, and mood. Even the awkwardly named “I Am the Black Wizards,” with its complex melodies (which, when played live, is coupled with Ihsahn’s screeching, which is in itself mind-blowing), abrupt mood and tempo changes, and enthralling atmosphere, showed that Ihsahn really is all of those black wizards, and would later become the 8-stringed guitar master he is now.

The production by Pytten at Grieghallen, even for its time, was not like most black metal. Sure, it’s trebly as all get-out, but there was great care to make sure everything was audible. That said, In the Nightside Eclipse, despite being groundbreaking for its time, doesn’t quite hold up as well as its direct follow-up, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, in terms of sheer depth and songwriting. However, Emperor laid the groundwork for many contemporary black metal bands, and cemented them as leaders of their blackened craft with In the Nightside Eclipse. A sizable debt is owed to Ihsahn and company for their contributions to the black arts. If you want to know where it all started, In the Nightside Eclipse is your cosmic key. [I miss Metal Maniacs too! - Steel "Living in the Past" Druhm].

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  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I’m not sure what the general consensus is with which is Emperor’s best album, but to me, it’ll always be this one. Anthems just seemed a bit loud and overblown at times – it’s a great album (and Ihsahn’s vocals are better on there), but I just think it lacks the subtlety that makes …Nightside… /such/ a brilliant album.
    This album sounds so evil, yet majestic and yes, transcendent. I’m glad it introduced me to black metal, it’s near perfect.
    P.S. I really think ‘Inno A Satana’ should be the Satanic church’s ‘prayer’ if they ever had one.

  • Finn

    “Yes, you know the controversy surrounding this album, and respectfully, I’m not going to go there” Unfortunately I do not, and Wikipedia is providing no insight. Anyone up for clarifying?

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I bet the band would be very pleased to see that they might just be out living their past…
      I’ll give that a go, and this is my understanding / recollection please anyone correct me if I’ve got it wrong.
      The first drummer (who played on this record only) somehow found himself in a gay cruising spot and strangely agreeing to go for a little walk into the forrest, with a man he had only just met. Once in the forest he then beats the man to death claiming rather stupidly as a defence that the guy had come on to him. At the about same time the guitarist Samoth had a night out burning churches with Vrag Vikernes and subsequently the band became synonymous /caught up in the media frenzy that surrounded the Norwegian black metal church burning / murder cases of the mid 90s. So this record was released with half the band in prison and a hyped up media that was morbidly focused on the ‘personalities’ rather than the music.
      I really like this record, it’s probably my favourite 2nd wave of BM record. Great production, song writing, performance and atmosphere, Its got it all.
      Pressing play right now….

      • Finn

        Ah, that. I did know about both those incidents actually, but didn’t realise the time-frame and that so much controversy surrounded this album at the time of its release. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Christofer

    Awesome album. My favourite by them together with Anthems…

  • Forest Father

    This album is a perfect example of great black metal. It has the riffs, the atmosphere, the evilness, the tight performance, the production. It’s not only influential but also a very well crafted album (unlike DMDS for example). Mortiis’ lyrics were the best and Faust’ performance is just merciless (his style is similar to Grim from Borknagar, Immortal and Gorgoroth in terms of sheer intensity).

    As an interesting fact, Arcturus released the Contellation Ep and Sverd was Emperor’s live Keyboardist around the same time ITNE was released. Obviously Sverd had most of the material already written (Arcturus is an older band) but they have expressed mutual admiration; Sverd used similar atmospheric samples of ITNE in Covenant’s Nexus Polaris and Ihsahn did vocals for the Emperor-inspired track ‘Radical Cut’ off Sham Mirrors.