Revisiting a Classic: Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse (1994)
By Jordan Pytosh
Emperor is a Norwegian, black metal trio with an extensive catalogue from the early 1990’s to the late 2000’s. They are among the forerunners of the Scandinavian scene and are credited with starting many of the tropes used by succeeding bands in this subgenre. However, even if you wince at the words heavy metal, I argue that their 1994 magnum opus In the Nightside Eclipse is essential for all music listeners.
In all, this 49-minute album is a mind-blowing gateway to the best of Scandinavian black metal. With its brooding atmosphere that inimitably synthesizes all of its elements, it has yet to be surpassed in this genre. The combination of “Intro” and “Into the Infinity of Thoughts” kicks things off, guns blazing, with singer/guitarist Ihsahn screeching a tale of war through unrelenting instrumentation. It’s this track that introduces you to the type of album this is: loud and abrasive, but also epic and atmospheric. The next three tracks, “The Burning Shadows of Silence,” “Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times,” and “Beyond the Great Vast Forest” continue this relentlessness in similar fashion. We get a 20-second grace period at the start of track five, “Towards the Pantheon,” where there is an ambient tone layered under guitar strums to lighten the mood, until it goes back to the loud thrash. From then on, Emperor continues to hit hard with “The Majesty of the Nightsky,” “I Am the Black Wizards,” and Faust’s unstoppable drums in “Inno a Satana,” which close out the last portion of the album.
The reason I outlined the tracks in this format is because In the Nightside Eclipse, unlike a lot of other black metal albums, creates a world in its songs, draws you in, and keeps you engaged for a time. There is a tale depicted throughout—one that talks of fascinating imagery from Scandinavian mythos and the works of Bram Stoker. It is an album that has stood the test of time because it is fascinating to witness a project that was basically the birth of a new era of metal. After this work, nothing was the same in the genre, suggesting the idea that to truly be masterful, a metal album needed that element of epicness that Emperor nailed on this debut.