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Review for 'Emperor - Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk'
Emperor are considered as one of Norway's elite Black Metal bands, and they are so for two reasons. In The Nightside Eclipse, their debut album and masterpiece, is the first reason that Emperor are regarded as one of the main driving forces behind the Second Wave of Black Metal as well as the pioneers of the Epic / Symphonic Black Metal subgenre. Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk is the second reason, as it proved that In The Nightside Eclipse was not just a stroke of luck. Furthermore, they dared to evolve their sound even further on Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk instead of preferring to play it safe and simply create a blueprint of the technique used on their debut.
Going against the grain of the traditional raw and unclean sound that their fellow countrymen had been perfecting for almost a decade, Emperor opted for a clearer production quality on Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk and it worked out surprisingly well, allowing the full orchestral grandeur of each song to really shine through via each individual instrument, instead of the majestic all-encompassing wall of sound that worked equally well on In The Nightside Eclipse.
The truth is that Emperor didn't exactly switch styles dramatically from one album to the next, as in reality they evolved their sound gradually over the previous three years. During this period they released two great EPs titled As The Shadows Rise and Reverance, the former consisting of cleaner re-recordings of some songs from their Wrath Of The Tyrant demo, and the latter providing a preview of sorts for Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, with both EPs allowing them to perfect their new-found sound in time for the Anthems recording sessions.
Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk is set in motion by a brilliant four minute introduction, providing early on a glimpse of the subtle complexity that awaits the listener on the rest of the album. The intro, titled "Al Svartr", contains interweaving guitars and some light background synths with Ihsahn showing off his array of vocal styles one by one, later using them to their full potential over the course whole album.
The intro leads straight into the first track "Ye Entrancemperium". A homage to Euronymous, guitarist and founder of infamous Norwegian pioneers Mayhem, "Ye Entrancemperium"'s initial riff is taken from an untitled Mayhem song that Euronymous originally composed several years earlier.
In fact, Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk couldn't have started with a better song, with the initial brutality slowly giving way to a wonderful world of layered guitars and overall spectacular musicianship from all involved. The whole album appears to be packed with a tremendous amount of energy, but not at all overwhelming like on Emperor's later works. Stand out tracks on the album include "Ensorcelled By Khaos" and "The Acclamation Of Bonds", where all musicians really prove that they are worth their weight in gold, particularly drummer Trym Torson, who was an integral part of Enslaved before joining Emperor in 1996.
As with all things Emperor related, the keyboards are a key feature to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, being applied perfectly by Ihsahn in order to create an other-worldy atmosphere just at the right moments, sometimes appearing in the middle of furious Black Metal guitar work, enhancing the maelstrom, while on other occasions they make the slower and calmer interludes even more dreamier than they already are, and thanks to this, each song on Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk has enough atmosphere built into it to give the whole album a sense of magic and epic madness, much like In The Nightside Eclipse but using a different set of tactics.
The album concludes with the eight minute epic "With Strength I Burn", followed by a great instrumental outro track titled "The Wanderer", although at just under three minutes in length it is over a little too soon, and it's time to rewind and play the whole thing again. Even if you are initially skeptical of anything containing keyboards, as many are, give it a try and with each listen you will surely begin to enjoy Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk more and more, steadily noticing more and more details with each listen, and by the fourth spin you'll be hooked.
What other albums sound similar to this?
If you haven't already checked out Emperor's first full length album and masterpiece, In The Nightside Eclipse, then you must have been living under a rock! Not only is it the forefather of Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, but it is also the primordial ancestor of Symphonic Black Metal as we know it (or even hate it) today. Still, it isn't exactly the most similar sounding album to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, so you might be better off checking out the two EPs they released in 1994 and 1997, titled As The Shadows Rise and Reverance respectively.
Heading in the other direction, Emperor's third full length album IX Equilibrium is an even further progression towards modernity, retaining a similar sound to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk yet featuring an even cleaner production and even more uncontainable chaos. Finally, Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise, Emperor's final full length album is also worth checking out, especially if you liked what you heard on IX Equilibrium.
As far as other bands go, your safest bet at finding something similar to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk is with Dimmu Borgir's Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, Tartaros' The Red Jewel, Borknagar's The Olden Domain and Limbonic Art's Moon In The Scorpio. Another band to look out for are Alghazanth, with their Osiris: Typhon Unmasked and Wreath of Thevetat albums being very impressive indeed. Investigating Enslaved's discography won't do you any harm either, and while I would usually recommend their debut Vikingligr Veldi, in this case you are better off getting into their Below The Lights album if you are seeking something similar to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk.
In a nutshell...
While the complexity of Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk may take a couple of listens to completely sink in, as well as featuring a completely different musical approach than on their debut, it becomes apparent sooner or later that this album was the next logical step in Emperor's evolution, the cleaner production being an almost inevitable step for the band to take as a whole if they were to ever push their musicianship skills to the limit. This is one epic as fuck journey packed with explosive energy that you won't be forgetting any time soon.
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