Thursday, November 10, 2011

Emperor - As the Shadows Rise EP (1994)

Similar to the self-titled Emperor EP from the year prior, As the Shadows Rise loses a bit of its luster when you consider that there is no new or truly exclusive content present. Instead, these are three tracks re-recorded from the Wrath of the Tyrant demo in 1992, and provide a run-time of only 10-11 minutes. The vocals are a little less primordial and frightening, but clearer, and the songs are cast in a more epic and symphonic light than their original incarnations (in particular "The Ancient Queen" and "Witches Sabbath"), but all are of course present on the Emperor/Wrath of the Tyrant compilation put out in 1998, and the True Kings of Norway split (2000) which also featured early EP recordings from mostly esteemed countrymen Immortal, Ancient, Arcturus and Dimmu Borgir.

However, once again you've got something that in its original format is sure to be a collector's item. I'd also like to say that this doesn't carry the same burden as the Emperor EP of having two songs that sound so much better on a later recording (In the Nightside Eclipse). Really, these are the most polished versions we'll likely ever hear of this trio. "The Ancient Queen" is quite good, a steady march of mid-paced atmospheric black dowsed in Ihsahn snarls and blazing, elegant keyboards. That riff at about 1:00 into the song is one of the most evil and memorable sequences of notes that these Norwegians have ever written, and I think this is the best of the three songs here with ease. "Lord of the Storms" is much shorter, savage punk-fueled chords which sound solid over the drums, but the vicious vocals steal some of the show away from the music, and this also goes for "Witches Sabbath", though this has stronger, slower riffs and a few swerves into the heavily atmospheric, eerie keening vocals that balance it off very well.

Even if it does seem more skimpy than the Emperor EP, I'd definitely say that this was the more impressive of the two. No, the songs are not as good as "I Am the Black Wizards" or the content of In the Nightside Eclipse, but it's not a bad thing that the band would try to escalate a few of their old standbys to that same level of sweltering atmosphere and aggression. I favor "The Ancient Queen" and "Witches Sabbath" far over "Lord of the Storms", so the consistency is a little uneven, but I think that in general it's worth hearing for Emperor fans if they can check it out via the True Kings of Norway or whatever means available to them. Hell, I think I enjoy "The Ancient Queen" more than some of the songs on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (darkness follows everywhere)

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