In The Nightside Eclipse
Beginning with some strange eeire sounds and one of the most famous opening riffs and lines in black metal "As Darkness creeps over the Northern Mountains of Norway and the silence reach the woods, I awake and rise", you are introduced to one of the finest black metal releases ever recorded. I get chills even now listening to it. This was the album which cemented my love of the black metal style (along with Borknagar's first three albums and Ulver's Nattens Madrigal) and even now I listen to this album and it's effect is not lessened. Many might consider Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk to be their high, but if you ask me, this is it.
The first thing often held against this album is the production. The keyboards are too loud, they drown out the guitars, etc. etc., I say who cares, this album is not like the later albums (and people who complain like this probably like Anthems.. more anyways), this is about an atmosphere, and that is where they suceed perfectly. This album is a total masterpiece of creation, where each piece fits together, and the band displays their skill at creating almost classical pieces out of black metal. Without the overwhelming reverb and terrible mystical sound this probably wouldn't be as captivating as it is. Of course all of these songs hold up, I've heard them in various other forms, but it is here where they shine, because of the sound.
The guitars operate as noise makers, they create a basic sound which you can hear as being melodic and riff oriented, yet it is hard to pull all of your attention on them, for the other sounds, the vocals drenched in reverb, the keyboards which float above, bringing melodys and harmonys out of the chaotic din below in the guitars and drums. Faust's drums are excellent, though you can mainly hear them as more chaos, but they give you cymbals to hold on to, which keep the time and highlight the sound. This is in keeping with Darkthrone's concepts at this time, that the drums should only be present, not overwhelming in the sound of Black Metal.
After listening to this many many times and studying it (like you would any great work of art) pieces come out, and the whole structure of the songs also displays itself. For example the first song, begins and ends with the same motif, elaborating upon that motif within the song, while also breaking down and changing totally and then coming back to the opening riff. This is a prevalent theme in classical music. The second song begins with a speedy black metal riff, before the keyboards come in bringing a great deal of melody, and the song begins into it's true form, which is a mid-pace riff which reminds me greatly of the kind of riffs that Mercyful Fate would play. But, it then twists into another ascending riff, which remains quite catchy. After this we return to the original opening riff, and the whole structure is repeated, before ending with this first riff. This is not a traditional chorus verse chorus structure, and is a simplified classical motif.
The lyrics must be talked about as well, for I think they are quite excellent. They can perhaps be a bit silly, but they are not a pretentious as on later releases, and are quite effectivly atmospheric, along with the music. Bringing up the same images and concepts that the music itself can bring up on its own.
My personal favorite song on here (besides the first) is the third, "Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times", which has one of the most emotional and chaotic main riffs I have ever heard, which still sends the same chills that it did the first time I heard it. Much like the other songs, this one also begins with chaos, before dieing down into a melodic format. This is common in many black metal bands similar to Emperor like Enslaved and Borknagar, where the basic chaotic element of black metal is highlighted, before the melodic aspect takes over. It is used almost as if to wake you up. Unfortunatly Emperor would resort to this style for whole songs as their career progressed.
Unlike many fans, I think the interplay between guitar and keyboards is of a perfect combination. The keyboard is not buried in the mix, but is instead allowed to rise above the other parts and add a kind of un-Earthly aspect to the music. Again I must say that the production is used amazingly well, with the shimmering amounts of reverb adding to what Darkthrone were also trying to do, which is to create a total almost mystical enviroment around the music. Emperor suceed totally on this album, although I don't think they would try again, which is why many grew dis-satisfied with later releases, because they don't have the same beautiful dark feel of this album.
The beautiful and stunning Necrolord cover is another plus to this release (I'd love to have this on vinyl just because of the cover artwork). Necrolord has also used his considerable talent for Dissection, Immortal (on At the Heart of Winter) and Dark Funeral (on The Secret of the Dark Arts), among others. This is close to the top of his greatest paintings. It is almost like a Norwegian version of Isengard after Sarumon turned to the side of Mordor, meaning we have a dark evil tower off to the side, with dark, Norwegian like monsters lurking to the left side, climbing down the mountain to head to the dark tower. In the background we can see tall jagged, Norwegian or Carpathian type mountains, and the moon shines very creepy from the sky. This is a perfect cover for the music within, as it captures the dark evil, yet mystical feel of the whole album.
Indeed, this whole album reminds me of Norway (I've actually been to Norway, though only for a few days as a side trip when I went to Sweden). The album is full of the atmosphere of the Norwegian landscape. This is one of those albums you can put on and travel to somewhere else, somewhere beautiful yet dark, comunicating to your sub-conscious mind.
This is such a classic album, and I can't recommend it enough for fans of black metal in it's purest and most beautiful state. This is up there with Burzum's releases and Darkthrone's releases from A Blaze in the Northern Sky to Panzerfaust, a must particularly for fans of Borknagar, Ulver and Enslaved as well, for this is one of the few albums I have heard which can take me to somewhere else as effectivly as those bands.
Perhaps I'm being a little too subjective, but I don't care, buy this!
Track Listing (for original release)
1: Into the Infinity of Thoughts
2: The Burning Shadows of Silence
3: Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times
4: Beyond the Great Vast Forest
5: Torwards the Pantheon
6: The Majesty of the Nightsky
7: I Am the Black Wizards
8: Inno a Satana