Critics have called the rise of death metal improbable but those of us who were into Slayer or any of “the big three” teutonic thrash metal bands (Sodom, Kreator, Destruction), heard this change coming. Music was becoming harder and faster, more extreme acts were an inevitable result of this progression.
In the 80s NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) bands dominated the underground; as some of them rose to stardom, the rest were eclipsed by a new wave of music called thrash. In the early 90s those same thrash acts were replaced by death metal. It was a natural musical evolution but unfortunately extremely short lived. By early 1995, while attending college at University of Illinois, I was sick of death metal and looking for something new…
Alternative music lacked the aggressiveness I was accustomed to and industrial metal acts like Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM or even “yea” Rob Zombie were just too simplistic for my taste, not to mention the fact I love a good guitar solo. I was beginning to think all was lost, when I attended German class one day and noticed a dude sitting in front of me wearing a t-shirt for a band called Emperor. Intrigued, I stopped the guy after class and asked him about the band. He gave me a quick run down on a budding new musical scene called Black Metal. I walked away knowing I had to get my hands on this new music.
In 1995 the internet was still in its infancy stages, there was no Facebook and online stores were still largely a dream. I hopped in my car and hit up every record store around the university, eventually finding one in downtown Champaign that sold black metal. One of the first albums I purchased was In the Nightside Eclipse.
I remember the first time I heard this genera-defining album in its entirety, I was completely blown away by the atmosphere it generated, sounding like epic evil unleashed in some otherworldly place. Black metal carefully blended the harsh vocals of death metal, combining them with distorted power cords and deviant keyboards, creating something frightfully new and unique.
I had the music so loud someone called the police on me. I opened the door to a curiously angry cop who thought I was having a black mass. I closed the door and knew I had stumbled upon something that was going to change the musical landscape once again. Highlight tracks on In The Nightside Eclipse are: “Into the Infinity of Thoughts”, “Cosmic Keys to my Creations & Times”, “The Burning Shadows of Silence”, “Beyond the Great Vast Forrest” and of course “I Am the Black Wizards”.
I spent the next few weeks listening to In the Nightside Eclipse as well as other black metal albums like Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Cradle of Filth’s The Principal of Evil Made Flesh over and over. I devoured all I could find about the budding genera from magazines and the new friends I made while pursuing this music. I took special interest in dissecting this new style, it reminded me a lot of a ramped up version of Bathory meets Mercyful Fate, heavy metal arrangements with dark ambiance. Ironically the re-release of In the Nightside Eclipse contains covers of Bathory’s “A Fine Day to Die” and “Gypsy” by Mercyful Fate. It seems these new black metal pioneers were grounded by the old school metal masters who dared to be different.
I told my friends back home all I knew about black metal and its ever growing mystique. I told them about the radical artists, the murders and church burnings, I told them this was going to be the next “big” thing and I was right.
It’s hard to accept it has been twenty years since this famed album was unleashed unto this world. Not only does this remind me how old I really am but it confirms how stagnant the underground metal scene has become. Where’s the creativity? We broke out of this cycle of redundancy many times before and I’d like to think the timing is right for change. Perhaps a new act is forming now, influenced by Emperor, ready to change the musical landscape of metal once again. \m/
Emperor will make a few exclusive festival appearances in 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of In The Nightside Eclipse:
Sweden Rock Festival (4-7 June)
Hellfest Open Air (10-22 June)
Wacken Open Air (31 July-2 August)
Bloodstock Open Air (7-10 August)
Emperor on In The Nightside Eclipse were:
Ihsahn – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Samoth – Guitars
Faust – Drums
Tchort – Bass