A few years ago, before its melanchonic disbandment, Ihsahn’s legendary band held one of its last concerts right here at the Hellfest, in an apocalyptic setting that also included a downpour reminiscent of the Universal Flood that seemed intentionally started by who knows what dark and ancestral force. The decision to recreate the band is taken 20 years after the publication of In The Nightside Eclipse. This album made the peculiar and wonderful symphonic black metal of the Norwegian band famous worldwide. It is as important as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas of contemporary Mayhem in the wicked genesis of black metal as a genre. Up to now we don’t know if the current reunion will have a follow-up. What is certain is that curiosity and expectation are so thick that you could cut them with a knife. Not only because Emperor is one of the most important names on the bill, but also because you never know what to expect from a band that has spent seven years without playing live.
The atmosphere gives a significant contribution. Oddly enough for these latitudes, the sun beats down for the whole day on the area hosting the huge festival (messy and crowded, but complaining about some queues is unfair considering the inflow of about 139,000 people). Now the shadows of the evening are stretching out as if they were paving the way for one of the bands that better represents the “black tide” that starting from Scandinavia swamped the whole world in the 90s. A silence that is almost mystic and religious falls (a contradiction considering this context, but it certainly speaks by itself!).
All the worries about the condition of Emperor are promptly chased away when the band enters the stage with the majestic attack of Into the Infinity of Thoughts, because Ihsahn, Samoth and Bard Faust together with Einar Solberg and Tony “Secthdamon” Ingebrigtsen offer a show that is worth the price of the ticket by itself. The performance of the entire tracklist of In the Nightside Eclipse is awaited and, needless to say, masterful, and the band is in great shape despite the long pause. They have quit corpse paint and Ihsahn has adopted a rather shabby and a bit nerd style, but in this case more than ever clothes don’t make the man. Instead of being compromised or out of training, Ihsahn doesn’t miss a shot, Samoth’s riffs are like flashes lightening the darkness and Bard Faust’s performance is just preternatural, glowing and technically perfect. We couldn’t hope for anything better. The sound of Emperor is still unique in its genre and perhaps it shows more than ever the real innovative impact of those magnificent orchestrations and those glacial plays of keyboards, which were not universally welcomed even in the past. The performance of The Burning Shadows of Silence is indescribable for majesty and darkness. The notes seem to come out of who knows what dark recesses of space and time, and Ihsahn’s peculiar cawing screaming softens with a hint of clean vocals – but nothing more than a hint, just to make things clear. Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times is always one of the highlights of Emperor, and the same is for Beyond the Great Vast Forest, which is bewitched, powerful and evocative, with a great visual impact that is, if possible, even better fulfilled live. Always magnificent but less raging is Towards the Pantheon, here presented in a different version with a more compact arrangement and less fragmented guitars that create an even more striking atmosphere. The majesty of the Nightsky never disappoints with its wild and almost delirious structure, where breathless rides alternate with charming and endless instrumental breaks. I am the Black Wizard is welcomed by a standing ovation, but the climax of the concert is reached with a majestic, Wagnerian, violent and poisonous Inno a Satana. However, there is room for two classics, Ancient Queen and Wrath of the Tyrants, which are as glacial and rough as the first black metal managed to be.
Today’s performance brings us back a band that has reached a legendary and unshakable status, a perfection of execution that nearly achieves the unattainable; if the history of Emperor has a follow up remains to be seen, but after this incontestable triumph we can’t but hope for the best…
1. Into the Infinity of Thoughts
2. The Burning Shadows of Silence
3. Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times
4. Beyond the Great Vast Forest
5. Towards the Pantheon
6. The Majesty of the Nightsky
7. I Am the Black Wizards
8. Inno a Satana
9. Ancient Queen
10. Wrath of the Tyrant
Ihsahn – guitars, vocals
Samoth – guitars
Secthdamon – bass, backing vocals
Einar Solberg – keyboards
Faust - drums
Guest report by Arianna Mossali of Italian written blog http://wildmetalwarrior.blogspot.it