Review by Shadowdoom9 (Andi) for Emperor - Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk (1997)
Emperor is known as the band that pioneered symphonic black metal and a once forbidden aspect adding keyboards to black metal, with their 1994 debut In the Nightside Eclipse. I've actually checked out that album a few years ago, but backed out from there, because I wasn't ready to go down that route, and all members of the band who recorded that album except Ihsahn were arrested and jailed for murder, assault, arson, etc. So let's go 3 years later (both the past and present) to their second album!
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk continues to shape up the band's symphonic black metal. Here the songs are more anthemic and the keyboards have much more prominence instead of being left in the background. With synthesized string crescendos and mystical lyrical themes, the vibe is more medieval than satanic. Also to add into the sound of extreme chaos, the imprisoned murderer drummer Faust was replaced with the guy from Enslaved's Frost, Trym. His crazy blast-beat drumming was what made the first two Enslaved albums stand out in pummeling fury with his super strength, and he has encouraged other extreme metal drummers to break the ground to the Earth's core.
"Alsvartr (The Oath)" is the album's long intro. The nocturnal atmosphere slowly builds until reaching its epic climax in the time for the next track... "Ye Entrancemperium" begins the devastating blackening earthquake. The relentless drumming barely gives out, staying as a fast stampede and only slowing down when necessary before ending the song in a total bang. "Thus Spake the Nightspirit" has more chaotic speed and technical riffing from the guitar duo of Ihsahn and Samoth, and their tremendous writing shows their true genius. Dissonant harmonies and tremolos add more to the sound that's already cinematic as it is. The epic fury shows the direction the band wanted to take, heading for glory while having some of their earlier brutality.
"Ensorcelled by Khaos" displays Trym's blast-beat chaos with so much heaviness that I'm surprised his snare never broke at all during recording. However, this constant raging stream can be a bit repetitive and get old fast. As much as I enjoy this speedy chaos, it's not as essential as everything else in the instrumentation. Trym and Hellhammer are two amazing drummers, but... Yeah, we get it! You can drum like a madman. Still they're true forces of chaos in the genre. "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" has more of the epic intensity. Wonderful classic sound there! Though the lyrics are a bit cheesy, especially in the spoken passage.
"The Acclamation of Bonds" resembles their debut the most, in which the bass, drums, and guitars pick up furious speed. The guitars still stay behind the keyboards for its needed atmosphere. "With Strength I Burn" is the perfect way to summarize symphonic black metal here. The keyboards stick around until the end, and the lyrics have grand mystical narrative. Ihsahn's clean singing sounds the best here. "The Wanderer" is a short inspiring outro with guitars and keyboards expanding in a desolate soundscape.
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk may be different from their debut, but it's an essential part of the band's evolution that would continue into their next two albums. Apart from a bit of repetition and cheesiness, this is epic furious symphonic black metal that any of the more extreme metalheads should listen to!
Favorites: "Ye Entrancemperium", "Thus Spake the Nightspirit", "The Loss and Curse of Reverence", "With Strength I Burn"