Originally written by Ryan Plunkett
The Emperor is dead, but its reign shall forever be seen within extreme metal. From 1991 until 2001, Emperor built a legacy in black metal that will never be toppled. From the beginning, with Emperor and Wrath of the Tyrant in 1992, the band began to build the walls to their realm. Each successive release only furthered the progression of this band’s empire, both musically and lyrically. You can look at Emperor’s early releases, along with In the Nightside Eclipse, and see the creation for a sound in black metal that many bands are trying to copy even today. And today’s bands still can’t pull it off as solidly, to be honest. With its dark sound and raw production, you can truly feel as if you were upon a snowy cliff in the mountainous regions of Norway staring out across a frost-covered landscape. Emperor had set the standard for what grim black metal was all about, but instead of sticking with that style, they threw everyone for a loop and released Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. This album showcased a new maturity in the band. Still maintaining the aggression from earlier works, Anthems explored a more proficient sound. With flowing melodies, entwining riffs and all around stellar songwriting, this album became a prelude of what was to come. IX Equilibrium signaled an all out aggressive attack, but the band still knew when to calm down and take a breath. This album took a while for me to fully dissect, as it was my first experience with this great band and one of my first experiences with black metal as a genre. IX Equilibrium was like a tornado and held a level of animosity to be reckoned with. In essence, it was the perfect definition of controlled chaos. Finally we come to the last creation of a dying Emperor, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise. Relying on growing influences from neo-classical to even some jazzy sounding music, Prometheus was the perfect way to end the decade of Emperial Wrath. Emperor went out on top just as they rightfully should have, and no one can strip them of that.
Through these ten years, Emperor has seen a member go to jail for murder, and had others face accusations of participating in the burning of churches. And through these years, Emperor has always been miles ahead of the competition and was always there to set higher and higher standards in the genre they helped pioneer.
Here we sit in 2003, roughly two years after the demise of this great band with a release to showcase their legacy, Scattered Ashes: A Decade of Emperial Wrath is a two-disc release featuring music spanning their entire career on the first disc, and a set of rare tracks on the second disc. Not only is this a two-disc set, but each disc is also packed to the brink with over 70 minutes of music.
Disc one contains all the classic songs from each album, like “Curse You All Men”, “The Loss and Curse of Reverence”, “Cosmic Keys to My Creation and Time” and many more. Honestly I don’t think they could’ve picked any better songs to top the ones that are on this disc; in my opinion they are all classic Emperor tracks.
Disc Two contains everything from a Mercyful Fate cover (“Gypsy”) to a remix of an Emperor song done by the prominent Norwegian band Ulver. Although the tracks on this CD aren’t all classics like the aforementioned disc, I can’t say that there’s one song on here I don’t enjoy, except for maybe the Mercyful Fate cover. Ihsahn can’t quite pull off the really high falsetto like King Diamond. Not that I blame him; I’m sure not too many people can. If anything, the cover of Bathory’s “A Fine Day to Die” is more than compensation enough.
I don’t think there’s anything I can really come down on with this album. I suppose I could rag on the production from the stuff off Wrath of the Tyrant and In the Nightside Eclipse. Nightside is tolerable, but anyone who has heard the production on Wrath of the Tyrant can testify that it’s downright awful. It’s nearly impossible to enjoy the songs on there because of the constant garble of fuzz in the background. It almost sounds as if the recording took place under water or outside where the equipment picked up the blowing of the wind. It’s a shame too, because there are some classic Emperor tracks from this era, but such is life in the world of extreme metal. Aside from that, this album is as flawless as it should be. Anything less would be tarnishing the band’s name.
If you claim to like Emperor or black metal in general, your collection is not complete without this album. I own every one of Emperor’s studio albums and I see absolutely no problem with putting down the money to obtain these two discs. Scattered Ashes is the perfect way to lay to rest the name of a band that will not soon be forgotten.
Long live the almighty Emperor!