Emperor – “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”

dB HoF No. 137

Label: Candlelight
Release date: July 8, 1997

The grandiose, striking and remarkable rush forth mere minutes into Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk’s prologue “Alsvartr (the Oath).” Nightmarish berceuses haunt mercilessly from the darkest corners of imagination, while frontman Ihsahn poetically invokes the illustrious nightspirit, as if there’s ordinary business in need of attending on the edge of town. This is before the triumphant Trevor Jones-inspired motif spills into the strident maelstrom of “Ye Entrancemperium.” Clearly, Emperor were signaling to not just the album (and persons responsible) before it, Hall of Famer In the Nightside Eclipse, but to the entire scene—Oslo to Bergen and all the evil little hamlets in between—from which they originated. Emperor had not only persevered but grown stronger, more advanced musically and philosophically in the shadows of time. The feisty teenagers that had challenged and subsequently changed black metal three years earlier had become sophisticated young men on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, and the result was supernal, ghoulish, regal and rampantly aggressive.

When Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk was released by Candlelight in summer of 1997, it set off a veritable artistic and commercial firestorm. Though prefaced four months by the Reverence EP—featuring black metal’s first-ever “serious” music video—Emperor’s sophomore effort redefined black metal yet again. Like Dimmu Borgir’s breakout album Enthrone Darkness Triumphant months before, Emperor proved there was art and class behind the genre’s much-publicized lunacy. Where murder, arson and intrigue put Norway on the map, it was Emperor’s Wagnerian music that brought black metal and its new precepts to the fore. Tracks like “Ye Entrancemperium,” “Thus Spake the Nightspirit,” “Ensorcelled by Khaos” and “The Loss and Curse of Reverence” were war banners for a new age, pioneering in their scope and unrivaled in their majesty. And very viable to an eager public around the globe.

Written through literal trials—guitarist Samoth traded riffs and ideas via tapes with Ihsahn while serving time—and recorded over many autumnal tribulations with producer and mentor Eirik “Pytten” Hundvin, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk sounds like madness redeemed. At its core, it’s diehard black metal. But outward from there, there’s unmissable nods to death metal and flares of appreciation to heavy metal (“With Strength I Burn”). Half of the album’s brilliance was due to Ihsahn and Samoth having a good, long moment to contemplate next steps. The other half is the combined effect of drummer Trym Torson coming aboard and the re-energized group’s unbridled ambition for existence on the outer rim of possible. Sonically, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk remains one of Hundvin’s finest achievements to date. His orchestration of Emperor’s newfound complexities—without losing the plot—was (and still is) part science and part magic.

To say Decibel is electrified on all fronts to welcome Emperor’s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk to the great Hall is an understatement. Here, along with peers Immortal, Enslaved and Satyricon and godfathers Celtic Frost, Venom and Slayer, the Norwegians will tell great and distinguished tales, while the deep green dark chaos scatters the ashes of destiny. Long ago, it was written Emperor performs Sophisticated Black Metal Art exclusively. So, shall it be. The King is dead, long live the King!

– Chris Dick

Got to get more Emperor? To read the entire seven-page story, with featurings interviews with all members on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.