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Alex Wilcox

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Scattered Ashes - A Decade Of Emperial Wrath
Scattered Ashes - A Decade Of Emperial Wrath
Price: £13.66

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great starting point, 16 Sept. 2003
After their split in 2001, Emperor had truly left their mark on the Black Metal scene as one of its most successful and influential bands. Throughout its two discs, 'Scattered Ashes...' proves time and time again why this was the case.
Disc one spans the entire length of their career, from their eponymous mini album to their final swansong 'Prometheus...'. Apparently, the tracklisting was picked by guitarist/bassist Samoth, and I have to say that he has done an excellent job. The two or three tracks chosen from each album turn out to be the best in every single case. The epic "I Am The Black Wizards" from 'In The Nightside Eclipse' is arguably Emperor's best song, whilst "In The Wordless Chamber" from 'Prometheus...' showed that Emperor were never afraid to progress whilst still keeping true to their roots. The lush, keyboard-laden "The Loss And Curse Of Reverence" and the Classical and Death Metal influenced "An Elegy Of Icaros" would normally be classed as other high points. That is not saying they have aged badly or aren't as good, but the album is of such a high standard that it is near impossible to pick out favourites.
The second disc is a mixed bag, containing covers, songs from split albums and demo tracks. The covers in particular are excellent, highlights being Darkthrone's "Cromlech", Bathory's "A Fine Day To Die" and Thorns' "Aerie Descent". The demos are pretty primitive sounding, but that's what would be expected of a group of teenagers recording on a four-track in a bedroom. Even at that early stage in the band's life, songs like "The Ancient Queen" show they had their artistic flair and creative genius right from the start. It's just a shame they had to let it down by putting the awful Ulver remix of "Sworn" in it, when it should be obvious to anyone with ears how superior the original is. Things are closed with "Opus A Satana", an orchestral version of "Inno A Satana".
If you're an Emperor fan, then the chances are that this will be of little interest to you. None of the tracks are especially rare, and most people into Black Metal will probably own them all anyway. However, for newcomers to the band, 'Scattered Ashes' is an ideal starting point to discover why this band has left such a legacy.

In the Nightside Eclipse
In the Nightside Eclipse

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emperor's best, 16 Sept. 2003
When listening to most Black Metal albums, you can imagine the band banging away at their instruments in a tiny studio. But put this on, and you are immediately swept away to a cold, dark, Norwegian forest. That’s the effect the primitive production has on the music, although maybe the ‘wind’ effects were slightly overdone.
So, to the music. I have to admit; to begin with I didn’t like this album. I could not concentrate on it and found the production to be unlistenable. Then something clicked. I had discovered why people rated Ihsahn and co. so highly.
What we get here is some of the best Black Metal ever put to record. Although the sound is not of the highest quality, the songs are more than good enough to speak for themselves. A special mention must go to Ihsahn’s spectacular keyboard work. Instead of the keyboards almost leading the music, like some Black Metal bands (Dimmu Borgir, I mean you!), they are sparsely used and are a sublime complement for the guitars.
Lyrically, this album is excellent, with song writing duties handled by Ihsahn and Samoth, and for a couple of songs, ex–bassist Mortiis. The way the poetic lyrics are sung often bears no relation to the music, with Ihsahn’s high pitched shriek often cutting off mid–sentence, before carrying it on later in the song. The two Mortiis written songs, "Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times" and "I Am The Black Wizards" are the album’s standout tracks, both shunning the high speed assault of other bands (although Emperor can do this just as well as any other) to produce a highly atmospheric feel, which, when coupled with the production gives this band the edge over say, Mayhem or Immortal.
Whilst the mainstream rock music press may have lavished their later work with praise, ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’ will be the album that Emperor’s fans remember them for — a true classic.
The reissue of this record features two bonus tracks. Whilst their astounding cover of Bathory’s "A Fine Day To Die" is almost as good as the original, Ihsahn simply does not have the voice for Mercyful Fate’s "Gypsy".

Valley Of The Damned
Valley Of The Damned
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £12.43

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best UK power metal album ever., 16 Sept. 2003
This review is from: Valley Of The Damned (Audio CD)
The UK Power Metal scene has always been pretty poor when compared to mainland Europe, not only in quality, but also in quantity. Whilst DragonForce can only add one to the number of British bands playing this style of music, one listen to this, their first official release, will restore anyone's faith in the scene.
After a brief intro, the band plunges into the title track. Filled with catchy hooks, soaring vocals and superb drumming, this song will instantly become stuck in your head, only to leave when you listen to one of the other tracks. As soon as the song reaches the solos, your jaw will have hit the floor as you try to take in the sheer talent of guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman. This formula is used to great effect on the all the other songs on the album. On one occasion, in "Disciples of Babylon", they even manage to fit an experimental interlude into the middle of the song, before continuing with the, you guessed it, catchy chorus.
It seems compulsory within the genre to put a ballad on your album, and the majority of these are usually too embarassing to listen to (see "Mother Gaia" on Stratovarius's 'Infinity album' as an example). Fortunately, "Starfire" is one of the best songs on the album, and the best Power Metal ballad that this reviewer has ever heard. Opening with a gorgeous piano intro, it progresses into an insanely catchy chorus and a sublime acoustic guitar solo. An excellent vocal performance from ZP Theart rounds the whole thing off. A real "lighters in the air" moment. The only below–par moment is the closing track "Heart of a Dragon". Whilst certainly not a bad song, the excessive cheesiness is likely to put a few listeners off, but get past that (which Rhapsody fans will find especially easy) and you have another top quality track.
I cannot emphasise how good this band actually are. The fact that this is their debut release and five of the songs are just re–recordings of ones featured on their demo just goes to show at what a high standard their songwriting and musicianship is. It is impossible to choose a standout track because every song is of the highest standard and completely memorable. DragonForce have created a masterpiece fit to go head to head with even the best of their European counterparts.

A Blaze In The Northern Sky
A Blaze In The Northern Sky
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £9.74

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 16 Sept. 2003
After experimenting with Death Metal on ‘Soulside Journey’ (which many, including the band themselves, viewed as a disappointment), Darkthrone followed an increasing popular trend amongst Norwegian bands by jumping on the Black Metal bandwagon. But instead of becoming another group of generic wannabes, they became one of the most respected and influential bands in the genre. This six–track effort was their first attempt at Black Metal, and is rightly hailed as a classic.
From the spooky–sounding intro and into “Kathaarian Life Code”, the first thing that strikes you about this album is the production. ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’ is one of the rawest sounding records released and will come as a shock to anyone new to the genre. Fortunately, the sound quality acts as the perfect complement to the songs, and if anything, adds to the atmosphere; you could easily picture this being played by the band in a cold icy forest. Besides, Darkthrone were never one to rely on glitzy production jobs — their music was always good enough to speak for itself.
Which brings us to the actual music. All six of the songs on offer are fantastic and amongst the band’s best. From the evil feel and complicated riffing of “Kathaarian Life Code”, to the twisted genius of the title track, Darkthrone have pulled out all the stops here to produce an absolute beast of an album. The musicianship here is top–notch. Fenriz’s awesome drumming and the fantastic guitar work courtesy of Zephyrous and Nocturno Culto were made for each other, whilst the vocals (also by Nocturno Culto) are throaty growls which fit neatly on top, his consistent performance making the album sound that bit more evil and atmospheric.
This album was the one that set the standard that all other Darkthrone releases would be judged by. Whilst a couple of albums have come close, nothing Darkthrone have done since this album has bettered it, and chances are, none of their future albums will either.

Bitter Suites to Succubi
Bitter Suites to Succubi
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £10.15

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid!, 16 Sept. 2003
Utter rubbish. From the ‘comedy’ title to the actual music, everything about this album is awful. This stopgap release just screams "cash–in". But what do we actually get on it?
Well, to begin with there’s the completely unnecessary re–recordings of “Summer Dying Fast", "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh" and "The Black Goddess Rises". All three songs were on the band’s debut, "The Principle of Evil Made Flesh", and all three were done much better back then. All the new versions bring is polished production — something that black metal usually doesn’t need to rely on — and much, much worse vocals. Whilst Dani Filth used to be able to do a fairly passable black metal growl, here he has replaced them with his trademark high–pitched screeches and screams, which ruin the band’s only half–decent songs.
Next we have a cover — Sisters of Mercy’s "No Time To Cry". Cradle of Filth have never been good at cover songs, in the past they have ruined tracks by The Misfits, Anathema, Venom, Sabbat and Iron Maiden. And once again, this track is a mere shadow of the original and completely pointless.
As well as the two instrumental tracks (synth and keyboards, not even worth mentioning), we get four new Cradle tracks! If these are an indication of what their next full length will be like, they may as well split now. Cradle have now completely removed Black Metal from their sound, and whilst Midian demonstrated that they could do Heavy Metal just as well as any other band, the new offerings dispel that illusion. Tired and recycled riffs combined with more of Dani’s god awful vocals mean we get some of the band’s worst material yet.
If that wasn’t enough, stick the CD in your PC, and you can watch the promo video for "Born in a Burial Gown", arguably the worst metal song ever

Tokyo Warheart: Live
Tokyo Warheart: Live
Offered by nagiry
Price: £13.63

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic live album, 16 Sept. 2003
This review is from: Tokyo Warheart: Live (Audio CD)
This album was recorded, surprisingly enough, in Tokyo in 1999. Of the eleven tracks on this album, one is an intro, one is a guitar and keyboard solo battle, leaving three songs from the debut Something Wild, and six from the fantastic Hatebreeder album.
The intro for the gig is the famous synth–melody of the eighties, Jan Hammer's 'Crockett's Theme' from Miami Vice. A bit of a strange choice, and it doesn’t seem right when you’re expecting a band like Children of Bodom, but any false impressions are quickly moved aside as the band launch with full force into Silent Night, Bodom Night.
On record, Children of Bodom are brilliant. Alexi Laiho is a guitar playing genius, fusing widdly, over–the–top solos with their power–speed–black–death metal hybrid, whilst Janne Warman manages to keep up on keyboards, his infectious melodies sometimes complementing, otherwise driving the band along. Live, they are easily as good if not better. They are amazingly tight, and make no playing errors whatsoever.
The first thing you notice about this album is the sound quality. Sometimes live albums can suffer from bad recording which ruins the album no matter how good the band are, but here it is crystal–clear. The band blast through Lake Bodom, Warheart and the excellent Bed of Razors with ease. A special mention has to go to the track War of Razors. It's not actually a song, but Alexi showing off his fret–wanking skills a–la Zakk Wylde, but with the added twist of Janne on keyboards mimicking his playing with almost identical solos.
The next song, Deadnight Warrior is one of the album’s standout tracks, featuring some off the band’s most complex solos that Alexi effortlessly performs, whilst still putting in a sound vocal performance. Hatebreeder is one of the band’s most famous songs, and rightly so, being THE definitive headbanging song. The live setting adds even more ferocity to this number, before the song ends with — you guessed it — more widdly solos, as the band again alternate between keyboard and guitar. Touch Like an Angel of Death is then played at the excellent standard that we have come to expect, before the band round things off with near–perfect renditions of Downfall and Towards Dead End.
If you happen to come across a copy of this album, snap it up straight away. Apart from being very difficult to get hold of, it is one of the best live albums ever.

Det Som Engang Var
Det Som Engang Var

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another essential Burzum release, 16 Sept. 2003
This review is from: Det Som Engang Var (Audio CD)
The second full–length album from Varg Vikernes did not do a great deal to build on the sound of his self–titled debut, or the EP Aske, but nonetheless is a very atmospheric album. Lyrically, it is highly influenced by Tolkien with song titles such as En Ring Til Aa Herske (One Ring to Rule Them All) and Key to the Gate. The album consists of eight tracks, but when the intro and outro, synth piece Han Som Reiste and Naar Himmelen Klarner, an instrumental from his Uruk–Hai days are taken into account, there are only four actual songs left.
Vocally, Varg puts in a stunning performance, his tortured screeches on Lost Wisdom are full of emotion, whilst on En Ring Til Aa Herske he experiments with clean vocals, although these are confined to backing vocals. All the songs feature crushing riffs, but the atmosphere is never compromised. Key to the Gate features an amazing solo. Whilst not technically brilliant, it is the most atmospheric solo I have ever heard. Although the lack of blastbeats is quite surprising for an album like this, he puts in a solid performance in that department, too.
Which finally brings us to the synth track, Han Som Reiste, which can only be described as dire. It sounds like the sort of thing your younger brother or sister would knock up in a couple of minutes on their new Casio keyboard. Unfortunately, this was the direction Vikernes was going to take when he was later imprisoned for the murder of his former friend, Euronymous of Mayhem. But despite this obvious low–point, this is a great black metal album and deserves a place in everyone's collection

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Offered by Smaller World Future
Price: £113.18

5.0 out of 5 stars Varg's best work, 16 Sept. 2003
This review is from: Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (Audio CD)
This four-song effort by Varg was his most experimental yet. Moving further away from the full on Black Metal assault that was the eponymous debut, 'Hvis Lyset Tar Oss' has a slower, more chilled out feel, so far removed from the full-on Black Metal assault of other bands in this scene it's unbelievable.
It starts with the fourteen minute long 'Det Som En Gang Var', arguably Burzum's best track. This song contains one of Black Metal's most memorable riffs ever and is truly a song to get lost in. Varg's vocals are as awesome as ever, eschewing the usual growls for a distinguishable screechy style. The album's title track and 'Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen' are in the same vein as the opener, and are almost as good. Strangely for songs of this sort of length, they are not really progressive. Indeed, repetition is very important in this album, although this is in no way a bad thing. The long, drawn-out songs lead for mesmerising listening that you can find yourself getting lost in without noticing.
And after half an hour and three songs of pure genius, Varg chooses to end the album with...yet another awful synth track. To make matters worse, "Tomhet" is based on "Han Som Reiste" from the last album, and is one of the longest songs on the album, its ten minutes being some of the most boring ever put to record. But this still doesn't detract from the quality of the other three songs, and this can be looked upon as another essential Burzum release.

Blood for Satan
Blood for Satan

4.0 out of 5 stars Blood For Satan, 16 Sept. 2003
This review is from: Blood for Satan (Audio CD)
Take a look at the ridiculously stupid album cover to the left. Read the hilariously bad song titles below this review. The cover of the promo copy of this CD claims it to be "true Black Metal!!!". I am just relieved the promo copy I received did not have a lyrics booklet. But do not let this put you off (like it should), because 'Blood for Satan' is one of the best Black Metal albums I have heard in aeons.
Featuring ten short tracks, this album is one of the faster things this genre has produced. Indeed, it seems heavily influenced by Marduk's 'Panzer Divison Marduk', with every song being a combination of blastbeats, breakneck riffage and some excellent twisted growls and shrieks. But whilst not original or containing any variety, Black Dawn pull it off, proving to be one of the better bands producing this style of Black Metal.
Whilst Black Dawn are trying much too hard to be evil and true, bad image aside, they have still succeeded in producing an excellent album full of fantastic songs which should appeal to any Black Metal fan who can see past the cover.

The Sham Mirrors
The Sham Mirrors
Price: £14.16

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors, 16 Sept. 2003
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)
As everyone already knows by now, Arcturus is the Black Metal supergroup consisting of, among others, Garm from Ulver and Hellhammer from Mayhem. Instead of being a conventional Black Metal band, Arcturus have broken musical boundaries and pushed the genre to its limits.
The biggest difference between this and their previous opus, "La Masquerade Infernale" is that they have ditched the random, often rambling song structure and refined their sound with a much more focused approach. This is what will determine which album you prefer, and I personally feel that 'The Sham Mirrors' is a superior album. Yet this does not mean that they've gone boring. To me, 'La Masquerade Infernale' often seemed full of ideas and hints of genius, yet often broken down into a clumsy mess. With 'The Sham Mirrors' they have managed to forge these ideas together into perfectly flowing music.
There is a lot of variety on this album. Opener "Kinetic" is an epic journey through many different styles of music, whilst "Radical Cut", featuring guest vocals from Ihsahn of Emperor, reminds you of their Black Metal roots. So, how do you describe music as unique and original as this? Well, imagine a cross between every Ulver album so far, and you would not be far off. The keyboards and guitars complement each other fantastically, the vocals are probably the best Garm has ever done, and the drumming is as good as we've come to expect from Hellhammer.
If this, as is rumoured, is the last Arcturus album, then it is a brilliant swansong and a fine way to go out. If it isn't...well, I can't wait to hear what they come up with next. This proves that there is still originality left in Black Metal.

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