Emperial Live Ceremony
Candlelight Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/07/2001
No matter how much you claim you like to bang your head, or how many posters of Iron Maiden you have in your room, there is one undeniable fact in the world of heavy metal: Death metal is very much an acquired taste. In the case of Emperial Live Ceremony, the latest release from Norway's Emperor, let's just say I haven't acquired it yet.
Oh, sure, some time ago I waxed somewhat eloquently about their album IX Equilibrium, and admired the way the band both worked in keyboards and were able to get through an album of this genre without resorting to the usual growls and grunts that one hears. I also remember saying that the album was so intense that sometimes it felt better to take it a few songs at a time. Sometimes, I think the same approach would help with Emperial Live Ceremony.
It's not that the band - vocalist/guitarist Ihsahn, guitarist Samoth, keyboardist/vocalist Charmond Grimloch, bassist Tyr and drummer Trym - don't prove they're adept at handling their instruments in such a challenging style of music... and the live concert is the ultimate proving ground for any band of this caliber. But Emperor falls into the trap that has nailed so many other bands from all walks of musical life - namely, they've created a live album that doesn't come close to capturing the true live experience.
They try mightily - and I'll admit the inclusion of a video for "I Am The Black Wizards" at the start of the disc helps put things into perspective. (Listener's note: Track 1 of the CD is data only - DO NOT try listening to it. Skip to track 2.) But Emperial Live Ceremony quickly becomes almost an altar for the diehard Emperor fan to worship the band at, revelling in the mixture of tracks old and new. For the uninitiated (and I include myself in that flock), they may wonder just what all the fuss is.
Sure, Emperor is made up of competent musicians. But trying to pick out special moments in tracks like "Thus Spake The Nightspirit," "With Strength I Burn," "An Elegy Of Icaros" or "Inno A Satana," especially when this is one's first or second taste of the group, it's a tad overwhelming. Even for the long-time fan, this might seem like pushing the needle of adrenalin a little too far into the listener's heart. (Making a CD package that was actually readable might have helped things a little bit.)
Oh, diehard fans of Emperor will probably find little fault with Emperial Live Ceremony - and to them, I can only say with all sincerity, enjoy! Fans of death metal in general will probably find things to like about this disc, but it might not be as satisfying as it is for the diehards. Casual listeners... well, you might want to start with something earlier from Emperor's catalog, if merely to get the taste for this band. But no matter which group you fall into, Emperial Live Ceremony will probably not strike you as the best live disc, even for the black metal genre.