While many were understandably cock-a-hoop when Emperor announced they were reuniting for a tour to celebrate the then 20th anniversary of their seminal debut In The Nightside Eclipse, their decision to get the band back together for a second time wasn’t without its casualties.
The Wretched End were one of them and the Samoth-led, critically acclaimed trio ended up sadly sidelined due to the festivities. However, all good things come to those who wait, as they have re-emerged with their first album in four years, In These Woods, From These Mountains.
Something of an extreme metal supergroup (and indeed one so powerful it’d make Stan Lee envious he hadn’t thought of the idea first), in addition to the Emperor axe-wielder, the group also features Mindgrinder/Windir guitarist/vocalist Cosmo and Dark Funeral drummer Nils Dominator Fjellstrom – and their third record may well be their boldest and bravest to date.
Intending to capture the band at their most feral, the trio of talented individuals recorded everything themselves and focused all their energy on harnessing their raw power, resulting in an opus that sounds as strong as their pedigree suggests, and gives their storming 2010 debut, Ominous, a run for its money. Dead Icons opens proceedings with the proverbial bang, as Samoth unleashes hell with his signature riffing before business really picks up with Primordial Freedom. Built around a Godzilla-sized mournful riff and occasional Gregorian chants, it’s one of album number three’s high points, as is Old Norwegian Soul, which sees their old mate Attila Csihar from Mayhem lending a growl or two. The final two tracks, Burrowing Deep and Dewy Fields, may divide some, though. The former pushes the envelope with vocal harmonies that aren’t a million miles away from the late, great Layne Staley; the latter, a cover of a song by Tromsø’s dreampop trio Bel Canto, sets it on fire. A slightly edgier rendition, Leprous vocalist/keyboardist Einar Solberg and Red Harvest’s LRZ contribute to the brass-driven track and it brings proceedings to a bizarre but beautiful end.