Top 10 Emperor Songs

Emperor Songs

Feature Photo: Jonas Rogowski, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our top ten Emperor songs list looks at the catalog of a band best known for its impactful role in the development of the Norwegian black metal scene. The band was formed in 1991 by vocalist Ihsahn, guitarist Samoth, and bassist Mortiis, with drummer Faust joining the lineup later in 1992. While Emperor’s lineup has evolved since its formation, Ihsahn and Samoth have been present in all of the band’s incarnations.

The 1990s were the band’s most active years with the band issuing several extended plays and four full-length studio albums. Emperor joins Burzum, Satyricon, Immortal, and Mayhem in the list of progenitors of the “symphonic” Norwegian black metal scene. While the bands’ Norwegian black metal scene remains quite distinct, it borrows heavily from the inaugural black metal acts such as Bathory, Celtic Frost, and MercyFul Fate.

Emperor’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough

In 1992, Emperor issued its first demo album Wrath of the Tyrant. The nine-track demo album saw Emperor venture purely into the black metal genre. Notable musical gems from the album include “Witches Sabbath,” “Ancient Queen,” and the demo album’s title track. Wrath of the Tyrant attracted the attention of Candlelight Records who signed the band. Later in 1993, the band issued its eponymous debut extended play.

Emperor was soon after made into a split album together with Hordanes Land, the debut extended play by Enslaved, a Norwegian metal band. Among the new tracks featured on this four-track extended play include “I Am the Black Wizards” and “Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times.” “Night of the Graveless Souls” and “Wrath of the Tyrant,” the 1992 demo album title track were also featured on Emperor. Just before the band issued its debut LP, its members issued a three-track EP entitled As the Shadows Rise in 1994. The EP featured three tracks previously featured on Emperor’s demo album Wrath of the Tyrant.

Emperor’s Album Releases over the Years

In February 1994, Emperor issued its debut studio album In the Nightside Eclipse. This album was co-produced by Pytten, a Norwegian producer/recording engineer known for his prodigious work with Mayhem, Enslaved, Burzum, Dark Fortress, and Immortal. In the Nightside Eclipse saw Emperor take on symphonic black metal influences with some of the best Emperor songs from the LP including “Inno a Satana,” “Into the Infinity of Thoughts,” and “Towards the Pantheon.”

The album also included some of Emperor’s earlier recordings such as “Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times” and “I Am the Black Wizards.” While In the Nightside Eclipse never made it to the mainstream charts, it remains Emperor’s most sought-after album, cited by critics as one of the pioneering Norwegian black metal albums. Reverence, issued in March 1997, marked yet another EP by the band. The EP featured two tracks “In Longing Spirit” and “The Loss and Curse of Reverence,” as well as a four-minute instrumental entitled “Opus a Satana.”

Emperor returned in July 1997 with their second studio album Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. Ihsahn and Samoth teamed up with Pytten in the production of this album. The eight-track album once again finds the band giving us a taste of its symphonic black metal influences. Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk made it to the twenty-eighth spot on the Finnish Albums Chart, selling thousands of copies in the US. “The Loss and the Curse of Reverence,” “Thus Spake the Nightspirit,” “Ye Entrancemperium,” and “With Strength I Burn” are some of the best Emperor songs from the album.

IX Equilibrium, issued in 1999, marked the band’s third studio album. The album was quite successful, rising to the thirty-sixth spot on the Finnish Albums Chart. IX Equilibrium features musical gems such as “An Elegy of Icaros,” “Decrystallizing Reason,” and “Curse You All Men!” Still, in 1999, Emperor issued a split album with the Norwegian black metal band Thorns entitled Thorns vs. Emperor.

In 2000, Emperor joined Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Ancient, and Arcturus in releasing a split album entitled True Kings of Norway. The split album was issued through Spikefarm Records with Emperor’s songs on the album being a repeat of the band’s 1994 EP As the Shadows RisePrometheus: The Disciple of Fire & Demise marked the band’s fourth studio album. The album saw Emperor blend its staple black metal sound with some progressive metal and symphonic metal influences. “Empty,” “The Eruption,” “In the Wordless Chamber,” and “The Tongue of Fire” are the most popular songs by Emperor from the album.

Emperor’s Other Musical Pursuits and Legacy

Since its demo releases, Emperor earned its spot as one of the most significant Norwegian black metal bands. While its career only lasted about a decade, its records (especially the earliest) have been some of the most influential works in the black metal scene. The band has later issued a few compilation albums featuring some of its best songs with notable covers from other metal bands including Bathory, Darkthrone, Thorns, MercyFul Fate, Ulver, and Mayhem. Here we present the ten best Emperor songs of all time.

#10- Witches Sabbath

Ushering us to the ten best Emperor songs list is the all-pervading hit “Witches Sabbath.” Initially, the song was released as part of the nine-track demo Wrath of the Tyrant. The song was later featured on the band’s sophomore extended play As the Shadows Rise. “Witches Sabbath” is one of the rawest black metal songs ever released by the band.

The song features a powerful vocal delivery from Ihsahn with brutal riffs making the song even heavier. “Witches Sabbath” features some haunting chants and chilling synth tunes that add more intensity to the song’s black metal feel.

#9- The Eruption

It’s almost felonious to imagine that “The Eruption” would rank this low on our list. However, we found it worthwhile to put some respect to Emperor’s groundbreaking records that solidified the band’s impact in the black metal scene. Nevertheless, “The Eruption” is a remarkable track serving as the embodiment of Emperor’s musicianship on the band’s fourth studio album Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise.

Of course, the band’s album features other impressive hits such as “Empty,” “In the Wordless Chamber,” and “The Tongue of Fire.” However, none of the aforementioned hits perfectly exemplifies Emperor’s blend of progressive metal/symphonic metal with its signature black metal sounds than “The Eruption.” Thanks to songs like “The Eruption,” Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise earned a nomination for the Best Metal Album in the 2001 Norwegian Grammy Awards ceremony. However, the band lost the award to Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia by Dimmu Borgir.

#8- An Elegy of Icaros

Coming in at number eight on our ten best Emperor songs list is the hit “An Elegy of Icaros.” The song is one of the most impressive cuts off the band’s third studio album IX Equilibrium. “An Elegy of Icaros” features some driving guitar riffs whose heaviness is adequately supplemented by the song’s haunting keyboard tunes. While most of the songs on this list give a taste of Ihsahn’s black metal growls, “An Elegy of Icaros” showcases his vocal dexterity, having him take on clean vocals for the better part of this hit.

#7- Ye Entrancemperium

“Ye Entrancemperium” is one of the most alluring hits off the band’s sophomore studio album Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. The song’s insane tempo and hard-hitting feel make it quite a ferocious black metal track. Its viciousness is majorly credited to its imperious drums and guitars backed up by Ihsahn’s brutal yet impressive vocal delivery.

Former Mayhem guitarist Euronymous is credited with the composition of this song. This is despite his earlier death in August 1993 after he was murdered by Varg Vikernes (former member of Burzum and Mayhem). Euronymous’ contribution to “Ye Entrancemperium” has been cited to be the song’s opening riff, which was picked from an unnamed track in Mayhem’s bootleg Ha Elm Zalag.

#6- Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times

Number six on our top ten Emperor songs list is the menacing hit “Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times.” The song was first featured on the band’s 1993 eponymous debut extended play. “Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times” would later be featured on the band’s debut studio album In the Nightside Eclipse. The song captures the raw black metal sound with its aggressive riffs and overwhelmingly heavy keyboard line. “Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times” is arguably one of the best composed songs off the EP Emperor.

#5- Curse You All Men!

IX Equilibrium, the band’s third full-length studio album, was quite a momentous record striking a perfect balance between the band’s signature black metal sound and melodic influences. “Curse You All Men!” one of the best Emperor songs on IX Equilibrium is a perfect example of Emperor’s musicianship on this record. Issued as the lead track on IX Equilibrium, “Curse You All Men!” sets the pace for other releases on this LP.

Emperor had earlier tried going a little melodic in their earlier release. However, it is songs like “Curse You All Men!” that exemplify the band’s melodic/symphonic black metal pursuits. Coupled with the symphonic elements, the song’s hard-hitting guitar riffs make it quite a memorable cut!

#4- Into the Infinity of Thoughts

“Into the Infinity of Thoughts” is one of the most sought-after masterpieces from the band’s debut studio album In the Nightside Eclipse. The song fairly introduces the band’s transition to some more symphonic black metal influences. Undeniably, the melodic tunes from the keyboard perfectly complement the chaotic black metal-influenced guitar riffs in this song. “Into the Infinity of Thoughts” serves as a perfect introduction to the musical excellence of Emperor on its emblematic black metal album In the Nightside Eclipse.

#3- The Loss and Curse of Reverence

The third pick on our ten best Emperor songs is the tremendous hit “The Loss and Curse of Reverence.” This song is featured on the band’s sophomore studio album Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. “The Loss and Curse of Reverence” features some melodic yet heavy guitar riffs that align with Emperor’s symphonic black metal influences.

The song was initially issued on the band’s extended play Reverence, serving as a teaser for Emperor’s sophomore studio album. Emperor went ahead to issue a promotional video for this hit. The song’s raw black metal spirit saw it become the centerpiece of Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. Unfortunately, our list misses other magical cuts from the album including “With Strength I Burn.”

#2- Inno A Satana 

“Inno A Satana” is one of the most important records off the band’s debut studio album In the Nightside Eclipse. Despite being listed last on the band’s debut studio album, “Inno A Satana” rose to become one of Emperor’s fan-favorite tracks and a concert staple. “Inno A Satana” is probably the darkest song ever penned by the band.

The title of the song is Italian for “Hymn to Satan.” And as you might have guessed, the song features sinister sentiments expressed throughout its lyrics. The song’s chilling instrumentation blends in with the ominous lyrical content branding “Inno A Satana” an anthemic black metal ballad. Amazingly, the song features some clean vocals from Ihsahn with its melodic touches adding some symphonic/progressive metal influences to this black metal masterpiece.

#1- I Am the Black Wizards

Number one on our ten best Emperor songs list is the earth-shattering hit “I Am the Black Wizards.” The song was first featured on the band’s 1993 eponymous EP, earning a spot later on Emperor’s debut studio album In the Nightside Eclipse. “I Am the Black Wizards” remains the best example of Emperor’s prodigious songwriting skills and the epitome of Emperor’s exploration into dark allures.

This masterpiece features some energetic guitar riffs that are almost unparalleled by most of Emperor’s releases over the years. “I Am the Black Wizards” instantly became the band’s signature hit and the template to follow for other black metal bands. The song was covered by yet another Norwegian black metal band known as Taake.

Top 10 Emperor Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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