Sound — 10
Compared to their earlier works this is really, really polished. Amongst some of my more "KVLT" aquaintances this album is tantamount to blasphemy as it is a lot more accessable than their earlier works. Myself however think if you put your preconceptions aside of what Emperor "should" sound like and take this album purely on it's merits then you'll find it a fantastic symphonic metal album indeed. The opening track "Eruption" opens with a very Baroque sounding harpsichord that crescendos into a fantastic fast tempoed riff that kicks off this album brilliantly. Emperor still retain the trademarks of their sound, the synths and breakneck tempos but add some brilliant shredding leads and on "Prophet" especially some almost Morbid Angel esque crunchy riffing. This is an album of contrasts and dynamics more than anything else, going from quite dissonant riffing and harsh vocals, to sweeping melodies and soaring clean vocals.
Lyrics — 10
Ihsahn does everything vocally on this album, going from a vicious evil bark, to full on almost operatic singing. The first time you listen you won't expect the transition which IMO makes it more powerful. The lyrics are poetic and well written, the clear production also makes them much more decipherable.
Overall Impression — 10
Emperor at this point were in a class of their own, the songs themselves are more than songs, more like compositions. The musicianship is astonishing and there is brilliant contast and dynamics, fast/slow, clean/growled, dissonant/cossonant, it really keeps you on your toes and is never monotonous. You need to listen to this album ten or more times to hear some of the more subtile and brilliant touches in each song. It's hard to pick a "best song" on the album but if I have to choose I'd say "Tongue Of Fire." I love it for the same reasons as I love "Master Of Puppets" by 'tallica. The middle section is a complete departure from the beginning and end of the song. Also check out Emperor's cover of Mercyful Fate's gypsy on the end of later copies of "In The Nightside Eclipse" absolutely brilliant, I like it more than the original! I bought this album in December 2001 and I still listen to it frequently.