Emperor, Prometheus – The Discipline of Fire & Demise (Candlelight, 2001)
Ihsahn – Vocals/Guitars/Synths/Bass/Programming
Samoth – Guitars
Trym – Drums
Produced by Ihsahn
Screw you guys. Emperor don’t need your stupid list of the 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century. They probably don’t give a fuck about how they’re remembered, and not just because they’ve had convicted arsonists, murderers and flying elves in their ranks. Emperor had achieved legendary status long before Prometheus – The Discipline of Fire & Demise was conceived by main man Ihsahn, so perhaps the only place to go was bigger, grander, more complex. Lucky for Ihsahn that his bandmates Samoth and Trym were busy getting their blackened death metal project Zyklon off the ground – there are very few checks to Ihsahn’s grandiose ambitions on Prometheus. The album is the sound of a master metal craftsman, lost in his own imagination, polishing and tweaking and overdubbing until every last detail gleams like obsidian.
It ain’t just the synthesized orchestral parts that give Prometheus the feel of an electric classical symphony. There’s also Ihsahn’s ornate arrangements. Gothic guitar melodies criss-cross, harsh screams and soaring baritone vocals overlap, torrential blastbeats cease just long enough for a massive hook to be unleashed before the thunder begins again. Prometheus is dense, even impenetrable. Hell, I had to buy it three times before I began to figure it out. And yet for those willing to put in the effort, there are few records as simultaneously majestic and steamrolling as Prometheus. While it wasn’t as groundbreaking as Emperor’s early masterpieces, Prometheus was the logical extreme of the band’s symphonic black metal progression. Apparently, they saw it that way too, and broke up shortly after the album’s release. And given the album’s final lyric, “Now that I am gone/ Lay thorns on my grave,” it would seem that Emperor saw it coming.