IX Equilibrium

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Emperor needs little introduction. As one of the leading exponents of the extremely ill-reputed Norwegian black metal scene (known for true-life demonic acts ranging from church burning to outright murder), the group's fearsome reputation -- on and off the stage -- precedes them. And with their third full album, IX Equilibrium, the group once again shows absolutely no mercy for lesser mortals by delivering another sonic onslaught of nearly impenetrable proportions. Drummer Trym doesn't so much keep time as pummel his kit incessantly, while guitarists Ihsahn and Samoth contribute an equally oppressive wall of sound laced with keyboard textures so demonic they were seemingly concocted by the great horned one himself. The third track, "An Elegy of Icarus," is the first to scale back the violence during its heavily symphonic intro, but the furious pace resumes immediately thereafter, never to slacken again, albeit briefly on the nearly melodic "The Warriors of Modern Death." Far from a masterpiece, but hardly a stinker either, IX Equilibrium falls quite short of the group's earlier albums through sheer lack of diversity, and will prove indigestible to all but the most committed black metal fans. But that was most certainly Emperor's goal in the first place.

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