Ix Equilibrium


Century Media Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It seems kind of funny to me, but even in my "headbanger" period in high school, I never really got into the whole death metal scene. Only when I discovered grindcore while in college did I find any excitement in this genre, and even that tended to wear off very quickly. Now that I've got this gig, I honestly think I've listened to more death metal than I did throughout high school and college combined.

The latest of these platters to cross my way, IX Equilibrium from Emperor, is an interesting change in that I swear I'm hearing keyboards (though I don't see any credit for these on the promotional CD jacket). The richer sound of the band helps to separate it from the rest of the gloom-and-doom rockers of the genre, but in the end, it almost seems like too much to take in one sitting.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band - vocalist/bassist Ihsahn, guitarist Samoth and drummer Trym - are obviously skilled at their craft, and I won't deny that their musicianship is incredible. Especially impressive to me is the drum work of Trym, who pounds out beats faster and for a longer period of time than I thought was humanly possible.

And while Ihsahn breaks the traditional stereotype of the death metal vocalist (I don't think I heard a single grunt or growl on this whole disc), it often is very difficult to understand just what he is saying. Then again, with song titles like "Curse You All Men" and "The Warriors Of Modern Death," I don't think I really want to know.

The intensity level of IX Equilibrium is set on "overkill" throughout the disc, barely giving the listener time to breathe, much less let their neck stop snapping back and forth. Tracks like "Curse You All Men" and "Decrystallizing Reason" are pleasant enough (at least pleasant for those who like the death metal genre - I doubt any John Denver fans would be picking this one up for kicks), but I found it incredibly difficult to get through more than three songs without needing a break. I don't know if this is because I've never really followed the genre that closely or if IX Equilibrium is just too intense for its own good.

One thing I found intriguing was the intro to "The Warriors Of Modern Death," which used a tolling bell that sounded incredibly similar to the one used on Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls". Not that this song has much in common with the Metallica track except for that - but don't be surprised if you find yourself saying, "I've heard that before somewhere" after hearing some of the riffs that Samoth plays in his solo.

IX Equilibrium is an intense album that might be too much to take for even the devout death metaller. It's still very much worth checking out, but it might not be a bad idea to pace yourself.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Century Media Records, and is used for informational purposes only.