Death Metal Underground

Album covers: In the Nightside Eclipse

by Ralph Archer
April 11, 2013 –

emperor-in_the_nightside_eclipse

Inspired by Bosch, Dürer and Caspar David Friedrich, Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin has painted album covers for shiploads of underground bands since the early 90s (Therion and Dissection among others), but his most important and most striking contribution is probably the cover of Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse (1994).

altdorfer-battle_of_issusSome of its style and composition takes me back to Albrecht Altdorfer’s anachronistic oil painting The Battle of Alexander at Issus (1529), but true to the bleak genre of black metal the cover of ItNE is practically monochrome, which is rather typical of Wåhlin’s paintings at large (as seen in his paintings for Sacramentum’s Far Away From the Sun and Dark Funeral’s The Secrets of the Black Arts).

Wåhlin nevertheless manages to capture much of the grandeur sought by Emperor in those days. He allows us to delve in a detailed landscape of rugged forests, cold mountains and an army of monsters seemingly popping out of the ground in a setting of strange angles and charmingly inconsistent perspectives. High above, emanating from a crack in the clouds, Death sweeps his scythe across the sky, resonating the lofty keyboard phrases in the music of this album. The whole scene is awash in the light of the moon, gazing at us like a gate to eternity (try to outstare it during the finale of Inno a Satana …). The incorporation of Death seems to have been a way of providing a sense of iconic continuation, referring back to Emperor’s début EP which depicted a section of Gustave Doré’s engraving Death on a Pale Horse (Revelation). (The use of old engravings – especially those of Doré – seems a favourite means of visual expression in the universe of Emperor.)

kupka_resistanceI always assumed that the otherworldly castle and the winding path leading to it were reminiscent of that of a certain bloodsucking count. This is probably no coincidence: have a look at the lyrics of the song Beyond the Great Vast Forest. Not only does it refer to Werner Herzog’s film Nosferatu (1979); parts of the story of the over-the-top film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – which was immensely popular around the time of ItNE’s inception – had also found its way into the lyrics, and the solitary structure of that film’s castle and its inspiration, František Kupka’s The Black Idol (1903), somewhat parallels the idea of the castle on display here.

Ultimately, the cover of In the Nightside Eclipse confirms the nature of its music as slightly cheesy yet chillingly sincere, a satisfying visual representation of one of the best albums of the genre.

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4 comments

  • bitterman

    Emperor had cool artwork until they started putting their faces over Gustave Dore paintings in the late 90s. That’s when they went full retard and started their “wearing sunglasses indoors during interviews” phase (Trym looked like a wigger). I don’t know if art from Dante’s Inferno or Paradise Lost is public domain/free license (or whatever you call it), but it shouldn’t be if Nordic home boyz can throw their dumb faces over it to look “kewl” to sell shitty albums. I mean, this world has allowed Ulver to play Front 242 with additional brain damage over William Blake before. Now that Watain and Behemoth are at their biggest and most pretentious… IX Equilibrium was only preparing us for the worst, I’m afraid.

  • Nord

    Yes, a truly iconic black metal album cover. Did you know that as with the Doré painting making an appearence on ITNE, you can also see the figure of the first Burzum album hidden in the ‘Det som engang var’ cover ?