Emperial Live Ceremony

This review is sponsored by


Details At A Glance

Category Actual Music Discography
Web Links
Photo Gallery
Rating Exempt
Year Released 1996, 1999
Running Time
54:05 Minutes
(Not 60 Minutes as per packaging)
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Wildcat Productions
Candlelight Records
Modern Invasion Music
Starring Ihsahn
Charmand Grimloch
Case Opaque Soft Brackley
RPI ?$39.95 Music Emperor

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9No.jpg (4709 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    If there is one statement I heartily concur with in Ian's review of the Pantera DVD that was among the first of the so-called music videos to be released on our beloved format, it is this: "I have seen some over-rated jerks in my time but Pantera would have to rank as one of the worst bands I have ever had the misfortune to see and hear." However, now that DVD-Video as a format has fallen into the hands of independent music labels and distributors, we finally get to see an example of what these over-rated jerks, and others like Metallica, are trying to be. For some time, there have been three genuine forms of musical art that draw upon the almighty inspiration handed down by Black Sabbath thirty-one years ago. The first two, genres in their own right, are generally known as doom and black metal to those in the know, while the third is a sub-genre that attempts to combine the other two in order to create a sound with the refined beauty of doom and the harshness of black.

    Numerous bands have attempted to combine the doom and black sound, particularly in the last ten years, with various degrees of success. Broadly speaking, you have the talentless equivalents of Pantera in this interesting subgenre such as Cradle Of Filth, the moderately interesting entrants such as Dimmu Borgir, and the ones who set the whole standard for the genre, a category into which Emperor can be firmly placed. Indeed, Emperor are often mentioned in the same breath as the truly elite members of the more pure black metal movement, such as Mayhem and Burzum. This can be attributed to the fact that a list of ex-members from Emperor reads more like a who's who list of the genre, as well as the fact that bands like them have brought a new variant to the only truly unique form of music to sprout from human hands in the last thirty-odd years.

    Hailing from Telemark, Norway, Emperor was founded in the Spring of 1991 by Samoth, Ihsahn, and Mortiis, the last of which has gone on to one rather bizarre, Tolkein-inspired solo career. This lineup recorded and circulated a legendary demo tape entitled Wrath Of The Tyrant, which brought them to the attention of the then-fledgling Candlelight label. Shortly thereafter, they recorded a split CD with Enslaved, their half of which was re-issued a while later with the Wrath Of The Tyrant demo tacked on to fill the space left by the absence of Enslaved's material. Shortly after this recording was completed, Mortiis left to pursue a career of released weird-arsed solo albums, and was replaced by Tchort, while Samoth migrated to guitar and was replaced behind the drum kit by Bard Faust.

    The last months of 1993 saw Emperor go into the studio again and record their first full-length album, In The Nightside Eclipse, which was released in 1994 to critical and audience acclaim. However, a string of events that would engulf the entire black metal scene in a storm of controversy, thanks in no small part to the misaligned political and religious beliefs of key participants, saw the band temporarily lose Samoth, and permanently lose Bard Faust, due to prison sentences. A new bassist was found in Alver, and Samoth emerged from prison to complete a lineup that was stronger than ever, which recorded the 1996 EP Reverence, and the 1997 LP Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk. After a string of successful concert appearances, Alver left the band, and the recording of 1999's IX Equilibrium LP saw Ihsahn assume all of the guitar, vocal, keyboard, and bass duties. This tends to be a common occurrence in the black metal scene, with albums being recorded by lineups that feature one man performing the musical duties of three.

    To describe Emperor's musical style is a pointless exercise, except to say that the symphonic antics so desperately attempted by Metallica on a recent DVD that I won't glorify by mentioning in context of this band are a regular feature here, rather than a cynical gimmick designed to revive ailing record sales. Indeed, classics such as Inno A Satana and The Loss And Curse Of Reverence have attained such status within the black metal community because they were clearly written so that they could be played either by six-piece bands or forty-piece orchestras. While their songs generally lack the epic length demonstrated in Burzum songs, or the terror-inducing grind of Mayhem dirges, Emperor make a fine example of the fact that you ain't likely to find the best that modern musicians have to offer anywhere near your radio or television set. Emperial Live Ceremony is a showcasing of Emperor's clear superiority to even some of the most elite bands of the genres, recorded in London during the 1999 tour in support of the IX Equilibrium album. The tracklisting of this DVD is as follows:

  1. Opening Credits (1:41)
  2. Curse All You Men! (4:30)
  3. Thus Spake The Nightspirit (4:21)
  4. I Am The Black Wizards (5:27)
  5. An Elegy Of Icaros (6:09)
  6. With Strength I Burn (7:39)
  7. Sworn (4:30)
  8. Night Of The Graveless Souls (3:10)
  9. Inno A Satana (4:36)
  10. Ye Entrancemperium (5:18)
  11. The Loss And Curse Of Reverence [Promotional Video] (6:43)
    As a collection of songs, this fifty-four minute video flows together perfectly, with not a dull or dreary moment throughout the entire set. There's nothing more I can say about this live disc that will adequately describe how badly needed it has been, both for this Region and the format in general. Put your Metallica DVDs in the trash can, boys and girls, and come see the real thing.

Transfer Quality

    I'll be commenting on the transfer quality of The Loss And Curse Of Reverence separately for both the video and audio sections, for reasons that will become apparent when you read what I have to say. The concert footage appears to have had the luxury of being filmed with digital video formats, not necessarily DVD, in mind, whereas the promotional video was recorded at a time when the DVD-Video format was still very much in development. Oh, and before I forget, the disc is NTSC formatted, so you will need to ensure your equipment can play back this signal before purchasing.


    When I was told that the concert footage was "professionally filmed" by entities who, like the band, don't seem terribly concerned with making their real names known, I was torn in two directions. On one hand, I was expecting to see a gorgeous display of professional-looking video, while the more paranoid side of me was expecting something that was clearly filmed with the Very Hazy System in mind. Thankfully, this transfer tends toward the former, although it isn't without some subtle problems.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Since both Candlelight Records and Modern Invasion Music are quite new to the format, and the footage looks rather nice in spite of it, I'll forgive them for this omission on this outing. The transfer is reasonably sharp, although the concert lights tend to decrease clarity quite markedly whenever they are in frame. Having said that, however, this transfer simply blows away any independent music video I have seen on VHS, and is comparable to Ozzy Osbourne's Live And Loud DVD, which was clearly filmed with a much bigger budget. The shadow detail is average, with the lighting allowing some subtle details to be seen in the dark patches of the picture, but the footage clearly wasn't shot with this concern in mind. Low-level noise was a mild problem during the credit sequence, but it seemed to mostly disappear once the concert got underway. Grain is a minor issue, although the sharpness of this transfer also allows random flakes of dust that are caught in the spotlights (a common sight during live performances at venues like these, I can assure you) to show up with enough clarity to be mistaken for noise or grain, too.

    The colour scheme that was actually present for the film crew to capture generally consisted of lots of black and blue, with the occasional splash of bright white stage lights. The brightest thing on display during the concert was Ihsahn's white shirt, so you can't expect a myriad of bright or subtle hues on display here. The transfer captured these colours without a problem, and there didn't seem to be any occurrences of colour bleeding or misregistration. Sadly, some dot crawl was noticed around Ihsahn's shoulders from time to time, but this artefact was only noticed because, unlike the other performers, he really stands out from the background (the others wear clothing so dark they almost disappear into it).

    MPEG artefacts didn't seem to be a problem in this transfer, although for some inexplicable reason the average bitrate of the transfer is around seven megabits per second, which simply doesn't add up when you consider that there is barely over sixty minutes of material on the disc. A single-sided, single-layer disc is capable of comfortably storing this much video data at a total bitrate of at least nine and a half megabits per second, so I have to wonder what happened there. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts, save for the occasional display of minor aliasing on microphone stands and guitar strings. Film artefacts were limited to the occasional black mark on the picture, which was easy to miss in context of the rest of the picture.

    Now that I have described the video quality of the concert, I will make a few brief comments about the promotional video that has been tacked on at the end. Clearly taken from an inferior (but still digital) source, the resolution of The Loss And Curse Of Reverence is noticeably lower than that of the concert. Film grain and artefacts are in abundance, and the compression doesn't exactly help matters. It is, however, much better than the quality you can expect from any other format this video has been made available in.


    Another common problem for independent bands and labels such as Emperor and Candlelight Records is that expensive production facilities that give the pop pap out there that sickeningly sweet, manufactured sound which people have become so used to are not available to them. I've actually said this before, and I will say it again, though: crap still sounds like crap no matter how many channels, bits, and kilohertz you allocate to it. Bands who specialize in making real music, like Emperor, will sound better, even when they are encoded in Dolby Digital 1.0, and one of the extras on this disc will happily prove it to you.

    There is only soundtrack on this DVD: the original English vocals and music, encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Despite the low-key nature of this soundtrack, it is amazingly clear and rich in comparison to the uncompressed stereo versions of these songs that grace the studio albums. The vocals are relatively clear and easy to make out, although I suspect one will really need to already know what Ihsahn is singing in order to understand him, as the pace of the music doesn't allow him to emphasize clarity. Since the primary focus here is the actual music (in other words, those of you out there who, as I like to say, can't listen past a voice, need not apply), this is not such great grievance. Since each and every note from each and every instrument can be easily made out, the soundtrack scores a perfect ten as far as I am concerned.

    There are no discernible problems with audio sync, although the songs are generally played so fast that I'm sure nobody's going to notice if Trym hits a snare drum a second before the actual sound is heard.

    The music on this DVD is entirely the work of Emperor, and is taken from various stages of the band's ten-year career. Most of the songwriting is the work of Ihsahn and Samoth, with the occasional contribution by previous members such as Bard Faust and Mortiis. If you've heard other work by the latter two names I have just mentioned, then I'm wasting my time trying to describe the music to you since you'll probably already have it in some form. Those of you who haven't, I also strongly suggest that you investigate the solo works of these two artists.

    There is no surround channel activity on any part of this disc, which is a real pity since a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix could have helped to demonstrate the fact that this music will easily outperform anything the radio throws at it, even on the new DVD-Audio format. All the same, the subwoofer literally had a blast supporting the bass and drums, such that other people in the house at the time I listened to this disc mistook some drum patterns for machine gun fire. Even now, as I write this review, I can feel the drumming on The Loss And Curse Of Reverence shaking the ground beneath my seat. This is not to say that the bass is overemphasized, because the other channels used by this soundtrack are equally prominent in the mix, but the subwoofer delivers most of the punch, so to speak. The only complaint I have is that the keyboards are comparatively muffled in this mix, hence my wish that we could have had at least a surround-encoded soundtrack to increase the channel separation.

    By comparison, the promotional video for The Loss And Curse Of Reverence sounds cluttered. This is a problem shared by the album mix of the song, and to a lesser extent by the remix that appeared on the Reverence EP, from which the video derives its soundtrack. Aside from that, however, there are no problems with the audio in this section of the transfer.


    A rather minimal set of extras adorns this disc.


    The menu is static, not 16x9 Enhanced, but extremely easy to navigate.

Photo Gallery

    A collection of unannotated stills, including album covers, band photos, and other such artwork. It is presented as a seven minute and fifty-one second video stream that cycles through the stills while a live version of With Strength I Burn plays in the background, encoded in Dolby Digital 1.0 that sounds surprisingly clear, if slightly muffled.


    A listing of all the official Emperor releases to date, featuring numerous spelling errors.

Web Links

    A listing of the web sites for the two companies behind the production. Hardly worth the effort.


    Apparently, a collection of screensavers are encoded on this disc so that you can access them with a DVD-ROM drive. If this is the reason why the bitrate is so consistently lower than it should be, or why we aren't blessed with a DTS soundtrack, then I am not impressed.

R4 vs R1

    This DVD is exactly the same the world over.


    Emperor. If you try to tell me you know superior, epic, powerful, and independently-produced music when you haven't heard this band, I'll just laugh at you. Emperial Live Ceremony is fifty-four minutes of one of the "big name" black metal bands at their very best.

    The video quality is very good, let down only by occasional composite artefacts and the usual stage-lighting problems.

    The audio quality is simply excellent, and could only be improved by a surround remix or an increase in the priority given to the keyboards.

    The extras are very basic.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)
Audio sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Extras sr.gif (100 bytes)
Plot sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)

 © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
March 14, 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer