In Shelley's poem "Ozymandias," the ancient king speaks to posterity through an inscription on a pedestal -- "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair." That his works have decomposed -- "two vast and trunkless legs of stone" -- speaks to the passion both mocked and preserved by the ironic remains of his kingdom. The king's words might be invoked to describe Prometheus -- The Discipline of Fire and Demise (Candlelight Records), Emperor's masterwork and the pinnacle of a series of albums each more devastating and rigorous than the ones preceding them.
Like the Prometheus of Greek legend (and Shelley's reconfiguration of that legend in another poem), Emperor have stolen the fire of the gods. This album does more than mesh or fuse elements -- black metal aggression, baroque counterpoint, jazz changes -- that other bands employ as an eclectic arsenal. Ihsahn has internalized and transfigured those elements into the core of a new music, a blistering invocation of the divine sentiments invoked by Haydn and Bach inverted and scorched in Dionysian fury. This is the Romantic connection between Prometheus and Milton's Lucifer (literally "lightbearer")made flesh. If Prometheus does turn out to be Emperor's final album, it may be because nothing further can be done in this idiom (I hope this is not the case, however). And if anybody thinks it gauche of me to draft Shelley as a PR shill, they haven't heard the album yet.