1. Emperor - Thus Spake the Nightspirit: After "In the Nightside Eclipse" it seems Emperor lost their drive and became aestheticist extremists, which resulted in an album not unlike recent Enslaved material where unrelated riffs battled it out in a blastbackground of furious beats. This song is well constructed but has nothing to say.
2. Old Mans Child - Soul Possessed: Strikingly derivated and monotonous in its embrace of standard rock harmonic cliche, this song bounces through riff styles impressively and demonstrates the ability of the musicians without demonstrating any songwriting skill beyond recombinant historical study. Howls of vocal angst stretch like banners over double-hit expectant rock n roll riffs, and though there is great variation, there is not much coherent connection of the structure.
3. Satyricon - Forhekset: This band is black metal's Pantera. Their music is competent but it panders to an image of consumerdom where it might exude the communicative viral mission of art, and although the musicianship is excellent the works of this band advance the genre no more than the mid-eighties.
4. Borknagar - The Dawn of the The End: Underneath Burzum style simple tone-shifting riffs a second guitar picks out harmony notes to spell a variation poem of simple dimensions but complex implications. That dynamicism gives way to a series of riffs with excellent melodic interaction in the classical style, producing some beautiful and inspirational metal.
5. Katatonia - Murder: Single-note melodic leading rhythm in a style appropriated from the first three tracks of Burzum's "Filosofem" but without nearly the musical understanding makes for an engaging, catchy, but in the end unsatisfyingly disconnected and irrelevant song. Deliciously poplike but clumsily disorganized.
6. Arcturus - Wintry Grey: Leavening harmony raises this song to inspirational levels of gesture but its own lack of content leaves it in the recombinant stages of metal reflux. Some standard riffs and beats are whipped into top notch shape and the jazz-like but iron-handed blast percussion keeps the pulse running high, but overall there's not much here besides a desire for "that ambient forest feeling."
7. Ophthalamia - After A Releasing Death/Castle of No Repair (Part II): This band has all that it takes to be really impressive, from the progressive rock stylings of single-note jazz-style leads to the revolving technical percussion and slashing harmonic riffs, yet it seems unaware of the bounty it possesses because it remains within the rubric of heavy metal style songs because that's where its heart is: classical heavy metal glory in neo-jazz progressive structures. While it is enjoyable it falls short of its own expectations by lack of direction.
8. Einherjer - Naar Hammerem Heven: Spacy ambient gel surrounds a moving black metal core in a simple but uptempo resilient beat of conquest while ridiculous keyboards counterpoint rhythm from behind; a compelling and yet not over the top rendition of black metal, this does not innovate much and resides often in rock structural caging, but is also reasonably engaging and languidly clear.
9. Rotting Christ - Coronation of the Serpent: In the style of Varathron this is a heavy-lidded romp between different tone centers in search of an elusive and yet integral melody, although lacking the fervor and ambiguity of this band's earlier releases.
10. Sacramentum - Black Destiny: The masters of intricate high-speed melodic classicalism here turn their eye toward a more speed metal framework and produce a hard-rocking but deftly complex and beautiful guitar symphony. While the intricacy of what they do has decreased and their style is now more coherent with mainstream metal, Sacramentum have not decreased the complexity and still offer challenging, interesting and lucid songs in the classic metal style.
11. Ulver - Hymn 1: The professionally-trained delicate touch of Ulver creates eminently presentable songs of alternating acoustic gentleness and buzz-saw renditions of simple trailing melodies. However, there's not much behind it, and while the band creates through sheer musical knowledge an impressive front of material to navigate, in the end it hangs like a used airbag, having said nothing except that it very rapidly held space for an instant.
12. Samael - Black Trip: Thumping and electric the music of Samael in its newer incarnation is all chorus and verse interwrapped in a sequence of rigidly violent yet subdued and catchingly bouncy riffs. If you wanted a triumphant chorus for Satan's open bar, this is clearly it.
13. Mayhem - Necrolust: This live track from the Leipzig recording presents Mayhem at their raw majesty of rhythm collision and spectral, almost suspended, harmonic sounds. A classic track and a formidable innovator encoded together in this single glimpse of black metal history.
14. Tiamat - Ancient Cruelty: Almost as if a Cathedral track this song rides a consistent chord strum for cadence but then breaks it with afterthought conclusions and counterpoints, turning what could be a dominant riff into a cycling collage of ideas that don't really fit together but come off pleasingly in aesthetic.
15. Opeth - Nectar: Classic guitar-rock under the guise of black metal, this is mostly riffing without much compositional incrementalism from previous metal efforts but still remains in the way of a wandering tune a pleasant winding offering of the variations in a mind.