Emperor was far more successful than its black metal contemporaries for one very good reason: It was simply more musically accomplished than Mayhem, Darkthrone, and the others. The group's elaborate arrangements expanded on the black metal formula without sacrificing power. Emperor still fell prey to the genre's most glaring sonic flaws, of course, like the pursuit of speed for its own sake and the militant refusal to add low end to the mix. But at its best, Emperor's evil pomposity was backed up by skill and craftsmanship.
Disc one of this two-CD set is a perfect Emperor primer, collating the highlights from the band's four full-lengths, including a scorching live version of "Thus Spake the Nightspirit." The second disc offers lesser-known tracks, and will surely get black metal diehards drooling. Included are covers of Mayhem's "Funeral Fog" and Darkthrone's "Cromlech," as well as tracks from the band's first demo, Wrath of the Tyrant. All in all, this set is either the ideal introduction to a massively influential black metal band or a masterful consolidation of its best moments, plus a raft of rare treats. Consumer convenience and devastating metal power: Satan himself couldn't have done better.