Tribute albums are an interesting proposition. Ostensibly based on the concept of taking a particularly renowned band and delivering inferior versions of their songs, there’s a level of cognitive dissonance that is hard to avoid. “We think this band is so good that we should pay tribute to them” suggests an inherent inferiority in one’s own music, and if that is the case, why would you want to create a sub-standard version of something you claim to worship? That said, the reality is not that black and white and the humble tribute record is usually found to be a mixed bag, offering both the sublime and the ridiculous, often on the same record.
Emperor are one of the best bands to ever exist within all metal sub genres. From the naked virtuosity of Ihsahn’s neo-classical riffs, to the maelstrom atmosphere and the only ever successful integration of Synths into the black metal sound, Emperor are a band that transcended all limits of their genre, origins and scene to create records that were truly inspired. To cover their songs takes a certain confidence, and with “In Honour Of Icon E” we see a number headline names throwing caution to the wind and attempting to interpret one of the most distinctive bands to ever walk metal’s thorny path.
Does it succeed? It depends how you measure success. Revisiting Emperor is always a refreshing experience and one that for many brings back memories of their first tentative steps into black metal. It’s hard to deny the sheer musicality of these songs, and they really do give credence to the tired cliché that is far too often bandied about of metal sharing similarities with classical music.
The problem really comes in around track 4 with Infer and their cover of “Ye Entrancemperium”. The original is such an awe-inspiring work, such a monolithic testament to a scene, a time and a place that will never be replicated that this version is exposed as all that it could ever have been, a weak imitation. Instrumentally, Infer are bang on, vocals are competent and there’s nothing negative as such to point out, it’s just that it isn’t Emperor, and with that magic missing, the whole essence is sadly undermined.
There are highlights and as is usually the case with this sort of thing this comes when a band isn’t afraid to put their own spin on the track rather than delivering a by rote cover. Midnight Odessey deliver an almost haunting take on “Cosmic Keys To My Creation And Times”. Horna predictably deliver a version of “Wrath Of The Tyrant” that is so good, it may well exceed the original and Setherial close the album off with an exceptional take on “Inno A Satana”. These moments are sadly few and far between however and are vastly out numbered by the mediocre.
This is a record that does nothing wrong, delivers a few genuinely strong moments and essentially delivers an inoffensive shot of nostalgia. On the whole though, apart from the aforementioned tracks, there’s nothing added here that couldn’t be found listening to the original versions and when the authentic experience is so compelling, it’s hard to rationalise the necessity of this record.