Launching with the Queen-meets-Slayer bluster of "Curse All You Men," "Scattered Ashes" collects 27 of this Norwegian black-metal powerhouse's most impressive cuts. Currently on hiatus (a term that's flexible, to say the least, among European metal bands), Emperor cut a wide and influential swath across the '90s metal scene with a relentlessly powerful sound that relied on neither numb technicality nor brute force for its effectiveness. Able to inject just enough melodic temperament into the swirling, gothic rage, Emperor managed to make breakneck speed and dark bombast merge to powerful effect. This collection provides ample evidence as to why the band was such a formidable influence: Their nuanced, complex style was something that was largely novel in the early '90s, as many bands at that point fell firmly into easily compartmentalized styles. Emperor's facility with epic melodicism and sheer viciousness made them unique among both prog-metal bands and their rougher black metal counterparts. By the time the group got around to cutting later tracks like "The Tongue of Fire" and "In The Wordless Chamber," a style that was once novel for its complexity had become burdened by increasingly difficult structures. It's on those cuts that "Scattered Ashes" sounds confusingly opaque, especially compared to earlier viscera of songs like "The Majesty of the Nightsky."