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Overtly Satanic act based in Telemark that gained a fair degree of attention on the back of the MAYHEM and BURZUM feud in 1993. However, a few short years later EMPEROR’s star has eclipsed many other Black Metal acts and the band can truly be regarded as amongst the handful of leading bands in their chosen field. EMPEROR toured globally and their record sales are into the many hundreds of thousands.
EMPEROR started young with the debut single featuring a fourteen year old vocalist / guitarist Ihsahn (real name Vegard Sverre Tveitan) and fifteen year old Samoth (Tomas Thormodsaeter Haugen). The band’s early line-up also included bassist Mortiis (Haavard Ellefsen) who appears on the band’s 1992 demo, the 7" single ‘As The Shadows Rise’ and EMPEROR’s split 1993 album with ENSLAVED.
Prior to EMPEROR Samoth and Ihsahn had operated in the bands DARK DEVICE, XERASIA and EMBRYONIC. This latter act released the demo ‘The Lord Of Lost Souls’. Ihsahn had also tried his hand at Punk Rock with the proto band HAM RIDERS.
EMBRYONIC subsequently evolved into the Death Metal outfit THOU SHALT SUFFER comprising of Ihsahn on lead vocals and guitar, Samoth on guitar, bassist Ildjarn and drummer Thorbjшrn. A demo session ‘Into The Woods Of Belial’ was undertaken and a 7" EP released on the Mexican label Distorted Harmony entitled ‘Open The Mysteries Of Your Creation’. This latter release saw a switch in the band membership with Thorbjшrn taking over the bass role and Ronny taking on drums.
In mid 1991 Samoth had got a further project up and running titled EMPEROR. The band’s debut line-up had the guitarist joined by vocalist / guitarist Ygg, Samot (Samoth) on drums and bassist Mortiis for the inaugural ‘Wrath Of The Tyrant’ demo. After this tape, ‘Orcutus’ magazine founder and THORNS member Faust (real name Bеrd Eithun) then of STIGMA DIABOLICUM, took the drummers role and Samoth switched to guitar. Faust had in the late 80’s played in a proto Black Metal band made up of Frost (later of SATYRICON), Messiah (pre MAYHEM and IMPOSTER), Nemo (another future IMPOSTER member) along with bassist Jonas Alver (later to join the EMPEROR family tree).
EMPEROR’s CD debut came with a split album shared with Viking Metallers ENSLAVED. Samoth also established his own label Nocturnal Arts to issue the ‘As The Shadows Rise’ EP.
Scheduled to support DEICIDE in London prior to the headliners cancelling at the last minute EMPEROR went on to play their own hastily arranged show which highlighted their many weaknesses as an inexperienced live act. EMPEROR proved that scary facepaint was not enough. Strangely enough their support band for the London show was Christian Thrash band MOURN, who duly brandished a large golden cross onstage much to EMPEROR’s displeasure. Following this shaky start, and further touring with CRADLE OF FILTH in 1995, EMPEROR opted to dispense with the corpsepaint. From this juncture they would quickly establish themselves as one of the premier acts of the genre.
1994 also found both Ihsahn and Samoth involved with the ZYKLON-B project for the ‘Blood Must Be Shed’ album working alongside Frost of SATYRICON and DШDHEIMSGARD man Aldrahn. However, shortly after completing the ZYKLON-B sessions Faust, Samoth and bassist Tchort (Terje Vik Schei), of GREEN CARNATION, were imprisoned for church burning, which delayed the recording of the debut album. These charges related to the arson of the Holmenkollen chapel and others in which it is alleged members of EMPEROR participated with Count Grisnackh of BURZUM and MAYHEM’s Euronymous. Faust was also implicated in the murder of a homosexual in August 1992 and, being found guilty, was given a life sentence. He would be due for parole in 2003.
The band achieved further notoriety in France when a youth obsessed by the Black Metal genre actually went as far as to desecrate a child's grave, stealing the corpse and fashioning himself curtains from the cadaver’s skin. When questioned by Police he claimed inspiration from EMPEROR.
In the face of EMPEROR's enforced lay off Samoth was far from idle contributing as a guest musician to albums by GORGOROTH and ARCTURUS. Samoth would also undertake some live gigs with SATYRICON and put down bass and guitar on their release 'The Shadowthrone'. Samoth also performed on BURZUM’s ‘Aske’ mini-album, the cover art for which featured a photograph of the burning church at Skjold. Ishahn meantime breathed new life into THOU SHALT SUFFER pursuing this as an electronic project.
Mortiis departed to concentrate on his Black Electronic solo project MORTIIS as EMPEROR regrouped by adding Ildjarn of THOU SHALT SUFFER employed on bass. The incarcerated Faust’s position for recording was taken by MAYHEM's Hellhammer, with keyboards supplied by Sverd of ARCTURUS. Hellhammer quit in late 1994 and Mefisto had a brief tenure on the kit but despite these uncertainties as to their future stability EMPEROR remained at the forefront of the Scandinavian Satanic Metal scene.
In 1996 EMPEROR cut a cover version of a HELLHAMMER track 'Massacre' for a tribute album 'In Memory Of Celtic Frost' recorded with ENSLAVED and GEHENNAH man Dirge Rep (Per Husebш) on drums.
With Samoth finding his freedom after serving his sentence EMPEROR settled their line-up for recording with Ihsahn and Samoth joined by bassist Tchort and erstwhile ENSLAVED drummer Trym Torsen (a.k.a. Kai Johnny Mosaker). 1997’s 'Anthems To The Welkin Dusk' album found Tchort supplanted by DШDHEIMSGARD man Jonas Alver. Tchort would leave the fold for SATYRICON but would later be jailed for six months convicted of desecration and knife assault.
Drums were supplied by Trym for the ‘Reverence’ outing and keyboards from April of 1998 were in the hands of Charmand Grimloch of TARTAROS. 1998’s ‘Wrath Of The Tyrants’ CD comprises all the Mortiis era EMPEROR material including the band’s 1992 demo and four tracks cut for the split ‘Hordanes Land’ CD. The band also appeared with their version of ‘Gypsy’ for a MERCYFUL FATE tribute album on Listenable Records and also with a version of BATHORY’s ‘A Time To Die’ on a further tribute effort.
The 1998 Moonfog release ‘Thorns Vs. Emperor’ included EMPEROR covering ‘Aerie Descent’ and ‘I Am’ from Faust and Snorre’s act THORNS.
EMPEROR's line-up problems were far from over though and in June of 1998 Alver quit. European touring on the festival circuit in April of 1999 found EMPEROR enlisting MORPHEUS WEB bassist Tyr (a.k.a. Jan-Erik Torgersen). Meanwhile, Grimloch released ‘The Red Jewel’ album by his project act TARTAROS in 1999. That same year both Ihsahn and Samoth featured as guest vocalists on ULVER's landmark conceptual piece 'Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell'.
In 2000 Ihsahn’s side project PECCATUM, in conjunction with his partner Ihriel and her brother Lord PZ, released the 'Oh, My Regrets' single. Meanwhile Samoth and Trym created ZYKLON for the 'World Ov Worms' cult album with MYRKSKOG’s guitarist Destructhor.
Portuguese Black Metal band SIRIUS, signed to Samoth’s Nocturnal Arts label, covered an EMPEROR track on their second album ‘Spectral Transition - Dimension Sirius’. The song featured Samoth on bass and even Faust on spoken word and drums.
EMPEROR then announced they intend to continue only as a studio project leaving the 'Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise' album as their live era epitaph. Former bassist Tyr went on to work with SATYRICON and BORKNAGAR.
During July of 2002 reports indicated that the former EMPEROR drummer Bеrd 'Faust' Eithun would be sitting behind the kit for the comeback of the equally controversial Black Metal band DISSECTION's comeback release, due in late 2004. Purely as a PR exercise let alone a creative union this proposed arrangement stoked controversy as it paired off two convicted murderers, DISSECTION mainman Jon Nцdtveit also jailed for a similar crime. The ex-EMPEROR man would also be reported as having formed a further project in alliance with erstwhile EMPEROR and now ZYKLON man Zamoth and Lars-Stian of SOURCE OF TIDE. However, this project, although announced, did not materialise. Eithun would figure in other Metal endeavours, scoring the lyrics for a new ZYKLON release and providing spoken word passages for Italian Black Metal band ABOYRM. Another high profile EMPEROR connected project in 2002 would be SCUM, a collaboration of extreme Metal elite players comprising ex-EMPEROR personnel Faust, MORTIIS and Samoth, Casey Chaos of US band AMEN, Cosmocrator of ZYKLON, SOURCE OF TIDE and MINDGRINDER with bassist Happy Tom from TURBONEGRO.
An EMPEROR anthology retrospective 'Scattered Ashes - A Decade of Emperial Wrath' was slated for early 2003 release. Ex-drummer Trym unveiled his new SHADOW SEASONS band project with a December 2002 EP 'The Frozen'. Torsem would also be manning the drums for Nottoden Heavy Metal band PAGANIZE.
Candlelight Records would re-issue 'Wrath Of The Tyrants', 'In The Nightside Eclipse', 'Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk' and 'IX Equilibrum' in late 2004, all four albums adding bonus material, being enhanced with both live and studio footage. 'Wrath Of The Tyrants' would include early rehearsal film alongside live outtakes from the band's 1993 support tour to CRADLE OF FILTH. 'In The Nightside Eclipse' saw the inclusion of material from a live show in Oslo for the song 'Towards The Pantheon' as well as other clips from live recordings in 1997. 'Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk' boasted a Finnish TV interview plus live clips from 1997-98, including the Dynamo Festival. 'IX Equilibrium' held footage from the No Mercy Festival tour as well as film from the band's only headline North American tour in 1999 and a clip from the Mystic Festival in Poland, the final EMPEROR performance.
In June 2005 the Back On Black label re-issued classic EMPEROR albums as limited edition, coloured vinyl discs with 'Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk' pressed in green, 'IX Equilibrium' in brown, 'In The Nightside Eclipse' in blue and 'Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise' on white vinyl. That same month the erstwhile EMPEROR drummer Faust announced a Punk project BOMBEROS in union with ex-MANIAC vocalist Maniac. Faust would also enroll into the ranks of Italian Black Metal band ABORYM and also teamed up with Oslo Thrash act BLOOD TSUNAMI in mid 2005.
EMPEROR announced they were to reform in September 2005, confirming a headline appearance at the 'Wacken Open Air' festival in 2006. Just as this reunion was made public EMPEROR, original members Ihshan and Samoth alongside drummer Trym, put in an unannounced, three song live appearance, featuring 'The Loss And Curse Of Reverence', 'I Am The Black Wizards' and 'Inno A Satana', at 'Scream' magazine's anniversary show on 30th September at the Oslo Rockefeller venue. Samoth and Trym still forged ahead with plans for the next ZYKLON opus, recording at Akkerhaugen Lydstudios in November. Also on the agenda would be a solo album, 'The Adversary', from IHSAHN featuring Asgeir Mickelson from BORKNAGAR on drums.
Curse You All Men
Thus Spake The Nightspirit
I Am The Black Wizards
An Elegy Of Icaros
With Strength I Burn
Night Of The Graveless Souls
Inno A Satana
The Loss And Curse Of Reverence
Empty (promo Video)
Ihsahn (vocals/ guitar)