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Music / Emperor

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Emperor is, or was, a Norwegian Black Metal band, founded in 1991 by Ihsahn, Samoth, and Mortiis. A number of bassists and drummers came and went during the band's existence, with Ihsahn (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Samoth (guitar) forming the nucleus of the band. While they were officially active they released one demo, four full-length albums, a live album, and a handful of EP's and splits. In their early years Emperor was caught up in the turmoil and controversy of the Norwegian black metal scene of the early '90s, and following the recording of their first full-length album two members were arrested and imprisoned, Samoth for arson and drummer Faust for murder (no jaywalking charges were reported). Samoth was released after 18 months, but Trym of Enslaved replaced Faust, whose sentence was much longer. After this the band's criminal activities waned and they released three more albums before disbanding in 2001. The band reformed briefly in 2006-2007 for some live shows. In 2009 they released their second DVD/CD combo, a two-disc set culled from some festival performances, which they've said is "the final nail in the coffin" for the band. Despite this, the band announced that they would reunite once again to headline the Wacken and Bloodstock festivals in 2014, with Faust on drums. Trym has since rejoined the band.

The band is known for their melodic and symphonic take on black metal, bringing an element of complexity and epicness to the genre. They have been both lauded and scorned for their contributions in this regard by the black metal community. They continue to be one of the more popular bands from the second wave of black metal, having sold over half a million records since the foundation of the band. The members have had a number of other projects since the band's later days. While the band was still active Samoth and Trym started their death metal band Zyklon, while Ihsahn and his wife Ihriel began their avant-garde project Peccatum. Both have since disbanded, and Ihsahn has recently released his fifth solo album in the Progressive Metal vein. Other projects include a punk band, an ambient classical album, another death metal band, and even a folk metal album. Previous members also found renown with other projects, such as Mortiis' solo project and Tchort's band Green Carnation.

Not to be confused with The Emperor.

Current Lineup:

  • Ihsahn - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, programming
  • Samoth - guitar
  • Trym - drums

Former Members:

  • Mortiis - bass
  • Tchort - bass
  • Alver - bass
  • Faust - drums

Live / Session Members:

  • Secthdaemon - bass (2005-2007, 2013-2014, 2017-2019)
  • Erik Tiwaz - bass (19981999)
  • Ildjarn - bass (1993)
  • Einar Solberg - keyboards, backing vocals (2005-2007, 2013-2014, 2017)
  • Charmand Grimloch - keyboard (19961999)
  • Sverd - keyboard (1993-1994)
  • Jørgen Munkeby - keyboards, backing vocals (2018-2019)

Selected Discography:

  • Wrath of the Tyrant - 1992 (demo)
  • Emperor - 1993 (EP, also released as part of a split with Enslaved)
  • As the Shadows Rise - 1994 (EP, recorded during the Emperor sessions and later reissued as part of a five-way split entitled True Kings of Norway)
  • In the Nightside Eclipse - 1994
  • Reverence - 1996 (EP, later included in its entirety on the Anthems remaster)
  • Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk - 1997
  • IX Equilibrium - 1999
  • Emperial Live Ceremony - 2000 (live)
  • Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise - 2001
  • Live Inferno - 2009 (live)

Tropes common in Emperor's work include the following:

  • Album Title Drop: Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk appears in "The Acclamation of Bonds", while "The Majesty of the Night Sky" has the words "into the nightside eclipse", which is just one word removed from the album title, ''In the Nightside Eclipse".
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: And then Ihsahn was the Black Wizards.
  • Black Metal: I mean, what were you expecting? Emperor's early work is some of the most influential in the subgenre of symphonic black metal.
  • Careful with That Axe / Metal Scream: Mandatory for a Black Metal band.
    • Ihsahn is practically one of the Trope Codifiers for the type 3 Metal Scream. From Anthems onwards he started using type 1 as well. Secthdaemon predominantly uses type 2 and Einar Solberg uses all four.
  • Cover Version: "A Fine Day to Die" and "Call from the Grave" (Bathory), Ærie Descent (Thorns), "Gypsy" (Mercyful Fate), "Cromlech" (Darkthrone), "The Usurper" (Celtic Frost) "Funeral Fog" (Mayhem), "Massacra" (Hellhammer)
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Ihsahn's vocals on their early material (particularly In the Nightside Eclipse) are very atypical, being generally more high pitched and screamy than his later vocals. On Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk he starts sounding more like he does now.
  • Epic Rocking: Prime examples include "The Tongue of Fire" (7:10), "With Strength I Burn" (8:17), and "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" (8:14, longer if the intro is included).
  • Facial Markings: As a black metal band, they wore corpsepaint during their early existence. They dropped it after In the Nightside Eclipse.
  • "I Am" Song: "I Am the Black Wizards", though not in an at all conventional sense.
  • I Am the Band: Ihsahn and Samoth are the only constant members of Emperor.
  • New Sound Album: Each of their albums was more symphonic and less typical of black metal than its predecessor. Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk greatly increased the production value over the razor-thin sound found on In the Nightside Eclipse (of course, there are plenty of fans who will argue that the production on that album was absolutely perfect for the material found on it), and also substantially increased the symphonic influence on the music. IX Equilibrium departed even further from the standard black metal sound, and Prometheus was arguably no longer even recognizable as black metal, just being progressive metal with harsh vocals.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Following the departure of Alver, all of their subsequent bass guitarists were merely guest live members, while Ihsahn himself took to play the instrument in studio for both IX Equilibrium and Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: Mortiis' troll gimmick, which carried over into his solo project.
  • Progressive Metal: The prog influence on Emperor's work got progressively stronger with each album, to the point that Prometheus was arguably more of a prog album than a black metal album. Disagreement on the band's direction (Samoth and Trym wanted to go in a more stripped-down, Industrial Metal-influenced direction) was a large part of the reason they split up.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Samoth's stage name is basically a reversal of his real name, Tomas (Haugen). He even spelled his name as Samot on band's earlier material.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Alsvatr (The Oath)" and "Ye Entrancemperium".
  • Sir Not-Appearing-On-This-Tape: Tchort appears on the cover of Wrath of the Tyrant but doesn't play on it.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Ihsahn does the expected Metal Scream typically found in black metal, but he also does clean singing (it's worth noting that he's a classically trained vocalist). He often backs himself up, creating surprisingly sophisticated harmonies seldom found in black metal (their fellow countrymen Enslaved are one of the few other black metal acts that use similar vocals).
  • Start My Own: Ihsahn went solo while Samoth and Trym formed Zyklon when they broke up in 2001.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "The Wanderer", the instrumental closer to Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, as well as "Opus a Satana", a keyboard-based remake of In the Nightside Eclipse's "Inno a Satana". "Alsvatr (The Oath)" could also be considered an example, although since it leads into "Ye Entrancemperium", which is not at all an example of this trope, it could also be considered a subversion.
  • Symphonic Metal: Trope Codifier for the Black Metal section of the genre.
  • Title Track: On demo Wrath of the Tyrant. Also technically on IX Equilibrium, although the song title is written as "Nonus Aequilibrium".
  • Token Good Teammate: Ihsahn, who is the only performer on In The Nightside Eclipse who wasn't sent to prison for one reason or another.
  • Uncommon Time: "An Elegy of Icaros" has one riff where it's pretty much impossible to find two consecutive measures in the same meter signature (it can be heard starting at 1:04 and at the end of the song). There are segments of "Sworn" that do the same thing (one of them starts at 1:51). This also shows up in several songs on Prometheus, like "The Tongue of Fire" and "He Who Sought the Fire".
  • Vocal Evolution: See Early-Installment Weirdness above.