The origin of black metal dates to the early ’80s, with bands like Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Bathory, Venom, and others. All of these bands are considered to be “founders” of the genre, and they are also considered to be the first wave of black metal. The genre followed thrash, combining it with death metal to create something unique and new.
Almost a decade later, bands continued following this prototype to create a second wave during the nineties. The bands kept trademarks of the genre like tremolo picking, distortions, and raw recordings.
The creation of the second wave was led by Norwegian bands like Satyricon, Mayhem, Immortal, Emperor, Burzum, Gorgoroth, and others.
Early Days and In the Nightside Eclipse
The early nineties was a great time for the Norwegian music scene. Emperor is one of the bands that started creating music at the beginning of the decade. The band was founded in 1991 by Ihsahn and Samoth who first met at a rock seminar. They started playing together under several different names like Xerasia, Dark Device, and Embryonic.
Eventually, two of them found a drummer and created the Thou Shalt Suffer band. In the early days, Ihsahn sang and he played the guitar, while Samoth played the bass. However, after a while, Samoth started writing new music and together with Mortiis and Ihsahn, they created Emperor. Interestingly, during the earliest days of Emperor, Samoth played drums instead of bass and Mortiis was the bass player.
After a while, Samoth returned to playing the guitar, and they hired Faust as their drummer with whom they recorded their first EP called Emperor. Mortiis left a bit over a year later to start his solo project.
During 1992, several things happened. Samoth went on a “mission” of burning old churches across Norway. On the other hand, Faust claimed that he was invited to walk through the forest with drunk Magne Andreassen. While in the forest, Faust claimed that he tried to make sexual advances, and he proceeded to stab him to death. The next day, Faust went with Euronymous from the Norwegian band Mayhem and Varg Vikernes from the project Burzum to burn Oslo’s Holmenkollen Chapel.
In 1993, they planned to release their first official full album, and they started recording it. The album came out in 1994 and was called “In the Nightside Eclipse.” Emperor also stopped wearing corpse paint because they said that it became a trend.
Finally, during the same year, Samoth was sentenced for burning the chapel along with Varg Vikernes, and Faust was incarcerated for murder. Their first album was released a year later and earned them an impressive fanbase.
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk and IX Equilibrium
The band was on pause due to Samoth’s imprisonment, and they continued recording in 1996. The newest addition to the group was Trym on drums and Alver on bass. They recorded their second album Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk before their bassist Alver left the band. The album won several awards, including “album of the year.”
Emperor continued touring as a trio, and they recorded their third album called IX Equilibrium. However, Samoth and Trym started turning toward black metal during the 2000s.
Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise and Breakup
In 2001, Emperor released their final album before they broke up. Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise was entirely written and composed by Ihsahn. Due to noticeable creative differences between Samoth and Ihsahn, the band broke-up. Both admitted that they never thought they would be playing again as Emperor, and it seemed that it was the end of one of the most popular black metal bands.
Surprise Shows and Tours
During 2006, Emperor played a short three-song concert as a surprise in Oslo, and they even announced several shows in Europe and the U.S. They continued having live performances from time to time without any plans of recording any new records as Emperor.
Samoth announced in 2007 that the band would be releasing a live DVD along with an album called Live Inferno. Emperor reunited for several shows and festivals in 2013, 2014, and from 2016 until today. There was an additional controversy when Faust joined them during the 2014 show.
They played across Europe in July this year, and there will be three shows in Japan this November as well.