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The cosmic forces driving me
More noble, more free
Love and hate and all in between
I greet them all in ecstasy

From the song "Ensorcelled by Rhaos" by Emperor

Emperor is one hell of a black metal band. Let's talk Norwegian metal history: In the mid-90's, the band Mayhem were known widely as the kings of the violent metal scene. However, most of the critical attention went to Emperor. Their musical innovations had more impact on black metal than others could even dream. A lot of bands used metal as a cannon to fire off their anti-Christian whining. I think that Emperor has used it as it should be; as a great way to express some music. Yes, the music is pretty darned violent with furiosity, but you can really hear an influence from those haunting Norwegian folk melodies that really creep people out.

I think it is important to point out that Emperor are not a Satanic band. Yes, their lyrics focus around death and about as much Pagan worship as a person can handle without buying new black boots with silver buckles, but never have I heard them mention Satan or God (the Christian God, that is), or anything that the punk-ass Satan bands do. I've read some articles that call their kind of music "Viking metal", I guess because of the pre-Christian influence of Scandinavian culture.

I want to talk about who is in the band. This is going to be confusing, as the lineup has changed a lot over the past decade. Originally, they were:

The three of them recorded the band's first demo in late 1992. It was called Wrath of the Tyrant. They soon added a member, Faust, as a percussionist and Samoth switched to guitarist. The new foursome recorded a split EP with a band called "Enslaved" titled Hordanes Land. After this recording (and this is kinda weird), Mortiis was forced to leave the band, and the country, for undisclosed reasons. He moved to Sweden to make a go at a solo career, often appearing dressed up as an elf.

The band recruited bassist Tchort to replace Mortiis, and recorded their full-length debut album, In the Nightside Eclipse. Everyone loved it; they earned great critical acclaim and a large group of darkly-clothed, long-haired, pale-faced followers upon its release in '94. However, at almost the same time, Samoth was convicted of arson after a delightful church burning, and Tchort was arrested for theft, assault with a knife, and desecration. Also, Faust was put away for arson, burglary, and murder, stabbing a gay friend fourteen times for making a pass at him in Olympic Park in Lillehammer. Here's our lineup now:

  • Samoth - Church-burner
  • Tchort - Armed robber
  • Faust - Homophobic psycho
  • Mortiis - Solo elven refugee in Sweden
  • Ihsahn - vocal/guitar/keyboard

So, Ihsahn waited until Samoth's parole, when Emperor reformed with a new bassist, Alver, and the new drummer and former Enslaved member, Trym. Together, they recorded two albums, Reverence and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. Then, Alver left the band, leaving the rest to pick up spare members Tyr and Charmand Grimloch to fill the holes left by deserters and convicts. They released IX Equilibrium in 1999, and their first concert recording, Emperial Live Ceremony a year later.