Emperor is Symphonic Black Metal. Does anything else really need to be said? Perhaps yes, but more on that later. The band was appearing on what were announced as farewell shows and the first time around were missing their member Samoth. This show found him back in the ranks and the group leveling the club with openers Averse Sefira. We were on point for the Metal community and should you like to learn more just scroll past the logo below to be brought to our thoughts and images from the show
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Averse Sefira
Label: Candlelight Records
“Let us all Hail and raise the horns high for the Emperor has returned to guide us into the Darkness of Black Metal once again”. Sorry readers, I honestly felt the need to grab your attention here and given their scope and influence on the Black Metal genre as a whole I am sure that you can agree that Emperor deserves nothing less than words both majestic and grandiose. We are just short of the month and day one year ago where on this very same ground the legions and acolytes to these dark lords stood once before as Emperor made their first appearance in some years. Their absence had seemed like forever but it did make sense since all of the members were now involved in other projects such as solo work and bands like Zyklon. The shows that made it to the states were long sold out and found each venue visited filled to their maximum capacity. It was a great experience to behold as a crowd like this was not easy to get at a show, but we are referring to Emperor. The enthusiasm remained high even though a wrench was tossed into the works as it became clear that their guitarist Samoth would not be able to join these visits based on VISA issues he had encountered. Isahn and company made sure to leave the audience wanting more but the missing guitarist did take something away from the overall sound for that night. In any event it was a memorable show that was talked about for weeks to come on websites and blogs everywhere.
Tonight we would find the band returning to the States for the second of three shows that had been arranged and the lucky cities outside of New York would be Chicago and Los Angeles. I know that putting a tour package together is tough and expensive but I really felt that a band whose power over the genre is so potent should have done a full-scale extensive tour for the fans. The limited dates made each show a special occasion and tickets were very pricy and hard to come by. These shows would also feature two support acts with Eyes Of The Dead and Averse Sefira getting everyone warmed up and feeling the Metal blood flow strong inside them. I walked in as EOTD were performing and caught a few numbers but not their entire set. They were pretty good I would admit but they were getting mixed response from the folks in the front. I viewed this as just an impatience for things Emperor. Their music is a solid blend of Metal genres and focuses on the Black meets Death angle. In addition to their originals they would choose to close with a cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”. While I loved the way they handled it I am not sure that they should have chosen this particular song because it ended up as the best number. I don’t think that they would want to be remembered as the band that did the Slayer cover. Averse Sefira was next and this was Black Metal without a doubt. They look and sound a lot like 1349 in my opinion but they were not as blistering as I felt that band was. There was intensity in their approach and one would expect this from any of these Swedish and Norwegian bands but therein lies the problem – Averse Sefira is from Austin, Texas. I found it cool to see such a true and back to basics portrayal of this genre from the States as it gives us hope and continued belief that Metal is growing stronger day by day. Before tonight I will have only heard the bands name but despite this I was finding them impressive for the manner in which they carried themselves and truly got your attention with every tune. The three piece group is fronted by Sanguine Mapsama who both sings and plays the guitar – all members sport corpse paint and are rather intimidating to observe. They are a perfect addition to the Candlelight Records family and should fit in well with a number of the acts that this label is making more prominent of late. Now it would be time for all to take a deep breath and raise their voices to maximum volume as Emperor’s arrival was but moments away.
To me, Emperor represents the best from the time when the Symphonic Black Metal genre began and despite those who feel that the original Black Metal form was started by Venom, I still find myself referring to the power and majesty of their classic tunes when I speak of beginnings. I will take anything from “Into The Nightside Eclipse” and “Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk” over Venom’s entire early back catalog when it comes down to it. As a band they showed that this genre was not a one-trick pony but instead a widely expanding canvas that could be painted with musical colors of many different shades. To define the air as electrically charged tonight would be an understatement and many of the audience attendees crammed their way to the main floor area to get a better feel of the night. While this appeared to be a sold out event it did not strike me that it was as jam packed as the last time around. This could have been based on where I positioned myself because it was still quite crowded. The audience was made up of both industry regulars and diehard fans. I liked the fact that a lot of familiar faces were present which proves their continued support of the bands that pass through town. As we noted, the last time around in 2006, the band would appear minus guitarist Samoth and this made Isahn focus his energy on filling as much of the guitar void left behind. Tonight, Samoth would be here and as he walked onto the stage the response was incredible. I spoke to a fan at the side stage and he said very simply that “Samoth represents the brutality in Emperor” and while this is his view I had to admit that I found myself in agreement with him. They jumped into their set very quickly and Isahn was totally on point and seemed a little more comfortable now with the added presence of Samoth to help make this music sound its best. Drummer Trym was absolutely punishing his massive drum kit tonight and could hardly be seen by the audience based on the amount of cymbals and drums he had at hand. His movements and sound were literally a super sonic blur that made you wonder how he could physically undertake this. As a writer & photographer I am fortunate enough to be able to do some work in the photo pit when these shows first begin and tonight this area was filled with more cameras than I had ever seen. There was also a large amount of video being shot and it seemed to be under the bands direction. Odds are that this particular tour will find some sort of presence on DVD, and we can only hope for this to be the case. As the set progressed I realized that it was the exact same set as they performed last time around and I think that this was done on purpose for the band has made it very clear that their time together as Emperor is pretty much done. It was supposed to happen last year, but with the VISA issues for Samoth they decided to swing around one more time to give the fans the show that they had expected and deserved. Musically this was one of the tightest performances I had witnessed and this is crucial for a band that moves at such a blistering pace. Having Samoth back also allowed the fullness and richness that is Emperors brand of Symphonics to flow seamlessly. Once again the band would find their live session players of Secthdamon (Odd Tony) on bass and Einar Solberg on the keyboards. Odd Tony is also a member of the band Zyklon with Samoth.
Isahn spoke to the crowd on a number of occasions but clearly he was trying to be more about the music tonight and give everyone present their money’s worth. To be honest I prefer less talk and more music when it’s a band like this. One of the main things he brought up was about the last time they performed here and how it was different without Samoth, but now we are ok since he was among them once more. Samoth himself seemed very pleased with the reaction he was causing which was definitely a good thing as I felt that this brought even more intensity out of the guitarist. When they brought forth “Thus Spake The Nightspirit”, the entire audience was singing along with Isahn and made this one of the night’s earliest highlights. The lack of difference in the set list found the group once again concentrating on the first three albums but also making a little room for a track from “Prometheus” with “In A Wordless Chamber”. The track shows a little added Progressive aspect to the band which of course proves further that their creativity did not cease as their career continued over the years. There would be more musical highlights to enjoy and with the rich history of their back catalog and how it was received last time had no one complaining about the songs being the same. The played a little over an hour and a half and to the raging screams of the crowd the band briefly returned with “I Am The Black Wizard” as one of their three encores. It was one of the best displays of Metal power I have seen in awhile.
There are many who feel that this was the last chance to see Emperor and that if you were not there then you missed out and don’t count on any return. My views on this are different because in Metal it’s not often wise to speak in such absolutes. We continually find bands that the world thought would never return coming back from the brink of historical memory. Perhaps after a little time doing projects and other musical and life adventures that they work on some new music that will find the Emperor needing to visit their loyal subjects once again. I am pretty confident that they will find us willing to do their Black Metal bidding once again.
1. Into The Infinity Of Thoughts
2. Burning Shadows Of Silence
3. Cosmic Keys To My Creations & Times
4. Thus Spake The Nightspirit
5. ‘An Elegy Of Icaros
6. Curse You All Men!
7. ‘With Strength I Burn
8. Towards The Pantheon’
9. The Majesty Of The Nightsky
10. The Loss And Curse Of Reverence
11. In The Wordless Chamber’
12. Inno A Satana
13. Opus A Satana Part 1
14. I Am The Black Wizard – encore
15. Ye Entrancemperium – encore
16. Opus A Satana II – outro