Second wave of black metal tyrants Emperor blew down the gates with such seminal frostbitten masterpieces as 1994’s In the Nightside Eclipse and 1997’s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, spearheading the symphonic black-metal style that would later be taken to Ozzfest in a more commercialized form by Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and others. The Norwegian genre leaders haven’t released an album since 2001’s Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise, but have re-formed to tour and play festivals numerous times in the years since then. And in that time, their influence and legacy has only grown. Below are just five of the many bands that wouldn’t be here without them.
Matt Heafy — singer-guitarist-bandleader of Floridan metal stalwarts Trivium — is a huge Emperor fan. He’s repped their band shirts in promo photos over the course of his career, and echoes of the Norwegian’s majestic and progressive inclinations can be heard in his own group’s music. His fandom will take its penultimate form when he finally unveils his long-gestating side project, Mrityu, with none other than Emperor frontman Ihsahn.
Wolves in the Throne Room
Nature-loving Pacific Northwest USBM champions Wolves in the Throne Room have long pushed the boundaries of black metal, incorporating elements of post-rock, folk, ambient music and more across such game-changing albums as 2007’s Two Hunters and 2009’s Black Cascade. Led by brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver, the group embodies an adventurous spirit from which a clear line can be drawn to Emperor’s own fearless ambition.
Phoenix, Arizona-born black-metal outfit Abigail Williams were so inspired by the windswept riffery of Emperor that main man Ken Sorceron enlisted drummer Trym Torson — known for his work with the Norwegian trailblazers — to play on all but three cuts off his band’s 2008 debut, In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns. Much as Emperor did, the band has since evolved in a more progressive direction, culminating in last year’s wide-ranging Walk Beyond the Dark.
While these controversial critical darlings are most celebrated for a “blackgaze” sound that’s far from “kvlt,” Deafheaven draw deep influence from Emperor and other tried-and-trve scene figureheads. Look no further than the group’s most recent single, “Black Brick” — one of their heaviest songs ever — for the evidence.
That Emperor’s reach has spanned as far as Taiwan is a testament to the power of their vision. That the Asian nation’s ChthoniC would think to add traditional instruments, such as the two-stringed erhu, Tibetan Bells and pgaki flutes, to the Norwegian’s symphonic black-metal approach is a testament to that band’s own ingenuity.