The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s: #22, Emperor
The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.
In the early ’90s, heavy music was changed forever when a bunch of kooky kids from Norway decided to put on clown make-up, burn down a bunch of churches and generally behave like violent jerks, and make the most frightening racket possible. It goes without saying that this movement spawned a number of historically relevant, musically gifted, and morally flexible bands, but it is the not-so-humble opinion of your MetalSucks co-chiefs that Emperor were the best.
Why? Glad you asked: Emperor wrote the most sophisticated songs, their albums were the best produced, and they brilliantly added elements of the classical music they professed to love to their sound, thus setting themselves apart from the pack and more or less single-handedly creating symphonic black metal. In the Nightside Eclipse (1994) sounds like the soundtrack to a severely disturbing adaptation of Dracula, Anthems to the Welkin at Dust (1997) is a pummeling, proggy assault on the senses, and IX Equilibrium (1999) melds all the most punishing elements to the two.
(Incidentally, In the Nightside Eclipse was also, for many of us, an introduction to the legendary Necrolord.)
And yes. They committed homicidal hate crimes and decimated beautiful buildings of great historical significance. Which is terrible, but actually kinda adds to their importance. You do not think of Norwegian black metal without thinking about murder and church burnings, which means a crime-free band like Darkthrone or Enslaved can never quite definitively represent the scene. Or make listening to their albums so bittersweet, for that matter. Varg Vikernes is a prick, but it’s easy to give up Burzum because Burzum sucks. Emperor’s music, on the other hand, is addictive; once you’ve been swept away in it, it’s very hard to get your feet back on the ground.
For better or worse, we know this to be true: black metal would not have developed the way it did through the ’90s if not for this band. They may have ruled with violence, but they did rule.