While Mayhem was dubbed the godfathers of violent black metal in the mid-1990s, Emperor got most of the critical accolades. The band’s musical innovations are credited with having a massive impact on the genre than any other band. While violent and furious, Emperor’s music was influenced by Norwegian classical and folk music.
This resulted in the band’s sound being dubbed as Viking metal by some. While the band’s music garnered widespread acclaim in the heavy metal space, lineup shifts and legal challenges occurred when some band members became involved in general violence and anti-Christian activism.
The band’s original lineup included keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Ihsahn, drummer Samoth, and bassist Mortiis. The trio released a demo titled Wrath of the Tyrant in late 1992. Soon drummer Faust joined the band, and Samoth switched to playing guitar. The quartet then worked on a split EP with another band, Enslaved.
The result is an EP called Hordanes Land. During that time, bassist Mortiis left the group (and the country) and moved to Sweden, where he pursued a solo career. He was replaced by new bassist Tchort. In the Nightside Eclipse, the band’s full-length debut earned them a worldwide cult following and critical acclaim.
Unfortunately, around the same time, Tchort was sentenced for desecration, knife assault, and burglary, Samoth was convicted for burning down a wooden church, and Faust was convicted of murder, burglary, and arson. He was also charged with murder for stabbing a man who made a pass at him.
After Samoth was paroled, the band regrouped and welcomed new bassist Almer and new drummer Trym. The group recorded Reverence, a three-track EP, in 1996. The EP served as a precursor to the highly acclaimed 1997 album, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk.
After Alver left, the band recorded IX Equilibrium, their fourth album, and released it in 1999. The following year, they released Emperial Live Ceremony, the band’s first concert recording.