As far as embracing new styles of metal, I had the most difficulty with the Norwegian black metal scene. Don’t get me wrong, black metal can make for an enjoyable listen. Having a few bands writing great music with themes revolving around Satan is pretty cool. Although when band members are killing each other, committing acts of terrorism, and/or sympathizing with the actions of the National Socialist Party, well that makes it kinda difficult to enjoy their music. Fortunately, this scene also gave us Emperor, a band that was creative enough to distract the non-kvlt fans from the atrocities set in motion by many of these musicians.
Emperor is interesting for a number of reasons. One of their most notable characteristics was the use of keyboards. Black metal as a subgenre had already existed for over a decade, yet no band had utilized this instrument to the extent that Emperor did on their debut. Added in primarily to establish atmosphere, the use of the keyboards helped to give Emperor’s music a simultaneous sense of mystique and horror. This was a unique feature in black metal for the early 90’s, and seeing as how common it is today just goes to show how influential Emperor would soon become.
Another noteworthy trait this band possesses is a willingness to experiment. Progression in metal can be somewhat of a dirty process, but Emperor pulled it off gracefully. Aside from the expanding diversity of riffs from album to album, Ihsahn also began to expand on his vocal technique. With “In the Nightside Eclipse” he used the standard Bathory-esque scream, yet over the course of the next three albums he also incorporated clean singing and even a few falsetto screams in the vein of King Diamond. Black metal can benefit from diversity in vocal approach, and luckily we had bands like Opeth and Emperor willing to experiment with this.
With only four albums Emperor created their own unique style, one that was both true to their forefather’s in Mercyful Fate and Bathory and able to inspire the next generation of black metal bands to come. For this reason, and those above, Emperor will go down in history as one of the most essential bands within the sub-genre. If you are currently skeptical of black metal, whether it be for the ideologies or the validity of the music, then do yourself a favor and listen to these albums. It could change your opinion.