Legion of the Night
An interview with Emperor
by Chad Hensley

   Beneath a horned moon frosted winds wail over the ice pocked plains of Norway. Shadows pool under an enormous ancient oak and a cloaked figure rises from the coagulating darkness. In his mortal form he is called Ihsahn, vocalist and guitar player for the demoniac entity known as Emperor. Within his hands he holds a volume bound in scaly, black flesh- an opus that has been aptly named In the Nightside Eclipse.
   It is their first full length release, a cacophonous liturgy of monstrous black metal. A nightmare monument of classical keyboards honed with holocaustic guitar, hammering drum beat, and the cries of a thousand hell spawned souls.
    Ihsahn pulls down his cowl to reveal a face smeared with corpse paint and his voice hisses with the wind- "Corpse paint is an essential mark of Black Metal. The atmosphere it creates visualizes the most grim and macabre nature of the artist. The dark forces reflect my soul and it is within them that I learn to create." Beyond the light of material life, Ihsahn screams for the spirit world of the "Pantheon" - a midnight landscape of howling winter wolfs prowling the forest in great packs outside decayed castle walls.

 emperor1.jpg (7872 bytes)

Many of the epitaphs etched in In the Nightside Eclipse meld the imagery of occult horror and necromantic sorcery with concepts expressed in the fiction of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. "The Burning Sounds of Silence", "Beyond the Great Vast Forever", and "I am the Black Wizards" are three song on In the Nightside Eclipse that leave the listener mesmerized by Emperor’s black art.
    In the Nightside Eclipse is Emperor’s second release on Century Media. Their first was a split CD with label mates Enslaved (another Norwegian extreme metal act) entitled Hordane’s Land. More recently, Norway’s Head Not Found label has just made available Wrath of the Tyrant- a vinyl LP of the band’s early recordings. But, due to the fact that Ihsahn is the only remaining member currently not imprisoned, there may never be a follow up to legend that has been left behind by In the Nightside Eclipse. However, Ihsahn’s spirit remains undaunted. Both social Darwinist and Satanist, he continues to strive against those against him- "Christianity is practiced by people to weak to control their own lives. The religion represents illogical pity morals that stride against the laws of nature. It has no place in beautiful Norway." But unlike most musical groups that lay claim to the philosophyt that "Might is Right", Emperor has taken action. Of the four original members, guitarist Samoth has been incarcerated for the arson of a church and drummer Faust is serving a sentence for the brutal murder of a homosexual man who expressed feelings towards him. The third member, keyboardist Mortiis, left the band to form his own one man nocturnal symphony and has just released, Anden Som Gjorde Oppror, on Sweden’s experimental music label Cold Meat Industry. While Ihsahn still continues to plot a future for Emperor...

emperor2.jpg (4006 bytes)

When did Emperor form?

Emperor was brought to existence in the autumn of Anno 1991.

Tell me about the church burning that Samoth is currently incarcerated for. Was the church still being used? What time of day did he set fire to it? Were there any witnesses? What did he hope to accomplish?

Skjold Church was a large wooden church about 100 years old. The church contained an alter board and preaching chair from the 16th century. All this was said to be of

historical, Christian value. So it was to be reduced to a pile of ashes. The material damages are set to be of 13 million Norwegian Kroners. The church was still being used by a large flock of blind followers. It became a victim for true Norwegian spirit on the 13th of September Anno 1992 during a stormy night. Witnessed by the moon, this symbolic act of anti-Christian war enlightened the night with pagan flames. Heathen barbarism is one the rise. We will bring back the forgotten past of strength, pride, and victory.

Why do you choose to side with the Darkness?

The dark forces reflect my soul, and it is within them that I learn to create. In darkness, beyond the light of material life, I live out the spirit in me. In the light of my inner flame I observe the secrets hidden from the sun, unseen by the mortal, to be found by spirits of my kind.

Do you believe in any gods? Do you believe in Christianity’s Satan or Jehovah?

Yes, I believe in gods, as personified symbols of forces that are unrecognizable to the physical senses, and therefore must be associated through those channels the human mind is capable of using. Satan versus Jehovah/God/Christ is a very good symbolic perspective on the contrast between different forces. This is, of course, just another version among many other religions, though personally I find the visual and lyrical symbolism in Satanism very appealing and satisfactory when used for strong associations. As for Christ, I can accept that some guy called Jesus once lived and claimed to be the son of God, being affected by a force that gave him this strange idea. Nevertheless, believing that he was, and that he is the savior of all people , I live this to the Christians. Heaven and Hell are also good visual symbols on the forces in contrast, and their affects on the afterlife, but a little too simplified.

Are you religious? If so, what religion do you follow or favor?

Yes. I am religious in that I have a very spirited view on my belief. And, I am a Satanist, due to what I explained about appealing and satisfactory symbolism.

Are you involved in the occult?

I do appreciate the magical and occult subject. This is quite a personal matter and I am not interested in sharing my pretentious secrets.

What do you think of Asatru?

Asatru is a very essential aspect of Norwegian history, in heritage and spirit. It is also a very interesting and intelligent faith.

Tell me about the current Black Metal scene in Norway.

In spite of several complications that occurred because of all the imprisoning and the murder of Euronymous (guitarist and singer for Mayhem), the scene seems to be get back together. We have many promising new bands and projects. Of course, there are still some minor problems with persons that are unwanted. But I believe that Norway has the strongest Black Metal scene ever.

Who are your musical influences?

Rather, "what" are my musical influences. My belief and the total concept of Emperor. At the moment, I am listen to quite a lot of Beethoven. Also much ambient and techno. I do like the new Immortal Battles in the North.

Why do you wear "corpse paint"? What does this mean to you?

Corpse paint is a fundemental part of Black Metal and underlines what the music is all about. Unfortunately, this cult symbol has been abused by the unworthy and has lost some of the power it once had.

emperor3.jpg (12746 bytes)

What does your family think of Emperor?

They have always been very supportive. The know that we are good musicians and can reach far with what we do. They do not necessarily agree with the concept nor have they always the greatest understanding of the totality of the music.

Has Emperor released any vinyl 7 inches?

Samoth released As the Shadows Rise on his own label Nocturnal Art Productions as a limited edition of a 1000 copies.

Do you believe in the philosophy - Strong over the weak or Might is right?

Both of them. It is the law of nature. The strong survive. That is basically the mentality behind my Satanism- the individual. Strong, intelligent, and powerful.

What do you think of society and the direction it is heading?

I do not like society in general as the whole world is full of masses of people that I have no relation to nor interest for at all. Very few people compared to the extreme masses are likely to understand and communicate with the persons of my kind. As far as the way society is heading I see a lot of people dying because of their stupidity. I just really hope to make the best out of it for myself and those I care for with the time I have left here.

What do you think of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan?

Anton LaVey is a very intelligent man. He, with his church, is very good at getting people into the anti-Christian and Satanic concept. Having his ideologies nicely written out to people so that even the simplest housewife can agree with it. Many of his ideas are very good, others I disagree with. But an individual should think for itself.

Contact- Nocturnal Art Productions, Box 53, 3812 Akkerhaugen, Telemark, Norway.

First appeared in EsoTerra #6 1995