Emperor: Symphony of Destruction
GW Ihsahn, on IX Equilibrium your vocals take on a King Diamond–esque quality. Had you been taking voice lessons?
IHSAHN Doing all the harmonies for “With Strength I Burn” [from Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk] made me realize I needed to get some training. So I started taking classical singing lessons to work on my technique. But even though my vocals sort of sound like King Diamond—and I’m a huge fan of his high-pitched vocal stuff—what I really tried to do was the rougher Rob Halford thing. But I can’t do it, so it ends up sounding way smoother like King Diamond anyway. [laughs]
GW Samoth, you and Trym started Zyklon around this time. Were you frustrated with the direction in which Emperor were heading?
SAMOTH The balance between Ihsahn’s progressive stuff and my death metal was exactly the balance that made Emperor what it was… and is. But it became more and more extreme. He became more progressive and I became more focused on raw, pure extreme metal. We just kept moving in different directions. Around IX Equilibrium and the preproduction stages of Prometheus, it became clear that we wanted different things. It was around that time when Trym and I formed Zyklon. We spent more time constructing what would become the first Zyklon album [World Ov Worms] rather than working on the final Emperor album. So it was clear from the start that Prometheus would be Emperor’s swansong. None of us wanted to compromise, so basically it was time to end it. Emperor had always been uncompromising, and we didn’t want to change that.
IHSAHN It was never our intention that I would write all of Prometheus, but I said to the guys, “If we’re doing this, I want to do it in my studio and do it properly.” It just turned out that I did it all. At that time I was handling most of all of Emperor’s business anyhow.
GW Songs like “The Eruption” reached new levels of complexity for Emperor. Ihsahn, what inspired the direction you took with your writing?
IHSAHN At the time of Prometheus I was trying to implement more fugues and classical theory into Emperor’s music. In physical volume, extreme metal is very much a straight line but not very dynamic. So I tried to use the orchestration and arrangements to give the feeling of dynamics.
GW Samoth, you’re credited with “additional guitars.” What does that mean exactly?
SAMOTH Ihsahn did the main parts of the album. I recorded my guitar parts, but this was right before Zyklon went on a full European tour with Morbid Angel. The timing wasn’t so great, and Ihsahn ended up writing the whole album. But I do play on Prometheus.
GW Ihsahn, you picked up a seven-string Ibanez around this time. Did you have to adjust your playing style?
IHSAHN It actually helped me a lot. Since I never had any real tutoring, I had a very weak pinkie. But the wide neck of the seven-string forced me to use my pinkie more. Now I have better stretch and control.
GW After Prometheus was released, Emperor called it quits. Why did you decided to reform for a tour in 2005?
SAMOTH I guess we needed to get away from Emperor for a period of time to get back to the right feel again. When we split up in 2001, we never did any live shows. As time went along, the name Emperor actually became bigger and stronger than it was before we split up. More fans were getting into our music and there was such a great demand for Emperor to go back out and do some shows. There were lots of offers, but we waited until it felt right. So we got together, played some classic tracks, like “I Am the Black Wizards,” and said, “Fuck it. Let’s do it!”
GW You’re performing only in New York, Chicago and L.A. and at a couple of European festivals. Why are you playing so few shows?
SAMOTH Actually, we planned the whole reunion as a more exclusive thing. We want to keep it special. In fact, we only came back to the States again this year because I had a delay in getting my visa last year and wasn’t able to get in to play those shows.
IHSAHN Plus we never wanted to fully reawaken Emperor. We wanted to work at a level and speed that everyone was comfortable with.
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