Words: Callum Doig
Photos: Anne-Laure Marie
As one of the most eccentric and focal icons of the Norwegian black metal scene that dates back to the early nineties, Notodden’s Emperor to this day still grace international soil with the greatest fortitude and musicianship that perfectly accentuates their onstage presence. Having been a long twenty-five year wait for the band to make their mark down under, the patience of the Australian audience had finally been rewarded by Emperor’s debut in the country. With only three shows locked in for their first ever appearance together in Australia, we trekked towards Melbourne’s 170 Russell with great enthusiasm and anticipation.
Stepping up to take the plate as the support were Tasmanian quintet Ruins, who had just recently furthered their name in their career at this year’s Download Festival. With forty-five minutes to build up the expectations for the patrons that set foot inside of 170 Russell, Ruins’ take on death metal that night was a most confronting, and arduous one that they showered unto the crowd. Though their onstage animation wasn’t particularly that of a lively one, Ruins made up for it all with the sheer abrasiveness and well-executed approach in pieces such as Shadow of a Former Self and Where Time is Left Behind. Having been cut from a cloth similar to that of bands including Psycroptic and King Parrot, Ruins’ musically charismatic portrayal of death metal was low-key theatrical, but also somewhat of a hypnotic one for attendees to indulge themselves in.
Soon after a few minutes past nine o’clock, Emperor then proceeded the stage as Al Svartr (The Oath) echoed in the background before furthering the formalities with Ye Entrancemperium as they recited the entirety of 1997’s “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”. For the entirety of Emperor’s live rendition that catered to the audience, Ihsahn and co. were welcomed with the same passion and dedication that they offered back to the Melbournian crowd. Satiated were both the band and their spectators, for the most astounding orchestration of symphonic black metal was sincere and potent throughout its course.
Most blissful and remarkable of the evening was the chemistry between each and every member of the band – most especially with Ihsahn, Samoth and Trym, being the very composers that shaped the stroke of genius that is “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”. Not only did they simultaneously achieve a well-executed performance, but the enlivened, zealous congregation before them inspired Emperor to give Melbourne even more than what they could have asked for.
Though as soon as “Anthems” had come to a close, the night was not yet over for Emperor and their fans, as they decided to pull through with a handful of more tracks as part of the set. From there, as their ‘encore’, Emperor graced their set with a handful of tracks from 1994’s “In the Nightside Eclipse” and 1999’s “IX Equilibrium” for all their observers and moshers. From there, the evening with Emperor became even more enticing – hearing songs such as I Am the Black Wizards, The Majesty of the Nightsky and Inno a Satana be brought to life for their fellow Melbournians to witness for the first time in their city. Soon after their encore ended, Emperor were called back for at least one more track to officially conclude their Wednesday night. And so they did by delivering yet another “Nightside” classic Towards the Pantheon, which sent the crowd into a maniacally animated fit of excitement.
Though I personally have been a fan of Emperor for only a decade, compared to a majority of those that were in my surroundings at the time, to say that it was worth the wait and how I was lost for words would be an understatement. Norwegian bands such as Mayhem, Satyricon and Immortal may have put on some overwhelmingly eccentric shows, none could compare to how well done Emperor had done it that night in Melbourne. I cannot stress enough how important they have been to the entirety of metal and underground music, and how bewildering they can be onstage in front of hundreds upon thousands of people.