IHSAHN Still Believes Making New EMPEROR Album Would Be Lose-Lose Situation: ‘You Can’t Compete With Nostalgia’

In a new interview with Sam Acevedo of El Planeta Del Rock, EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan) was asked if he thinks the prospect of him and his bandmates writing and recording a new album is ” a lose-lose situation.” He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Yes. I do. And if I had a dime, as they say, for every time people ask me, ‘Will there be another EMPEROR album?’ In the beginning, it felt maybe a bit annoying, but I’ve chosen to see it more as — of course, in there, in that kind of question, there’s a compliment that people, like myself, who have a relationship to music from their youth or something that you’re attached to, obviously it was important for someone, which is a great thing. And the question for another album is that they want to feel that again, they want to feel more of that, which is also great. But then, in practical terms, what kind of EMPEROR album could we make that would satisfy that desire?”

He continued: “I think it would be easy-ish to make something that sounds like early EMPEROR, but who would want a black metal album made to make money off some kind of conceptual idea for some kind of demand in the market? That goes against everything that the music is about, in some sense. And if the other way would — I mean, we ended up in a place where I wrote more and more of the music, and with the last EMPEROR album, I did everything. And then, if we followed that trajectory, it’s very close to how I make my music today [as a solo artist]. And I don’t think that’s what people mean. So, do you want this kind of metal? This is kind of what I do already. If you want me to try to go backwards and try to be a teenager again and unlearn any experience I’ve had as a musician and us going to back and trying to be…”

Ihsahn added: “You see how this is quite impossible. So unless planets align in the ways that me and [EMPEROR guitarist] Samoth just really connect over a common idea that we really want to make, I really don’t see that happening. And also, then again, name me one band who broke up and then did a reunion record where people were, like, ‘Fuck. This is amazing. This is even better than the old stuff.’ It doesn’t really happen because it’s impossible because you can’t compete with nostalgia. And also it’s a risk because I would say that the culture and the atmosphere in the band and the traveling crew that we have with EMPEROR is probably better than it’s been ever. And we have such a great time doing what we do. We love playing the old songs. It’s not like we go there, ‘Ah, these old songs.’ It’s not maybe always that fun to rehearse ‘I Am The Black Wizards’, but performing ‘I Am The Black Wizards’ live is never boring. And we really make sure we enjoy it and really put ourselves out there a hundred percent.

“I don’t really see any reason to kind of tilt and risk destroying that for what could possibly be reasons that are not compatible with the uncompromising nature of what EMPEROR was,” Ihsahn concluded. “And hopefully the tradition that uncompromising attitude probably was what got us here in the first place.”

EMPEROR‘s last studio LP, “Prometheus – The Discipline Of Fire & Demise”, was released in 2001 and was written entirely by Ihsahn. The band broke up shortly thereafter, with Ihsahn going on to pursue a solo career, while guitarist Samoth (real name: Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen) partook in a variety of bands, including SCUM and ZYKLON. EMPEROR has reunited frequently in ensuing years to perform live, but has continually resisted calls to release new material.

Last September, Ihsahn was asked by GRIMM Gent if he thinks there will be any new EMPEROR music in the future. He responded: “It kind of came to a very natural conclusion — in the sense that by the last… I eventually started writing more and more of the material, and by the last record, I did everything. And ‘Prometheus’ was kind of — I did that very much as a solo thing, and it goes still under the EMPEROR umbrella. So creatively, when there’s no melt anymore and Samoth and Trym were doing ZYKLON — we wanted different things creatively.”

He continued: “At this point, it doesn’t look like [there will be new EMPEROR music]. But I’ve said a lot of ‘no’s in the past, also, like, there would never be another EMPEROR show. And I feel stupid when I say stuff like that and end up doing it anyway, so just to not to open that box, but it’s, like, I won’t make myself into a liar if the situation should change and that the planets will align. With creativity and stuff like that, it’s very, very hard to tell, because it’s a very open, channeling process. But so far I’m very, very… I get to… Yeah, I’ve been releasing full-length albums consistently more or less every second year since I was 16 and continue to do so. So I’m in a very happy place.”

Ihsahn previously discussed the possibility of a new EMPEROR album in April 2023 in an interview with Australia’s “Everblack” podcast. At the time, he said: “Me and Samoth have discussed it at different points, especially since we’ve been doing these live things occasionally and now, I guess, more permanently in the end. But the discussion is really quite open. And I’ve talked about that in interviews as well.

“If it were to be, what kind of EMPEROR album should it be?” he continued. “Should it be something that the fans would want, as in something that maybe sounded like the early records? Which would be, in practice, kind of easy for us to do, but still it wouldn’t really have the authenticity because it would be trying to recreate something that you did when you were teenagers, and it would almost be like the opposite of the motivation of all we did. If we were turning everything on its head and started creating music for the sake of pleasing some market or making money or any of that, it would kind of make everything that we did into a lie. And if we were to continue where we dropped out — I ended up recording and writing the entire last EMPEROR album on my own, in a far more experimental direction, and that’s kind of where I just [laughs] disappeared into what I do. And should we pick up from that point? And then there wouldn’t really be a point, if it wasn’t a band effort and it was just me pushing in my direction.

“Basically, like I said with live shows, after every kind of anniversary thing that we did, ‘It will never happen again,’ so at this point I can’t say that that will never happen, because I’ve seen it happen with the live shows that I never thought that we would do either,” Ihsahn admitted. “But it would have to be at a point where we would get together and where the vision for what it could be, where that is in some way aligned, that we could create from the same uncompromising space and, I would say, without for a second dealing with what people might expect. Purely creating from that same state of mind, as we were back then. I think that would be the only way to properly do something that would be worthwhile for us to do, and down the line, for fans to experience too. I think if we started making records for those kind of ‘un-black metal’ reasons, it wouldn’t be enjoyable for either us or anyone else… It would have to come from a creative place and not a practical, ‘This could be smart. This could be…’ None of that. And it would be futile.

“I think everybody, like you and me, who are drawn to this style of music, we’re drawn to it because it feels uncompromising, it feels like something real,” he added. “We are drawn to this music because we just want a pure experience.”

EMPEROR completed its first U.S. tour in over 15 years lasy summer. The trek kicked off on June 23, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois and concluded on July 1, 2023 in Anaheim, California.

Formed in 1991, EMPEROR‘s game-changing debut “In The Nightside Eclipse” (1995) created the template for symphonic, bombastic, melodic black metal, while the follow-up record, “Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk” (1997) became an instant hit. They disbanded in 2001 following the release of “Prometheus – The Discipline of Fire & Demise”. They reunited periodically between 2005 and 2014. In late 2016 it was announced that EMPEROR would reunite again for a special set of performances to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk”. This legendary album cemented EMPEROR‘s reputation as the flagbearers of black metal and is still recognized as one of the most influential in this genre.

Photo credit: Andy Ford

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