A friend and I took a weekend jaunt to B.B. King's in New York City to see Emperor play one of four exclusive reunion dates in North Amerca.
While I continue to think Opeth is mandatory listening for anyone who likes either heavy or progressive music, Emperor is not for the faint of heart. It is moody, atmospheric, and rather frightening at first. Progressive song structures, huge, layered guitars, spooky (and slightly cheesy) keyboards for atmosphere, and obscenely fast drumming. The closest I can liken it to is a very dark, disturbing series of audio Jackson Pollock paintings, arranged into a theme focused in stages around a particular riff or overarching and faintly discernable minor keyboard melody. The vocals sound like alternately like a screeching witch or a marching viking warrior. Fun for the whole family! Compared to most mainstream music, it takes complexity and layering to a different place. One way to think of it is a combination of Mercyful Fate (or King Diamond), Celtic Frost, and Kill 'Em All -era Metallica.
Anyway, the show was fabulous, everything I expected: fast, loud and heavy, but with tremendous musicianship, even though co-founder & guitarist Samoth couldn't make it due to immigration holdups. Ihsahn impresses with his stage presence and sincerity. He's one of the few musicians in death or black metal (along with Mikael Akerfelt) that conveys a passion for epic music tempered with a dose of humility and a strong interest in outside genres.