Emperor: 'Black Metal Has Gone Gray, It Became Watered Down'

"The internet sucks, but you can't really put it down," Ihsahn adds.

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Discussing the state of black metal, Emperor frontman Ihsahn has described the notorious genre as rather watered down these days, much like the rest of metal subgenres.

"I think particularly black metal has gone gray like many other metal subgenres or like music in general, really," he told Noisey. "You start out new as a phenomenon, and there gradually becomes different directions in that. Some people do something new, and then some people copy it, and it becomes watered down.

"It becomes gray," the musician continued. "A lot of people involved in this genre originally do a lot of other interesting stuff. The genre itself has changed, but I think extreme music - it's more a matter of the whole music industry having changed. That's kind of the biggest thing if you take black metal now and then.

Comparing now and then, Ihsahn focused on the mystique factor, saying, "For us being here now against being there then, I guess our whole career is built on this kind of mystique almost. People didn't know sh-t about us. We were just crazy Norwegians from a place that most people hadn't heard of doing this extreme music in this strange makeup. [Laughs]

"So people had absolutely no clue. Whereas today you get in touch with the biggest stars on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Nothing is private. It's very bad times to be kind of a mysterious black metal artist, I guess. It'd be very hard to build that kind of niche again if you were a young band starting out today. [Laughs]"

Further discussing the matter, the frontman placed the internet among the somewhat negative segments of today's music scene. "If you look at it from an industry point of view, the internet sucks, but you can't really put down the Internet, can you?" he asked.

"There are definitely some up sides as well. It's just changed. There's so much to benefit from in discovering new stuff, but it does challenge people within this genre where back in the early '90s, that was the natural way of going about it and, of course, you have the avid experience from both ends now.

"Metal, in general, has always been very theatrical, and it's supposed to be larger than life. It started in peril in the early '90s with the whole theatrical black metal thing where you had the grunge movement that was kind of very mundane and down to earth. These days you don't have these kind of rock stars anymore, not to the same extent. Which, in practical terms, this is very, very good.

"But at the same time, I love that you still have people like Prince around, who live in their own extreme rock star world. [Laughs] It's just something fascinating about that. It's like when I view a piece of art, I don't give a s--t what the artist had for dinner or if he was at the gym. But the idea is that if it was an illusion back then or now, it was supposed to be.

"I remember as a fan of music myself, when I went to see my first Iron Maiden show, just that feeling of being within the same four walls, even though it was a huge concert, I was breathing the same air as Iron Maiden. I've had the pleasure of meeting some of my childhood heroes, and they're really nice people, but it kind of changes your perspective.

"Sometimes it's just good to have that kind of distance and to have that kind of out-of-this-world type of experience. You don't need everything. When you get a nice meal at a restaurant, you don't want to know the full recipe. You just want to enjoy it. [Laughs]" Ihsahn concluded.

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14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    travislausch
    I don't hear any complaining going on. This sounds totally level headed and respectful and I think most metalheads can learn from this kind of attitude.
    entropicxdisson
    Especially the "KVLT" black metal elitists, the ones who attack bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Alcest, and Deafheaven for "runing black metal". The ones that are like "Euronymous said this is black metal and this isn't", guess what Euronymous is dead.
    Skin_n_bones
    Thats because the "Kvlt" elitists that you are referring to were not just about the music, but what it stood for during that time period. Whereas is you ask these new "black metal" bands what their music stands for, it will be something completely different.
    Raven_Flight
    Deathspell Omega managed to be way too "mysterious" in this age without trying too hard. It's not like as an artist you are forced to have a facebook and a twitter, really.
    howyjr
    Really love the direction Ihsahn has been going with his music in the last ten years. Seems to just follow his inspiration. Another album this year please
    blackone666
    I often wonder where this internet thing will end. Nothing good, for sure.
    tric565
    Mass global communication for all, easy global commerce, potentially a free source of all information for everyone. But all at the expense of the famous losing their mystique. WHEN WILL MANKIND LEARN!
    cmiuc
    @travislausch Well he says the internet sucks, which already is a stupid statement to make. And there are many black metal bands (atleast in Germany) that still are so unique and mystique. You wont find them on youtube or anywhere else really, now if thats what you want to be you can still do it. If of course your label forces you to do it and you let it happen, then its your fault.
    Raven_Flight
    He said "If you look at it from an industry point of view, the internet sucks", that's different.
    cmiuc
    jesus, everyone is whining so hard. Please stop making fools out of yourself. Oh wait, the best bands are those that dont talk or bother about all this shit because... wait again... they love what they do, no matter how hard it rains.
    howyjr
    Pretty sure Ihsahn loves what he does. You can hear it in his music. Btw, did you actually read the article or are you just commenting on the title?
    Random9000
    It's because most (and I'm probably generalizing for saying most) black metal bands now-a-days are very cookie cutter. Like a previous comment said "Euronymous did it, so it's KVLT or true black metal." Well that mentality kills the heart and soul of black metal. I'm actually working on a long piece about black metal and long story short, it's really what you make it and it's how the music makes you feel. Did Burzum sound like this? No. But that doesn't mean it isn't black metal...
    Anemo
    Well, he seems very down to earth about the state of metal today.