I traveled to NYC last week with my daughter to spend time with mom and the family and check out (i.e. photograph) a few live shows. First was pop songbird Zola Jesus at (Le) Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village and the second act was Norwegian Black Metal band Emperor at Brooklyn’s King’s Theatre.
For the latter, I was a guest of the good folks from Psycho Unlimited who I’d met at Psycho Las Vegas last summer. They granted me an all-access photographer pass which allowed me to photograph bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Warpaint, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Mercyful Fate and the aforementioned Emperor. So with me in NYC for the weekend (and they being the event promoters for Emperor), they invited me to photograph the show at the King’s Theatre to which I most certainly obliged.
Emperor formed in Notodden, Norway back in 1991 when current singer Vegard Sverre Tveitan, better known by his stage name Ihsahn, met multi-instrumentalist and current guitarist Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen, better known as Samoth. The two formed the group Thou Shalt Suffer before forming Emperor.
The 1990s saw the dawn of the highly influential Norwegian black metal scene, referred to as the “second wave of black metal”. During that time, bands such as Burzum, Darkthrone, Mayhem, and Emperor formed what was known as “The Black Circle”, many of whom gathered at the popular record shop Helvete (“Hell”) in Oslo.
In the summer of 1992, however, a series of events were set in motion by the black metal inner circle. Samoth, along with various other black metallers, set out to burn down old churches in Norway. In 1994, Samoth was sentenced to 16 months in prison for burning the Skjold Church in Vindafjord, together with Varg Vikernes of Burzum. Vikernes was convicted of church arson and possession of explosives as well as first-degree murder for fatally stabbing Mayhem guitarist Euronymous during an altercation.
In 1994, In the Nightside Eclipse was released, and earned Emperor widespread acclaim and a large fanbase. After Samoth’s parole, the band entered the studio to record Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. The album won the ‘album of the year’ poll in many metal magazines around the world, including UK Terrorizer and US Metal Maniacs.
With Ihsahn and Samoth eventually moving in different musical directions, Emperor decided to disband in 2001 after releasing one final album, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise, composed entirely by Ihsahn.
The band has reunited several times since then for a series of shows, headlining the 2014 editions of the Bloodstock Open Air and Hellfest festivals. Lead singer Ihsahn has stated that Emperor has no plans to record a new album. “It’s kind of a lose-lose thing. The whole point of black metal, people want something that is real and has integrity of what it is. At this point, none of us can see any reason to do that beyond what we already do.”
The Kings Theatre, formerly Loew’s Kings Theatre, is a live performance venue in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Built in 1929, it featured French Renaissance-style architecture inspired by the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera House. The theater was one of the largest auditoriums in the borough, comfortably seating 3,600.
It was one of five ‘Wonder Theatres’ built by Loew’s Inc., the brainchild of American business magnate and motion picture pioneer Marcus Loew. The King’s Theatre opened the same day as its sister theatre in the Bronx, the Loew’s Paradise Theatre, walking distance from where I grew up on the Grand Concourse.
Despite a rich history of civic and community engagement, Kings Theatre began a steady decline after World War Two, until it officially closed its doors on August 30th 1977. The theater sat empty for decades until a complete $95 million renovation was initiated in 2010.
The meticulous renovation was completed on January 27, 2015, restoring the historic site to its former glory. On February 3, 2015, a concert by Diana Ross officially reopened the Kings Theatre as a live performance venue. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 22, 2012.
And on June 23, 2023, it welcomed Emperor and their legion of fans into its opulent interior. Enjoy the photographs…