Empyrean Throne have almost all the qualities of a vicious, Scandinavian, black-metal band. They hold a mythological and literary name, hang Viking war banners at their live shows, and utilize dark, symphonic instrumentality. Vocalist Andrew Knudsen even sports a pair of Gorgoroth-style spiked cuffs on his forearms. Yet there is an important characteristic astray–they're from Lake Forest.
We all know punk, hardcore and metalcore have definitely left their mark on OC music culture. But it's rare to see a young, local band heavily inspired by European black metal and such gargantuan acts as Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth and Fleshgod Apocalypse. After a trip to Scandinavia in 2011 to connect with family heritage, Knudsen and bassist John Ashbaugh forged their OC sextet as the “American answer” to their Nordic, black-metal brethren.
“Being in a band in Orange County near the big music and film mecca of Los Angeles has helped in finding musicians interested in playing this European style of music and being passionate about performing,” Knudsen says. “A lot of people are into these heavy, beat-down slam bands.”
They've never shied away from the intellectual side of metal. The band's name derives from a term for the summation of an indifferent source of power emanating a sense of chaos. Empyrean Throne combine technical death-metal components with screeching vocals and foreboding, diminished minor chords. Then there's the symphonic arrangements composed by cellist Kakophonix.
Knudsen and Kakophonix met during Abigail Williams' farewell tour at the Black Castle in LA. “We always wanted the symphonic ingredient,” Knudsen says. “But it was hard to find a musician who really excels in that instrumental area who would be committed to a blackened death-metal band or even know much about the genre.”
So far, they've played myriad shows with several local groups–including Xanthochroid, Voices of Ruin and Sacred Ruins–as well as Aborted, Kataklysm and Disgorge. They've also made inroads in the festival circuit, playing the 2012 Summer Slaughter tour and the 2013 OC Deathfest.
Knudsen, Ashbaugh, Kakophonix, drummer Dan Bruette, guitarist Bryan Schwarz and guitarist Mike Correia dedicated the first half of 2013 to recording their aptly themed concept and fantasy full-length debut album, Demonseed, released on Dec. 5, 2013. Recorded at Sound Temple Studio in Rancho Cucamonga–headquarters for Upland deathcore band Winds of Plague, Demonseed follows the birth, rise and demise of an antichrist-like figure that destroys the planet and is eaten by his own creation. (Correia has since departed; Mike Brennan signed shortly after the album's release.)
The album's closing tack, “Follow the Plaguelord,” now acts as the lead-in to the next album in the works for Empyrean Throne. In it, a brief piano introduction by Daniel Pappas gives way to an overpowering and threatening black-metal climax. “'Follow the Plaguelord' is a future projection and tale of resolution after the apocalyptic scenario that is meant to be self-contained,” Knudsen says. “This song signifies a changing of the guard, as a new beginning for our band and our next record.”
When the band isn't preoccupied with working on graphic art, restaurant day jobs, fishing at midnight, or studying Bach and Beethoven, they're focused on practice and promotion. Empyrean Throne plan to shoot three videos and continue work on their second concept album. You'd think having a black-metal band and Viking blood flowing through his veins would make Knudsen a little more obsessed with conquering the world. But for now, he says he's happy to be in a band that's self-sustaining and carving out a future, one devastating sword swipe at a time.
Empyrean Throne play on Saturday, May 31 at Malone's. For full details click here.