That Tour Was Awesome: Kings of Terror Tour (1999)

Kings Of Terror

The lead-up to Emperor’s first stateside gig–a one-off at the infamous Milwaukee Metalfest–in July 1998 was palpable. Norwegian black metal was nearing a decade of infamy and the only place left for it to go, for continued growth as a genre and ideology, was stateside. Americans, of the extremely extreme disposition, were still largely in the maggot-infested bosom of death metal, but black metal was quantifiable–in such bands as Profanatica (later Havohej), Absu, December Wolves, Epoch of Unlight, Judas Iscariot, Order from Chaos, etc.–leading up to the late ‘90s. When Emperor announced and then played Milwaukee Metalfest (sans keyboards), it was clear the Norwegians weren’t talk and vapor. They were a real band with real musicians, able to play and convey the evil and atmospheric subtleties of their work on stage.

Fast forward to 1999 and the Satanic ache for black metal in America was profoundly real. Emperor, who had just released IX Equilibrium in March, were officially back. Fellow Norwegians Borknagar were off the black metal path but intrinsically tied to it and three albums in. At the time, The Archaic Course was blowing sophisticated pagan minds. Meanwhile, over in Sweden, newly formed black-thrash super-group Witchery were knee deep in bastardized Accept and Judas Priest riffs (and evil nun tits) on American label, Necropolis Records. The group’s debut full-length, Restless & Dead, had hit a nerve with heshers into the darker side of life, with follow-up EP, Witchburner, sealing the deal. Back to Norway, weirdness oozed out of the unorthodox formation of Peccatum, which featured Emperor’s Ihsahn, his wife Ihriel, and her brother Pål (aka Lord PZ). With Peccatum, Candlelight Records was into and promoted the hell out of debut album, Strangling from Within. As for Americans Divine Empire–likely the bottom end of the proverbial pear–they were months into their death metal debut, Redemption. All this was between 1998 and 1999. That the five acts would tour together, across America, seemed unlikely in 1998, but the cold winds of the ensorcelled Nightspirit were strong. In the hottest of hot (July), Emperor, Witchery, Borknagar, Peccatum, and Divine Empire teamed up, toasted to success in Chicago, and set off across America’s vastlands in vans. The invasion of America had started anew!

For the latest That Tour Was Awesome, Decibel interviewed members from Emperor, Witchery, Borknagar, Peccatum, and Divine Empire to weave a tale of the most anticipated and attended extreme metal tours of 1999. We continue That Tour Was Awesome unabated with the Kings of Terror Tour (1999)!

The Kings of Terror USA Tour 1999 was a 16-date tour across U.S., Mexico, and Canada. What are some of the initial memories you have of that tour? It’s been two decades.
Trym Torson (Emperor): I remember this tour needed to be smooth. And it was not. The other bands were really cool, and we all got along well, but there were too many errors made by the tour manager. The tour was very disorganized.
Øystein Brun (Borknagar): Two decades indeed. I have loads good memories from that tour, even though I also remember that is was tough at times. We were driving in two vans with all the bands and crew, one white and one red. Remember we shared a van with the Witchery guys and at some point, during a heatwave, somewhere in the southern deserts, the air conditioner in our red van broke down. I remember we were frying for days in that damn van; that was brutal for a bunch of frost-bitten Vikings. But various ordeals and numerous problems aside, we had a really nice time touring the USA. Much because we had a few days off, and we were able see a bunch famous places in the USA, which was a big thing for a bunch of young Norwegian lads. I remember we were at the Twin Towers in New York, at Niagara Falls, we drove through Area 51 (or close by), and we visited Dimebag’s strip club, just to mention a few from the top of my head. And of course, we met a lot of people all over the place. Probably because it was one of the very first proper tours with Norwegian “black metal” bands, there seemed to be quite some fuss about the tour in general. The audience was amazing from day one. Also remember Star Wars Episode 1 was premiering at that time, so we went to the cinema as often as possible, as we where all a bunch of Star Wars fans. But I must admit that Jar Jar Binks got on our nerves after a while. [Laughs] After the final show in San Francisco we stayed at the Phoenix Hotel and had a massive party. And the day after, me and the former guitarist Jens [F. Ryland] rented a car and drove along the coastline down to Los Angeles, visited Century Media in Santa Monica and stayed there for a few days. Definitely a tough ride, but damn it was fun.
Patrik Jensen (Witchery): I have a lot of fond memories from that tour. It was my first tour of the US. Witchery made it to North America before The Haunted did, although the first ever The Haunted North American tour actually happened just days after the Witchery tour ended (supporting Testament on their The Gathering tour). There were no busses/nightliners. Instead, there were two Dodge Ram vans with trailers; one for Emperor and crew and one for Witchery and Borknagar. Divine Emperor had their own van. Sometimes the distances to the next gig were very long and we had to start driving straight after everyone had had showers. The van sofa seats ended halfway up your back and weren’t very comfortable. We were seated two guys per row, and I remember we took turns on who got to (literally) slowly sink down between the tightly-fitted seats to try to sleep on the van floor and who got to sleep laying on the seat. Nevermore had the vans right before us, and I mean right before us. They drove up to the hotel where we had been staying the first night. They got out, unloaded all their gear and bags, and we stepped in, and off we went. No cleaning of the vans or anything in between tours. The floor of a van can get pretty nasty during a long tour, so sleeping on the floor was not the preferred sleeping spot. [Laughs] Despite the somewhat rough tour situation, this is one of the tours I have appreciated the most. When you do a nightliner tour, you leave a parking spot at night and wake up at another parking spot the next morning, albeit well rested. On this tour, you spent most of the time being awake looking out the window at various hours of the day. I’ve never seen as much of North America as I saw on that tour.
Pål Solberg (Peccatum): [Laughs] What is there to say? I certainly recall all the ups and down of the tour, as it was my only U.S. tour ever. I recall the initial pickup of our gear at the airport in Chicago. The vans had these trailers attached to them, and as we went onto the highway the tires of one of the trailers exploded, and we were stuck under a bridge at the highway for like two hours or so. The vans were Japanese, and very tiny, so people had to sleep on the floors. As for the shows, it was a very nice to play in the bigger cities, like Chicago, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, etc. I do recall with dread a few of the gigs at smaller places like Loraine (Ohio) and Worcester (Massachusetts). Not so much for the audiences, as I recall were great all the time, but the local promoters were not great at all times. All in all, my fondest memories from this tour must be the gig Peccatum and Emperor did in Mexico City, alongside with the Montreal, New York, and San Francisco gigs with all the bands.
Derek Roddy (Divine Empire): One of my favorite memories of that tour was Nick Barker was playing drums for Borknagar. By the second day, he was in our van, traveling with us. [Laughs] In our van, it was just JP [John Paul Soars], me, and Jay [Jason Blachowicz]. There was plenty of room for another person. Those guys were all cramped up with Witchery and Emperor in the same van. I can’t even imagine what those guys were going through with him. He’s a farting maniac! [Laughs] I also remember we were somewhere in Ohio. I had gotten way too drunk off this cheap wine. We were totally trashed. The next day, I wasn’t feeling too well, as you can imagine, and I puked all over the inside of the van. OK, I puked on me and the seat I was in. I ended up throwing my clothes away at the next rest stop.

Emperor Tour Ad In Metal Maniacs, 1999.

Do you remember how the tour came together?
Øystein Brun: Not really sure about that, but remember Century Media was really stressing us to join the tour. At the time, we didn’t have a drummer, so I remember that was a big concern of mine and initially I was a bit laid back towards the whole idea. But Nick Barker, who played with I.C.S. Vortex in Dimmu Borgir at that time, agreed to step in on the tour. The tour happened for us, thanks to him.
Patrik Jensen: Witchery were on Necropolis at that time and they got us on the tour. Our first album had a little buzz and Necropolis didn’t have too much of a problem getting us on the bill. In hindsight, it was a very successful tour. All bands (except Divine Empire) had, to a varying degree, a black metal sound and people were very interested in catching this tour. Witchery had a problem with Sharlee D’Angelo having tour commitments with Mercyful Fate at the same time, so we got Magnus Olsfelt from Swedish band The Crown to step in. He did a great job at filling Sharlee’s big shoes.
Pål Solberg: Well, I believe it was because Candlelight USA had just started as a branch in USA/North America. Of course, Candlelight Records (UK) wanted Emperor and Peccatum to do a U.S. tour together to promote our albums.
Derek Roddy: Well, this was a Digger tour, so… things were bound to go wrong, and they did. [Laughs] We got on this tour under similar circumstances as the Vader, Cryptopy, and Gorguts tour. Our label, Olympic, had nothing really to do with it, other than the Digger contact. We had to agree to let all the bands use our backline because the rest of the bands were coming in from overseas. That saved the tour at least $5,000 in backline rental. And it was just easier that way. So, basically, everybody was playing on Divine Empire’s gear. You think back on it and everybody was so protective of their gear. We didn’t give a shit. We understood our gear. If it’s gonna go, it’s gonna go. Doesn’t matter if it’s us or Emperor or whoever!

The U.S. Immigration and Border Control is notoriously difficult. Of course, this is prior to the events of 9/11. Any stories entering the United States for this tour?
Øystein Brun: Oh man, numerous. For a bunch of metalheads, I am not sure if entering USA in the late ‘90s was any easier than after 9/11. When we arrived at the airport in Chicago, we got into the country due to sheer luck. We were inches from flying back home on the next flight. Don’t remember all the details, but I remember there was a lady at customs that really made serious problems for us. All our visas were sorted and OK at the embassy in Oslo, but since we were going on a tour, we had no address where to stay and so forth. And from there the situation just spun off. They were getting angry. We were getting angry. Lots of back and forth, and I even think Century Media had to make some calls to sort out the situation. We eventually got it all sorted and we were allowed to enter the USA. I remember we were all a little shaken by the situation. Not because of the practicalities, but the asshole attitude and the plain misuse of authority customs showed. Later, when getting back to USA after the two shows in Canada, we where stopped on the border again. I remember the whole bunch had to sit and wait in a room for hours without knowing the reason why they held us back. Eventually, we were told, and of all things, that it was because my visa seemingly was expired. Well, the actual visa was not expired, but customs apparently did an obvious typo in my passport the first time we entered the USA. Instead of July, I think it was, they signed in an expiry date of June or something like that. After a good long while customs cleared out the extremely obvious typo (I would say) and allowed us to enter the USA again.
Patrik Jensen: We actually had no problem whatsoever with getting into the U.S. for this tour.
Pål Solberg: I cannot recall anything else other than the fact that the luggage people had tossed our DAT player around a lot and it got kinda “funky” and stopped playing early in the tour. That was like a minor crisis for Peccatum, as the DAT player was the drums, synth and bass. Except for that, all our visas were just fine. We didn’t have a lot of problems, I believe.
Derek Roddy: OK, this is really vague memory, but we were traveling to Toronto, I think. Or, was it Montreal to play at Les Foufounes Électriques? We had a few days in Buffalo before the Canadian dates. We were at Jay’s mom’s house–Jay is originally from Buffalo–for a couple of days. For some reason Samoth couldn’t get into Canada, so Emperor only played with Ihsahn on guitar. Samoth stayed back at a hotel in Buffalo, I think. That’s only memory I have of dealing with immigration.
Trym Torson: I just remember Samoth did not get into Canada, so we had to play without him.

Front of Kings of Terror Tour Laminate, 1999. Provided by Pål Solberg.

The kick-off show was in Chicago at Congress Theatre. Did that show set expectations for the rest of the tour? What do you remember about that show as well?
Øystein Brun: Indeed. I remember the venue very well actually. I remember it looked like an old-fashioned theater. But that said, I can’t remember how the show turned out. You know, the first show on a tour is always a bit shaky. But I remember we had a very good feeling after the concert and was looking forward to the rest.
Patrik Jensen: I remember the place being absolutely huge (or so it seemed to me back then and that feeling has since then stuck). I remember it being very run down, too. I don’t remember the gig, but I do remember something that happened at load-out after the show. We were in a very dodgy and dark back alley loading up the trailers for the first time and suddenly we hear not-too-distant gunshots. We all froze. Remember, this was my first ever U.S. gig and I didn’t know what to think. The U.S. crew then said, “Dude, this is a baaad neighborhood. Let’s get fuck out of here fast,” so we all scrambled. That kind of set the feeling for us for the rest of the tour. We were almost as in a “movie.” We got the full American experience on that tour.
Pål Solberg: I recall it was an old, big theater, and I do recall a few people came after the show and told us it was a great show. Apart from that, we were fairly nervous, as it was our first U.S. gig, and didn’t know what to expect.
Derek Roddy: I just remember thinking, “What are these guys going to be like?” before we all met up at the venue. I mean, the reputations of Norwegians, at the time, was pretty negative. They were killing people, burning churches, all that stuff. So, we were thinking, “Will they be monsters or regular dudes?” They were so peaceful and chill. We were pretty surprised. [Laughs] Since the tour, I’ve been friends with Trym. I talk to him on the reg. He’s one of the true “drum heads” in metal. Him and Jan (or Hellhammer) from Mayhem, Flo [Mounier] from Cryptopsy. We’re all “drum heads.” We talk shop and just about nothing else. [Laughs]

If you remember, what was on your respective tour riders?
Øystein Brun: Oh man, not even sure we had a rider at that time. Us joining the tour happened slightly head over heels, so everything was done at the last minute and so forth. After the tour, we were told that the tour manager, or organizer, was trying to get us off the tour for various reasons. The tour manager even tried to fabricate a scenario with us being racists and crap like that. Don’t ask me why. To be quite frank, we felt lucky just being on that tour.
Patrik Jensen: I don’t even know if we knew what a rider was back then. We got candy bars and beers, maybe a few loaves of bread, etc. Emperor and Peccatum (for obvious reasons) always shared a dressing room and had their own rider. There was another rider that was shared between Borknagar, Divine Empire, the crew and us. I think we didn’t know what to expect, so we didn’t know to complain either.
Pål Solberg: [Laughs] I recall we had Baileys on the rider, and I believe the first time we got it was in Mexico City. And, if anyone from the Emperor and Peccatum crew recalls, the Baileys was consumed by one individual in one of the other bands, leaving the rest of us out of the good stuff…
Derek Roddy: I don’t think we had a rider. If anything, Jay would’ve requested or just bought Captain Morgan. That would’ve been more of a joke. Otherwise, I don’t remember specifics about the rider. Remember, this was the first of several professional tours I had been on. I didn’t know shit. I was a kid along for the ride. I showed up with my kit, set it up, and we all played on it. That’s all I cared about. I didn’t really start paying attention to all that until I was in Hate Eternal. It was only then that I thought of music as a business.

Back of Kings of Terror Tour Laminate, 1999. Provided by Pål Solberg.

What about the per diem? I can’t imagine the per diem being decent.
Trym Torson: Not sure, but probably pocket change.
Patrik Jensen: I don’t remember getting any P.D.s on that tour. There was such a great turn out on that tour and merch was flying off the tables for all bands. We tour managed ourselves, so I think we took care of things like P.D.s ourselves.
Øystein Brun: We did not get any per diems on this tour, as far as I can recall. But that said, we were able to negotiate a fixed fee per show. So, we had some sort of income on the tour. Not much really, but enough to keep us somewhat smiling.
Pål Solberg: Well, I think we got some per diems. At least Emperor and Peccatum did, but it was not like on a daily basis. Was more like, “Hey, we’re out of cash, can we get some more?” We got some merch money or whatever. Sometimes we got some buy-outs, etc., but we didn’t suffer at all.
Derek Roddy: Have you heard about anything about me and Digger? [Laughs] I got into an argument with Digger one night on tour after he failed to buy us new heads and new strings. See, he was basically supposed to supply the backline with replacement parts. That was the deal we made with Digger. I was totally cool with the bands using my gear as long as I had new heads. I wanted to sound good. Pretty simple request, right? From day to day, Digger dragged it out. Excuse after excuse. Nothing. So, one night we had it out. I jacked him up. I was drunk. Me and Jay got into a fight because of it. Jay ended up sucker-punching me from the back seat of the van. He was trying to straighten out his reputation from his days in Malevolent [Creation] when he was a total fuckhead. He thought Digger was going to be his way to a better reputation. [Laughs] The next day, guess what? I had the money to buy new drumheads. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get people to live up to their end of the deal.

Back of Kings of Terror Tour Laminate, Mexico, 1999. Autographs by Emperor and Peccatum. Provided by Pål Solberg.

What was on each band’s respective setlist?
Trym Torson: “Curse You All Men!,” “Decrystallizing Reason,” “Thus Spake the Nightspirit,” “I Am the Black Wizards,” “With Strength I Burn,” “Sworn,” and… “The Majesty of the Nightsky” and “The Loss and Curse of Reverence.”
Øystein Brun: We were, altogether, five bands on that tour, including Divine Empire as a support act, and for some shows we even had local support bands. So, our set was short but, from what I can recall, we played the following songs: “Oceans Rise,” “A Tale of a Pagan Tongue,” “Nocturnal Vision,” “Dawn of the End,” “Ad Noctum,” “Universal,” “The Winterway,” and “The Eye of Oden.” Might have forgot a song or two, but that was pretty much it. I kind of remember this, as some of these songs we never did live again, like “A Tale of a Pagan Tongue,” “Nocturnal Vision,” and “The Winterway.” Was a special tour and it was a special setlist.
Patrik Jensen: The setlist relied heavily on Restless and Dead and Witchburner. We probably had a 30-minute set time. Songs that would’ve for sure been on there are “Restless and Dead,” “Witchery,” “Born in the Night,” “House of the Raining Blood,” “All Evil,” “The Howling,” “Witchburner,” “Fast as a Shark” (Accept cover from the Witchburner EP) and the show-stopper (still to this day) “The Reaper.”
Pål Solberg: Well, from the top of my head (in no numerical order…), I think it was: “Speak of the Devil (As the Devil Might Care),” “The Change,” “The Sand Was Made of Mountains,” “I Breathe Without Access to Air,” “The World of No Worlds,” and “And Pray for Me.”
Derek Roddy: We only had Redemption out, so all the songs, I think, were off that album. “Hidden Hatred,” “Silent Carnage,” “Redemption,” “Witness to Terror.” If we had time, we played “Pray for Deliverance.”

Front of Emperor long-sleeve t-shirt, 1999. Provided by TShirtSlayer

How many of the dates were canceled? If I recall correctly, one show was outright canceled due to sickness in the Emperor camp. Or, at least that’s what I remember hearing.
Øystein Brun: As far as I can recall, only one concert was cancelled. Don’t remember exactly why, might be because of illness, but I rather have a vague memory that it was because of some problems with the promoter.
Patrik Jensen: Having a cancelled show on that tour rings a bell, but I cant remember where that would’ve been. It was a very dodgy tour, with a lot of [tour managing] TM-ing problems, so there where logistical problems, backline problems, promoter problems, etc. that we would never have accepted if we had had more experience at the time. Speaking of cancelling due to illness, our bass player Magnus got food poisoned on the way to New York. We got to the show pretty late in the day, so we were driving when everyone in the van was awake. I remember we had to make “puking stops” for Magnus. He just fell out of the van on all fours puking his guts out, but he still played the show. He donned his then trademark stage getup, mirror aviator sunglasses, and rocked the crap out of that gig. Danny Lilker was at the show and he gave us freshmen the advice to “only eat pizza on tour” to avoid food poisoning. I’m not sure that is scientifically verified though.
Pål Solberg: The concert in Florida was canceled due to bad time-planning from our road crew/management. It was like physically impossible to do a concert there and keep up with the rest of the tour as scheduled. I do not recall any show canceled due to sickness, even if people did have pneumonia. They still went on stage. The show must go on, you know.
Derek Roddy: The Florida date was canceled because the tour was losing money, I think. To drive all the way to Florida and all the way out was eight hours each way. And then to drive from Florida to Texas, the Houston date, was an additional ten or more, I think. I guess the depends on where we ended up after the Florida date, but the Florida dates had to be canceled.

Back of Emperor long-sleeve t-shirt, 1999. Provided by TShirtSlayer

Going off the canceled show memory, I remember the issue was with Emperor. I know Emperor were the headliner, but why didn’t the show go on, considering there were four other bands, counting Peccatum.
Øystein Brun: Hence the above, I really don’t think it was cancelled because illness entirely. I mean, nothing could stop the bands from playing at that time. Emperor even played two shows in Canada without Samoth since he was not allowed to enter Canada, due to the church burning [incidents]. So, I find it hard to believe that the show was cancelled due to illness as a sole reason. On the other hand, there was never an option for the rest of the bands to move forward with the show. But my recollection might be wrong here.
Patrik Jensen: This sounds like a local promoter issue. If most of the bands on a bill would play, it could be seen as the tour package has fulfilled the contract. However, most people would be there to see the headlining band Emperor and they would likely demand their money back. Therefore, a promoter might decide to cancel the show in order to have money to pay back the tickets. I’m not sure if this was the case here, but it sounds like it.
Pål Solberg: I believe that only the Florida gig that got canceled, as explained above. After the Houston gig, the Emperor and Peccatum crew went down south to Mexico City. What happened while we were away, I cannot tell you.
Derek Roddy: I also think there was some fear, in the Emperor camp, about going to Tampa. That old death-black metal thing was still somewhat fresh in peoples’ heads. At the time, those guys probably thought something might go down if they did end up playing, so I think they went out of their way to cancel the Florida dates, specifically Tampa. Personally, I think we could’ve gone down there, played the shows, made a bit of money, and went on with the rest of the tour.

Front of Witchery long-sleeve t-shirt, 1999. Provided by TShirtSlayer

How was Peccatum received? Peccatum were sort of an oddball band on the bill.
Pål Solberg: As a member of Peccatum, I felt that the U.S. audience was more open-minded, and not so locked into the “black metal definitions and boundaries” that existed in Europe at the time. All in all, the whole tour setup was an adventurous setup. The bands were fairly varied, and all of them differed a lot from each other. Of course, we had three vocalists, and two guitars. The rest was delivered from Mr. DAT. I do believe as of today, that Peccatum did a lot for female singers and songwriters in the scene in the years to come. Ihriel/Heidi [Solberg Tveitan; vocals] is, and will always be an excellent musician and composer.
Øystein Brun: Definitely an oddball, but as far as I can remember they were received really well. To be quite honest, I felt like we were sort of an oddball ourselves, as our set was based much around the The Archaic Course album, which mainly has clean vocals, rather down tempo and so forth. But the audience was intense during the whole tour I would argue. Compared to the European audience at that time, the USA really gave us some fuss.
Patrik Jensen: I think all the bands involved were received well on that tour. European black metal was just out of the gate in North America, and these were European bands. All bands also had their own sound, so the package actually covered a lot of ground.
Derek Roddy: I watched Peccatum every night. I thought they went over pretty well. I watched every band every night, actually.

Back of Witchery long-sleeve t-shirt, 1999. Provided by TShirtSlayer

What was the tour dynamic between bands at the beginning of the tour like? And then at the end?
Øystein Brun: Well, from my point of view the dynamic between the bands was flawless, despite all the ordeals we had to overcome. Of course, I might have missed out on some minor personal issues, but overall there was a good vibe during the whole tour.
Patrik Jensen: We, as the only Swedish band, were put together with three Norwegian black metal bands on that bill, so we didn’t know what to expect. [Laughs] You might remember there was some kind of beef going on between Norwegian and Swedish black metal bands back then, but there was nothing but good times on the tour. Sharing the van with Borknagar was great. Sure, there was some friendly neighboring countries banter going on, but that tour led to friendships that continue to this day.
Pål Solberg: The dynamic between the bands was very nice. I have fond memories from this tour, and I think of the guys in Borknagar and Witchery as very nice people and great musicians to this day.
Derek Roddy: The relationships [between bands] were all cool. No problems whatsoever. JP still keeps in touch with Samoth and Samoth’s father [Jens Olav Haugen], who, of all things, is a famous Norwegian blues musician. JP is involved in that world, so that’s how he’s stayed connected to Samoth and his father. It’s a small world. Trym and I have been friends forever. I just saw Nick Barker nine months ago. He was here at my studio to play a bit before the metal cruise, the 70K thing. I’m still friends with everybody, I think. Everything was completely cordial.
Trym Torson: As I remember, the dynamic was really good. We all got along very well.

Divine Empire
Front of Divine Empire tour long-sleeve t-shirt, 1999. Provided by TShirtSlayer

What’s the best thing that happened to you on that tour?
Patrik Jensen: It was our first experience touring North America. Like I mentioned earlier, we got to see a great deal of (mainly) the U.S. from riding in a van. It was during the summer too, so it was a like a long adventure/vacation, if you will. The shows were super-hot because of the heatwave, but that fits our style of music. Getting really sweaty on stage only enhances the riffage and adrenaline we try to get across to the audience. We wore black shiny vinyl pants on that tour. After a few shows our stage clothes were severely rank smelling, but it was all part of the experience. I especially remember the show at the Variety Arts Center in Los Angeles: 2,000 tickets sold and the show was amazing!
Øystein Brun: For me, personally, that was the fact that we had the opportunity to see so much of USA, driving from east to west. When me and Jens rented a cabriolet–driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles–was a definite peak of the whole tour. In terms of live shows, Los Angeles or San Francisco really stood out. I remember one of those venues had huge windows with the skyline of the city in the background. Not very metal, but a very special and awesome atmosphere.
Pål Solberg: For me, it was meeting the local fans in North America. To talk to real people who appreciated our music for what it was. I do not recall a lot from the U.S., except for seeing the usual “East Side of town,” or “bad neighborhood” that we always played in. I do recall we were staying at the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco. I will not forget that stay for a very long time. As a metalhead, seeing all the 666s in the pool was like… Very over-the-top, and cool. [Laughs]
Derek Roddy: I remember, I was looking for a new ride cymbal. I went into a music store and fell in love with one. So, I bought it. I brought it back and played on it. Suddenly, it was like, “Eh, no love here.” Over the next few days, I really started to hate that thing, so I gave the cymbal to Trym. He still uses it to this day. [Laughs] OK, I think he still uses it. I’d have to ask him.

Divine Empire
Back of Divine Empire tour long-sleeve t-shirt, 1999. Provided by TShirtSlayer

What about the worst?
Øystein Brun: Hmm… Due to a heatwave and heavy usage of air conditioning at the hotels I got a bastard flu on our way to Albuquerque. We even had an overnight drive I recall, and I felt so damn sick. As we were driving a crammed van, there was nowhere to sleep or rest. I remember Jensen (Witchery) gave me a tip about cough medicine you could buy at gas stations. Not sure what the remedy was, but I remember it was pink and looked like bottle of fluid bubble gum. Made me slightly buzzed and suddenly all was perfectly fine.
Patrik Jensen: I don’t want touring in a van in July to sound too rosy, even if it had its perks. It was really hard to get any real sleep. If you had over-night drives, you only got two-three hours [of sleep] max. The crew worked, as always, the hardest because apart from setting up, maintaining and tearing down the stage every night, they were also doing the driving. They were very tired, especially since they had zero downtime in between the Nevermore tour and our tour (crew was, more or less, all Americans). I stepped in and did some long overnight drives to let them get some sleep. I remember this one night when I was trailing behind the Emperor/Peccatum van. All of a sudden, I see a wheel from the right side of their trailer veer off and go into the ditch along the highway. They didn’t notice anything and kept on driving. We stopped and got the wheel. This was before mobile phones were in general use, so we had no way of telling them what had happened and the potential dangerous situation they were in. The trailer had a double axle, but still. We caught up with them an hour or so down the road and I pulled up alongside of their van. They guy riding shotgun with me had the wheel on his lap and he tried to make their driver understand what had happened to no avail. We had to roll down our window to yell at them, asking if they wanted their wheel back. [Laughs]
Pål Solberg: Well, it must have been people getting sick, the heat and the lack of sleep. I also disliked seeing all the poverty all around in the U.S. and Canada. Homeless people everywhere; at least at the places we had the gigs.
Derek Roddy: The Digger tour. [Laughs] A Digger tour is always the worst thing ever.

Any funny stories that came out of the tour?
Øystein Brun: Tons. One episode I remember very good was when we stopped at the Canadian border on our way to Montreal. Nick Barker got out of the van, calmly sat down on the pavement beside the entrance to Canadian customs. Then he said, “Watch this boys” and puked all over the place. Then calmly got back the van. Time stopped for a second, we froze, jaws of the customs officers dropped, and then we just drove off as if nothing happened. Hilarious and a legendary little sequence, exclusively by Mr. Barker.
Patrik Jensen: There were so many incidents on that tour that I don’t know where to begin! They might not have been funny at the time, but in hindsight they are pretty crazy.
Pål Solberg: The one I recall is from one of the hired musicians. One of them lost his brand new in-ear plug. And he was trying to explain this to the Hispanic cleaning lady at the hotel that he had lost his “air-plug” without her understanding much of it. [Laughs]
Derek Roddy: Crazy shit went down in Texas. The California shows were absolute madness. Not sure I even have the authority to tell those stories. Verbal only! [Laughs]

Do you think The Kings of Terror USA Tour 1999 had an impact on the bands? If so, to what extent?
Øystein Brun: Yes, definitely! Speaking for my own band, the USA tour we did in ’99 definitely made an impact on our career. Or, should I say history. From a commercial perspective, I am not sure how things actually turned out. Sales and all that. For us, as a band, it was an adventure we’ll never forget. And an experience we’ll have in our backpacks forever.
Patrik Jensen: It had a great impact on our band. We got such great exposure and met so many great people on that tour. We were back in October 2001 supporting The Haunted. The original supporting band had bailed due to some general 9/11 panic, so Witchery got added at the last minute. I believe there were just as many people turning up for those shows to see Witchery as there were to see The Haunted. The U.S. is still, to this day, where Witchery has its largest fanbase, largely thanks to that tour.
Derek Roddy: For me, it didn’t have an impact. That’s all due to Jay and me not really getting along. I wanted something more professional. Divine Empire couldn’t offer it. I wanted less of a party, more something with motive and direction. I wanted to be with musicians who were serious about music. If I’m going to play in a band–I’ve turned down so many offers over the years based on principle–then it has to be serious music with serious musicians. That party stuff is fun for a really short period, then it gets old really fast. So, this tour taught me this very lesson, actually. I still hold true to that.
Pål Solberg: Since Peccatum is now dissolved, it’s hard to tell. But it had an impact on us over the next few years. And I’m sure the active members of Peccatum–Ihriel and Ihsahn–to this day recall and cherish this tour in their hearts, as I do.

What are your final thoughts about this tour?
Øystein Brun: Adventure and positive vibes. As a relatively young band at that time everything was so huge, new and exciting. I deeply cherish the memories from that tour.
Patrik Jensen: I absolutely loved the tour, and if I could, I would do all it again in a heartbeat. That tour set the standards to which I hold all other tours. At the time, I thought all touring was supposed to be like that. Then I discovered the joys of sharing a smelly run-down tour bus with 18 other guys, playing a freezing cold venue (with no showers) on a Tuesday in January. [Laughs]
Pål Solberg: It’s like… I’d love to do this again, but I would not, for the sake of my life, go on a new road trip with the crew we had. And I think this was the first U.S. tour performed by Norwegian bands heading the bill. A-Ha did it like 15 years before us. At least, that was what we were told. That made us proud!
Derek Roddy: Not sure about Divine Empire. Not sure about Borknagar. Or, Witchery. I think it was good for Emperor. I mean, how could it not have been?