Legacy of Brutality: 20 Years Of Black Sun Empire

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(Full Disclosure: BSE have been my favorite Drum & Bass artists since 1999, when I first heard their debut Voltage/Skin Deep released on Piruh. Most of the information in this article is opinion, and may not necessarily represent the opinions of BestDrumandBass.)

To anyone who is into Neurofunk, the name “Black Sun Empire” is instantly recognizable, and conjures up the thoughts of that techy, neuro vibe. They didn’t exactly invent the sound, but they absolutely fucking molded it into what it is today. Basically, they are absolutely synonymous with Neurofunk.

Over the course of a 20 year career, Black Sun Empire have worked with (including remixing tunes by/having their tunes remixed by) an astounding number of extremely prolific artists. N.Phect, State Of Mind, Chris.Su, Prolix, Jade, Pythius, Noisia, Audio, Rido, etc. The list goes on. These three artists, over the past twenty years, have made their mark as some of (if not THE) most influential to ever step into the Neurofunk arena. They continue to be innovative, as well. 

Personally, whenever a new Black Sun Empire release comes out, I actively pay attention to it. I already know before listening that it will be quality work and isn’t going to be bad. Honestly, in my opinion, they continue to absolutely DOMINATE the Neurofunk scene. There are certainly others that come close, but Black Sun Empire are at the apex of the Neurofunk scene and have been for quite a while in my personal opinion.

What’s In A Name?

I had never really thought about the trio’s name before wiring this article. I just knew that I really liked the name, and felt that somehow the name, the image and the music all fit together very cohesively.

  • According to Wikipedia, Black Sun refers to a criminal enterprise in the Star Wars universe, specifically the 1998 animated series “The Clone Wars.” Since their first release was in 1999, it is reasonable to assume that this could be where the name comes from.
  • Additionally, Black Sun refers to the sun in Hermeticism. Also a possibility, knowing the esoteric history and  traditions of Hermeticism.
  • Black Sun also refers to a symbol that was used in post World War II Germany by groups such as Neo-Nazis, Satanists, and other fringe sects of German society. I suppose this may also be an explanation for the name, but if so it is in poor taste.

There are numerous other uses for the term, but I think those three are the ones with the highest likelihood of inspiring the name. Anyway, that’s enough speculation about the origin of the name. Let’s move on, shall we?

Tunes

Black Sun Empire are a prolific Drum & Bass duo/trio. They have no shortage of absolutely massive tunes. As started earlier, their first release on Piruh in 1999 was my first exposure to them. Those tunes were a world apart from what we hear from Black Sun Empire today. They were good, but over the course of 20 years they honed their craft to audio perfection. 

They have got some of the meanest tunes in the game, and often collaborate with the biggest names in neurofunk on the planet. Also, the consistency is astonishing. Personally, I cannot think of even one other neuro artist who can match their consistency of putting out amazing material. When they release something, it’s never bad. The question is “how good is it?” The answer to that question is almost always “very good”. 

    • When they released Driving Insane in 2004, I was floored by it. I won’t say that it was unlike anything I’d ever heard before, but it was certainly an impressive debut studio album.
    • They followed that up with Cruel and Unusual in 2005 which was basically an assault on the senses. I didn’t just listen to that album, I felt that album. Cruel and Unusual is still, 14 years later, and extremely well produced, exceedingly dark album.
    • Endangered Species in 2007 was a minor departure from their previous output. It was still very good, but on this recording they seemed to be using a slightly different sonic palette. This seems to be their early experimental phase.
    • In 2010, the release of Lights and Wires was a return to true neurofunk madness. It was raw, it was creepy, it reminded me of what caused me to fall in love with Black Sun Empire in the first place. The mix on this one is insane.
    • In 2012, Black Sun Empire released From The Shadows, which is easily one of my favorite Drum and Bass albums of all time. When I really think about it, this album may actually be my number one favorite Drum and Bass album. From the very first song to the very last song, nothing but bangers. Also, the mix on this one is just pure, incredible aural bliss.
    • Finally, in 2017 they released The Wrong Room which was another departure from their normal sound. Again, not a bad thing. Just different. It’s not my favorite album of theirs, but it’s definitely not my least favorite either.

So, that’s it as far as their Studio albums go. I can’t go into compilation albums, extended plays, splits, singles, etc. There’s just too much material to deal with. I am going to make one exception though……

VARIATIONS ON BLACK. HO-LY SHIT. Most remix albums have a few good tracks on them and a lot of filler material. This is not your average Remix album though. This is an absolute masterpiece. Some of Black Sun Empire’s greatest tracks ever, remixed by 100% top-tier artists within the drum and bass community. There is absolutely nothing I have ever had negative to say about this album. There is not one single song on here that is not excellent. It’s incredible.

Conclusion

Black Sun Empire have risen from relatively humble beginnings to become one of the premier names in neurofunk and drum and bass itself. The only thing that I can hope is that they are able to continue for another 20 years releasing some of the most devastatingly disgusting and beautiful drum and bass the world has ever heard. 

NTRSKT (James Boyd)

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I live in Washington, DC. I work for the Federal Government, and all of my free time is spent listening to DNB, producing DNB, DJing DNB, at shows, etc. Oh and knitting.

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