Black Sun Empire
About Black Sun Empire
Easily one of the Netherlands' biggest drum'n'bass acts, Black Sun Empire have been producing intense, dramatic neurofunk and darkstep since the late '90s. Heavily inspired by the darker end of the d'n'b spectrum, particularly labels like No U-Turn and Virus and producers such as Ed Rush and DJ Trace, the trio's constantly evolving sound typically includes heavy, choppy breakbeats, wobbly, distorted basslines, and suspenseful, cinematic atmospherics. While much of their tracks are structured with the dancefloor in mind, complete with massive builds and breakdowns, their work is equally suitable for home listening. They've largely stayed true to their signature sound, but they've also explored dubstep and British rap, including collaborations with Foreign Beggars and Virus Syndicate. Largely releasing their music on their own eponymous label, as well as related imprints Blackout Music NL, Obsessions, and Shadows of the Empire, BSE have consistently produced fresh, high-quality work, and have earned widespread respect across the international drum'n'bass scene.
Rene Verdult and brothers Milan and Micha Heyboer, all from Utrecht, began making techno and breaks in 1993, and started producing drum'n'bass in 1995 after discovering genre pioneers such as Photek and LTJ Bukem. By 1997, they had devoted themselves entirely to the genre, and Black Sun Empire were born. After sending demos to various labels, BSE's debut single, "Voltage," was released by Rotterdam-based imprint Piruh in 1999. Soon after, DJ Trace became aware of the group, and they appeared on Mutationz I-IV, an EP of reworks of Trace's remix of T-Power's classic track "Mutant Jazz." BSE's Smoke EP was released by Trace's DSCI4 label in 2002; that same year, the trio kicked off their eponymous label with their single "The Rat." Following additional singles on A New Dawn Recordings and Citrus Recordings as well as remixes for Technical Itch and SKC, BSE released their debut album, Driving Insane, in 2004. The album included remixes by Concord Dawn, Kemal, and Illskillz, and the CD edition included a mix CD featuring many of the group's single releases to date. The album was well received, regarded by many as the best drum'n'bass album of the year, and the group completed a successful world tour.
BSE expanded on their success with their second album, Cruel & Unusual, which appeared in 2005 and featured collaborations with Noisia and Corrupted Souls. They established Obsessions, a sublabel intended for more atmospheric, less dancefloor-ready productions. BSE raised the bar again with their third album, Endangered Species (2007), which featured co-productions by State of Mind, Jade, and Optiv, as well as past collaborators Noisia. This was followed by another massive world tour, which reached nearly a hundred destinations. BSE kept busy with numerous singles and collaborations, and ventured into dubstep in 2009 when they kicked off their Shadows of the Empire sublabel with the single "Hyper Sun." Fourth album Lights and Wires appeared in 2010, containing dubstep as well as d'n'b tracks. Following another successful tour and a collaboration with U.K. rap/dubstep group Foreign Beggars, BSE released their fifth full-length, From the Shadows, in 2012. Focusing once again on drum'n'bass, the album was another sprawling set of originals and collaborations.
In 2013, BSE formed a new label called Blackout Music NL, named after their Blackout event series. They released material by themselves as well as friends including the Upbeats and Neonlight. In 2015, BSE and State of Mind collaborated on an EP titled Until the World Ends, followed in 2016 by The Violent Five. BSE's long-awaited sixth album, The Wrong Room, arrived in 2017, featuring collaborations with Pythius, Prolix, Audio, and others. ~ Paul Simpson