Dark Empire: A Conversation with the New Owner of the Resurrected ‘90s Record Label

For a few years in the early '90s, Integrity vocalist Dwid Hellion ran Dark Empire, a label with an extremely limited yet coveted discography.

In the label's short run, Dark Empire was behind releases by Cleveland hardcore legends Confront, Apartment 213, and naturally, Integrity. 1994's Dark Empire Strikes Back - Cleveland Compilation helped spread the word about bands like Ringworm, Face Value, Pale Creation, and The Guns.

Dark Empire's vinyl releases—as well as any label-associated ephemra—has been sought after by collectors throughout the years, but the catalog remained out of print. That's all about to change thanks to the label's ressurection by its new owner, The Dark Emperor (government name withheld), a longtime fan of Integrity and Dark Empire.

I spoke with him earlier this week to find out his plans for the label, how the deal with Dwid went down, and why Dark Empire is so important to him.

Now that you have the label, what is the plan? Are you going to stick to mainly reissuing the catalog, or will you also be releasing new material through the Dark Empire? 

The main goal I had when I took over the label was to reestablish that this was truly a continuation of Dark Empire that Dwid started in the early '90s and not a new label with the same logos. So I hit up some friends of mine including [former Integrity guitarist, currently in Nuclae] Aaron Melnick about Bowel and doing a reissue and he was all for it as well as Meketa from Apartment 213 and Tom Front of Confront 

This being a continuation and not a new label gave me a lot of leniency in this regard. But my next goal is to bring Dark Empire into the future with new bands like the upcoming Glorior Belli LP we have coming out and Savage Mystic EP. Once reissues are done, and we still have a few more surprises in store, you will start seeing younger and younger bands on the label. Metal and hardcore, noise, and all kinds of extreme music.

It seems like everyone you've contacted from the original Dark Empire days is excited about the relaunch. I know there was some dissent from certain people [I won't get into that here], which I'm sure is tough since they have a connection to the label through some of their previous bands.

I will say this—everyone from Cleveland has been great to work with everyone is being compensated fairly for their work or contribution. I think it says something when everyone from that scene wants to work with you.

We want these reissues to be remembered as they were indented to be before some of the stuff that came later. Dark Empire stands firmly in solidarity against racism, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, sexism, and bigotry of any kind! These records should be viewed in a time capsule when positive attitudes were the goal.

Before you took the label and its back catalog over, what were some holy grail Dark Empire items sought out by collectors? Are you missing anything for your personal stash?

I think I have almost everything I want or could possibly need but there are always weird one-offs Dwid made of shirts or weird things he put in with records. We want to continue that creativeness moving forward and you will be seeing a lot of that sort of stuff very soon. Including a return of Dwid's infamous Emperor's Notes that he would put in records.

The DIY and the attention to detail is what made Dark Empire special in the first place and it wouldn’t be Dark Empire without that same ethos.

Talk a bit about the next few releases you have on deck.

Yeah, absolutely! Integrity’s first EP, In Contrast of Sin, is coming out first and it will be on an LP format for the very first time as Dwid likes to say it’s “SUPERSIZED!”

Apartment 213's Vacancy is next after that and Bowel and we are excited to get rolling on to Confront which I think will be really meaningful and special. I am honored to be able to put out any of these records. In Contrast of Sin is a big deal to me on a personal level

Glorior Belli's self-titled LP will come out soon aswell and it’s a masterful record the latest addition to the DE roster.

READ MORE: Raiding the Victory Records Vault: How I Spent $12,095 on an Unmarked Chest at an Auction

Of all the Dark Empire releases from the original wave, which is your absolute favorite and why?

To me it will always be In Contrast of Sin since that’s where it all started for Integrity. The record changed the course of extreme music forever and it’s still hard to believe I get to put it out!

The Dark Emperor and Dwid Hellion

Hit the Dark Empire Linktree to find their social media and store info.

Tagged: apartment 213, bowel, confront, integrity, record label profile