HISTORY FLASHBACK – 30 years of EMP: 1986-1988

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Wow, we almost can’t believe it: This Autumn – on November 27th to be precise – will be the 30th anniversary of EMP. Thirty. Like 3 and 0. Crazy, isn’t it? However, we’re not gonna plunge into a midlife crisis, but look back on the past three decades with pride. In 30 years, EMP has developed from a tiny flyer catalogue to become Europe’s leading e-commerce retailer in the rock and entertainment business. Leading up to our official birthday in November we are going to condense the past 30 years into ten blog posts – looking back on what happened with us, with metal and the rest of the world. Off we start with the years 1986 to 1988!


In November 27th 1986 EMP founding father Felix Lethmate submitted a business registration for E.M.P. – making it our official birthday. Why did he start in merchandise mail-order? Well, he was both a passionate vinyl collector and a metal head and quite active in the tape trading scene which was one of the rare opportunities to get non-mainstream music and US vinyl in Germany in those days. For the younger readers: tapes were music cassettes – the predecessors of the audio CD 🙂

When Felix realised that he was not the only one lacking in US vinyl and merchandise products he wanted to remedy it and started Germany’s first merchandise distribution company for rock und heavy metal in his living room.

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Musically, EMP’s foundation year is the year of Thrash Metal: Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”, Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, Megadeth’s “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” and Kreator’s “Pleasure To Kill” are born that year. But also other classics like Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere in Time” and Europe’s “The Final Countdown”.

The film industry introduced cult movies like “Aliens”, “Stand by Me”, “Platoon”, “The Fly”, “The Name Of The Rose” or “Highlander” this year. And in the video game realm “The Legend of Zelda” was launched.


The first EMP catalogue (well, more of a black and white flyer to be honest) sees the light of day. And the EMP headquarter increases to a three room apartment.

This is what the first EMP cover looked like:

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Metal spawns classics like Celtic Frost’s “Into the Pandemonium”, Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”, Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”, Helloween’s “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1”, Manowar’s “Fighting the World”, Napalm Death’s “Scum”, Running Wild’s “Under Jolly Roger” or the Testament debut “The Legacy”. 1987 is also the founding year of bands such as Entombed, Deicide, Meshuggah, Asphyx, Skid Row and U.D.O.!

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Legendary movies released this year included: “The Untouchables”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “Predator”, “Lethal Weapon”, “RoboCop”, “Spaceballs”, “Running Man” and “The Lost Boys”. “Dirty Dancing” as well… Gamers delight in the release of “Maniac Mansion”.


EMP moves into a 200 m² warehouse, working to the motto “Metal out of conviction”. The cover of 1988’s catalogue shows T-shirts from Metallica, Megadeth, Overkill, Tankard, Anthrax, Testament, Judas Priest and so on. This is what it looked like:

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Awesome, isn’t it?

Metallica’s masterpiece “And Justice for All” is released this year – once again changing the metal world for good. Other important releases include: Bathory’s “Blood Fire Death”, Carcass’ “Reek of Putrefaction”, Danzig’s “Danzig”, Iron Maiden’s “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, Blind Guardian’s “Battalions of Fear” and Bolt Thrower’s debut album “In Battle There Is No Law!” 1988 was also the founding year of Amon Amarth, Cannibal Corpse, Dismember, Gamma Ray, Nine Inch Nails and Paradise Lost!

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And the Movies of 1988? “Die Hard”, “A Fish Called Wanda”, “The Naked Gun”, “Akira” and “The Land Before Time”. The Sega Mega drive debuts – and the first computer worm called “Morris” disrupts ten percent of the world’s internet.

So, what are the next milestones we will be showing of the history of EMP, metal and the rest of the world? Stay tuned to find out in our next post of “HISTORY FLASHBACK – 30 years of EMP”!

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