Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review: Ihsahn - Eremita

 Being faced with a new release from Norwegian metal master Vegard Sverre Tveitan, known better to the world of metal as Ihsahn is as daunting a prospect as it is exciting and mind-blowing. Having gone through a great deal of progression since his most iconic work in fronting black metal pioneers Emperor, his solo works allow him to unleash an entire spectrum of musical influences, be it black metal, solid death metal riffing or even the occasional jazz interlude. And on his fourth release Eremita, an album that looks into themes of solitude, things are taken further and grounds are broken harder.

 Following 2010's After, to end his "A" trilogy, one would have questioned Ihsahn's ability to triumph over previous efforts with a whole new trilogy of albums in store. But as Arrival lures listeners into this new musical world through a series of bass driven grooves, winding guitars and a glowing organ led backdrop that scales with shimmering grandeur, you get the sense that his ability to open up new possibilities with genius songwriting craft and atmospheric sophistication has allowed him to create something truly worthy of our total solitude and focus.

 And that's all before any riffs begin. And when they charge into action in full force, such as to be found in the screaming black metal velocity of The Paranoid and Something Out There which along with displaying powerful guitar work with stone-carved heaviness, effectively display's the ability to add sophisticated symphonic backdrops without any risk of the song moving into tackier territory. Of course the intense shredding of The Eagle and the Snake provided by ex-Nevermore axeman and all around metal guitar legend Jeff Loomis is an undeniable display of riffage at it's most immersive pounce.

 While Ihsahn's black metal past lives on in a more melodic and more-mannered form, there is also moment where different ideas are traced upon and the progressive influences come out at full force. Wether it's in the sludgy Introspection which features the soothing and captivating guest vocals from the always-wonderful Devin Townsend or the crushing bleakness of The Grave heavy of doom-laden riffs with a blackened edge, Ihsahn's ability to craft well-structured and less-in-your face songs that still keep listeners on the edge of their seat is a real power. And of course the prominent contribution from Shining frontman Jorgen Munkeby across the album gives an extra depth to the grim backdrops of the likes of Catharsis. Indeed, playing the saxophone has never sounded so metal!

 Always known for being a musician that doesn't like to settle on the same solid sound for a long period of time, Ihsahn continues to prove with Eremita that his songwriting has progressed to the stage that we will never hear a song like I Am the Black Wizards from him anymore. While many will pine for the release of a new Emperor album, it's more than obvious that Ihsahn is in a good place musically right now, where his bringing all his different musical influences and past styles to light in a combination that is breathtaking. Already an influential name in metal, Ihsahn's ability to break new grounds and maintain a higher respectability is commendable.

Ihsahn's Eremita is out now via Candlelight.

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