Eighth solo studio album from Ihsahn, the legend of Norwegian Metal, releases his modern self-titled (Candlelight Records) opus hot on the heels of his 2023 EP – Fascination Street Sessions. As the principal creative force behind Emperor, his iconic status as a Black Metal musician was secured with their impactful nineties debut album In the Nightside Eclipse which released at the height of the genre’s second wave. While the experimental and progressive influence of his solo output has somewhat gone under the radar in comparison to his work with Emperor, those that have followed his releases since The Adversary in 2006, have been treated to an extraordinary body of work.
This is a musician who is nothing if not imaginative. The main record’s comparison piece epitomises the overall theme of the music, which has an overriding cinematic quality. Specifically, one appears strongly inspired from the sixties and seventies, as the music often evokes the feel of a Hitchcockian thriller/mystery. This might just be the most complex collection Ihsahn has produced to date, as his unique concept is presented with an accompanying orchestral instrumental version of each song.
There are some great songs within the album, starting with “The Promethean Spark”. It’s a blend of infectious down-tuned riffing with rasping vocals of Ihsahn and sinister orchestral stabs. The song delivers snippets of clean singing and as it progresses, the introduction of horns and the crescendo of strings build to a quirky and avant-garde climax. “Pilgrimage To Oblivion” is fast-paced with the kind of blackened tremolo riffing and percussive blast-beats that will keep fans of Emperor more than happy. The song has a crazy arrangement and a clean singing section which draws comparisons to moments on Enslaved’s 2023 record Heimdal. An overall mysterious tone is yet again provided by the strings.
“A Taste Of Ambrosia” is slower and offers a little contrast. It opens with a sombre and melancholic guitar lead before a dark riff progresses the song into full on anthemic Black Metal. While “Blood Trails To Love” provides a similarly dark and eerie tone before building chaos and adding an incredibly strong clean singing performance that sounds a little like Corey Taylor. One of the strongest songs comes in the form of “Hubris and the Blue Devil” where off-kilter synths and some classy djent riffing combine to create a thoroughly enjoyable composition.
With this release, Ihsahn has once again provided a Blackened Progressive-Metal masterclass in originality. He is a musician who creates music like no other, tapping into his Black Metal roots while also mixing in the kind of progressive experimentation you might usually find on a Devin Townsend record. He sets himself apart with his use of intricate classical orchestral arrangements and a strong influence from the music of sixties and seventies suspense cinema.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10