Delivering his fourth solo album, former EMPEROR front man IHSAHN continues to defy both convention and in some cases his legion of fans. Admitting that he has long left the confines of traditional metal, black metal or other types of music, his vision allows him an outlet of total artistic freedom. Naturally some fans pine for the glory days of old when he led EMPEROR through their ground breaking career, shaping the genre of Norwegian Black Metal for legions of admirers and imitators. Then again, if you have made it this far with him you know the music coming from this man is not just unpredictable, it is down right impossible to categorize.
“Arrival” kicks off the proceedings with the sounds of shovels being dragged on the ground, possibly in a graveyard or a roadside quarry. Launching into the song, you are met by a driving rock beat and some interesting choppy rhythm guitars. IHSAHN’s initial vocal stylings are indeed the howling, blackened madness of old and it made me smile to hear it. Keyboards augment the riffs greatly and when the chorus hits, Einar Solberg of prog metallers LEPROUS takes over. His voice soars over a glorious melody and compliments IHSAHN greatly when they sing together, IHSAHN covering the lower register. This is one of several great collaborations on the album like DEVIN TOWNSEND and JEFF LOOMIS. The song also features a terrific, trademark shredding solo from the master as well. Drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen helps keep the beats hectic pace up, but under control. “The Paranoid” again, strikes high on the heavy meter with spiraling licks and blast-beats. These chaotic moments are tempered with occasional moments of gentle guitar interludes in the style of classic progressive rock. The riffs are stout and definitely rough enough for most metal fans. The chorus is a neat little slice of melodic heaven, with great vocals punctuated by poetic lyrics. “Introspection” sounds like its title and is a slowed down, contemplative piece at first. You are lulled into a false sense of peace before the crushing second verse and pre-chorus comes in with alternating death vocals and clean singing parts, provided expertly by DEVIN TOWNSEND. The combination of these two leading lights of the genre is terrific. As a singer and a great instrumentalist in his own right, there is little IHSAN cannot achieve and this proves it. “The Eagle And The Snake” also touches on many styles. Jorgen Munkeby (SHINING) lends his saxophone to the rhythm section, giving musical brass balls to the chords. Shirting in and out of dynamic changes in an instant the entire track is an emotional workout. There is a breakdown, complete with sax solo that is mind blowing. Bringing things down a notch and falling into a chill, but heavy groove is “Catharsis”. A great mid-album break from the mania of the other songs. “Something Out There” reverses that feeling and is borderline insane. Death metal, tech death, prog and even jazz influences all collide to create a unique track that still works as a song. Key and tempo changes abound. After a short interlude ,“Grief” comes “The Grave”. Although “The Grave” holds many of IHSAHN’s more modern musical aspects in it, it is ungodly harsh and the most “black metal” sounding track he has done in a while. It is so grim and sad, that it is bound to make the old school fans smile (when no one is looking) under their corpse paint. It is no surprise that themes on the album touch on life, death and coping with loss since Nietzsche on the album cover. “Departure” closes the album out with a sweeping, heavy and majestic track fully of little surprises. Not the least of which is IHSAHN’s wife Heidi S. Tveiten (STAROFASH/IHRIEL/HARDINGROCK/PECCATUM) who’s vocal turn is revelatory. The deluxe edition includes the track “Recollection.” This album does not just comprise the new work of an old master, but another chapter in his ever rising legacy.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes