Ihsahn / This Is His Most Ambitious Album To Date

Vegard Sverre Tveitan, otherwise known as Ihsahn, has released album number eight. The self-titled album is his most ambitious album to date.

Ihsahn – Ihsahn (Candlelight Records)

Release Date: Out Now

Words: Robert Adams

Known predominantly as the founder and leader of Norwegian Black Metal masters Emperor, Ihsahn has been ploughing his own furrow for quite some time now. So much so that this self-titled album means that his solo output has doubled Emperor’s album releases.

Ihsahn – Ihsahn (Candlelight Records). Out Now.
Ihsahn – Ihsahn (Candlelight Records). Out Now.

There are two versions of this album available. The Metal version will be the subject of this review. The orchestral version does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an orchestral instrumental version of the Metal album and wouldn’t be out of place on Classic FM.

“From the first core ideas around making a dual-layered conceptual album,” Ihsahn said, “this project has expanded into far more sonic and visual areas than I could possibly have hoped for. Much thanks to the support and contributions of my talented friends and collaborators. I’m excited to finally share this in its entirety and hope listeners will find the result as engaging as I felt making it.”

Album opener Cervus Venator is identical on both versions of the album, being a fully instrumental orchestration. It really is the calm before the storm.

The Promethean Spark opens with a snare roll before the guitars hit you with a heavy but clean riff. When you hear it, you will understand what I’m saying. Then we get that unmistakable Ihsahn growling vocal.

The orchestra can be heard throughout, and Ihsahn drops in his glorious, clean vocal in short bursts, which gives an ominous sense of light and shade. Think Opeth with an orchestra, and you will be close to the mark.

There is so much going on musically throughout this album. But Ihsahn has put great thought into the arrangements, and the final mix means that nothing is lost. It’s a truly incredible sound.

The final Emperor album, 2001’s Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise, was the first truly Symphonic Black Metal album. If you haven’t heard it, please give it a spin. It’s a thing of wonder.

Ihsahn, the album, sounds like the follow-up to that landmark Emperor album, albeit 23 years later. That’s 23 years worth of musical experience for Ihsahn, the man, put into Ihsahn, the album.

The sheer scale of this album cannot be overstated. To score an orchestra for the Metal version is hard enough. Scoring an entire instrumental version as well takes some doing. Three years is the answer to the question, ‘How long did Ihsahn take to write and record this album?’

Pilgrimage To Oblivion is a full-throated slice of Progressive Black Metal and has a wonderfully shot video to accompany it.

We have another fully orchestral interlude at the album’s halfway point with the beautiful Anima Extrenae, which then leads into Blood Trails Of Love. This is as close to a romantic ballad as Ihsahn gets.

Hubris And Blue Devils marginally take the album’s best track, in my humble opinion. It’s pure Opeth in feel and delivery, with Ihsahn utilising both clean and harsh vocals throughout.

But it’s a photo finish for the best track with At The Heart Of All Things Broken. This is a nine-minute plus slab of Progressive Metal joy with more than a nod to folk music. Trust me, it’s way better than that description reads.

Another classical instrumental, Sonata Profana, closes what is Ihsahn’s most accomplished album to date.

“Art taps into the metaphysical and the archetypes of our existence,” Ihsahn says. “It lets us experience loss, death, love. It prepares us for all of those things in some way. That’s the value, that’s the perspective I wish to create from.”

I would highly recommend buying both versions of this incredible album, as the Orchestral version is 48 minutes of sheer joy.

Ihsahn play the Celestial Darkness Festival in March and the Arctangent Festival in August.

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Comments

  1. Here, that is a very interesting idea to record two versions of an album. Only had a chance to listen to the attached tracks and whilst the shouty delivery sections are not for me, there is some wonderful musicianship on show. i leaned towards favouring the orchestral track and that could easily have been a John William’s soundtrack for a small scared extra terrestrial running through a forest in search of candy. The review has definitely piqued my interest for this album, so job well done Robert. For a working man, not too shoddy.

  2. That’s why they call me the working man Ghostbadger! To give Ihsahn credit, you can understand his “shouty” vocals, unlike a lot of other Black Metal vocalists. The musicianship is off the scale on this album

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