Monday, July 23, 2012
How do establish your own identity and distance yourself from your legacy if you are one of the founding fathers of Norwegian black metal ? If you are Ihsahn you record a trilogy of solo albums. Now that the smoke has cleared from those Eremita marks his first album outside of said trilogy.Fans of the pioneering black metal band will find enough musical key points of the genre to satisfy the more open minded among them. In their heyday Emperor deviated early on from feeling to need to have low production value in order to maintain some type of kvlt ethic and blended grandiose epic songwriting with bursts of chaos. In his maturation Ihsahn has shed the need for chaos in favor of more focused songwriting.
The new album is more of a progression than departure from his three previous solo albums. The hooky chorus of the second song “ the Paranoid” steps further melodic territory. The melodies spread like shadows in the dusk .
The cohesion lies in part from the superior drumming of Tobias Andersen who like the majority of Ihsahn’s back up band play in Leprous. The songs have a seamless flow, listening to a streaming version of the album I leave it on and let it keep playing. in the similar manner of an album like King Crimson’s “ In the wake of Poseidon “
Lyrically there’s a story of sorts going on, the narrative is so introspective, and somewhat abstract so the storyline isn't a distraction and not what comes to mind from the term concept. In several lyrical passages the words paint with tighter stokes to flesh the details of a scene here and there. when the story does surfaces more clearly it is done tastefully and in a manner where the song retains its personality when taken out of context from the rest of the album.
Thematically there is a hope in the darkness,the aptly titled “Catharsis” is one of the album's darker moments , the guitar leaves room for the mournful atmosphere to flourish, and the staccato vocal melody to tip toe in from the back ground.
The guitar tone even in the darker moments retains a certain warmth and organic feel. The distortion is tight but not overly compressed. The layering of guitar parts is the best I have heard from a metal record this year. the chords are allowed to ring while single notes haunt.
The use of clean vocals set against Ihsahn’s trademark larynx rending screams are some of albums most memorable moments. Devon Townsend and Leprous singer Einar Solberg. Both of these singers have a similar approach, their voices hit my ears as a mix of Tripping Daisy alt-rock and Dream Theater.
songs like Something out there, carry a carnival like feel to it not unlike Arcturus. It's this bold spirit of adventure that is the most noted carry over from Emperor along with Ihsahn's coarse shriek, but this album falls into the same neighborhood as bands like Borknagar than black metal. It even shares the same zipcode as his collaborators in Nevermore and Strapping Young Lad, still too extreme to cross over into commercial metal like Dream Theater or Disturbed, this is credited to the European sense of art rather than the more marketed craft of their american counterparts.
The sax of Jordon Munkeby, helps the album distance itself from traditional metal . His playing is a brilliant blend of dissonant chaos and tasty embellishment. makes me forget my prejudice towards the band, since I’ma fan of the Swedish Depressive Black metal band with the same name for some reason the shared moniker irks me.
His guitar playing is no less virtuosic than Loomis, when sort of dynamic are called for. The songwriting is far too focused to allow this album to become a shredders paradise. I do think musicians aspiring or experience would have a profound respect for Ihsahn after giving this album a listen .
With a more vicious bite to it than Opeth, yet less schizophrenic than Sigh, Ihsahn is much more comfortable in his identity. This album is more one solid piece of work than , stand along songs in feel and it's hooks are more cerebral than demanding . Still this holds enough weight to satisfy and thinking metal head and deserves a 9.