Review Summary: Ihsahn’s 4th studio LP release proves why he is still considered one of modern day’s best Black/Progressive artists.
Most notably known as the front man for epic black metal band Emperor, Vergard Sverre Tveitan[Ihsahn] set his hopes on a solo career with the goals of creating a more progressive sound while still retaining past influences from his roots of heavy metal, black metal, and classical music. While most of Ihsanh’s earliest works in his solo career involved the sole creations of himself, as time went on his latter releases showcased the continuance of adding more and more guest artist to the equation. With his latest release, “Eremita”, the number of assembled entities is at its greatest with appearances from Jeff Loomis’ guitar work, Devin Townsend’s vocals, his wife Heidi Tveitan’s vocals, and the expressive saxophone work of Jorgen Munkeby. Even with the high number of collaborative influences, “Eremita” proves to be a very cohesive album.
The effective levels of compositional arrangements are rather high, given that we’re dealing with an artist who has a lot of experience under his belt. From the start, “Eremita” begins with immediate alternating picked-guitar techniques combined with the wise and never overdone drum work of Tobias Andersen. Soaring black metal vocals enter in and out with varying moments of clean vocals. The progressive tendencies are immediately apparent within two minutes as the assault of distortion and solo drops to cleans, where the cohesive keyboard work of Ihsahn joins the solemnity of its purpose. These descriptive-progressive techniques are cool even in written form but it’s important to realize the tag of progression is being fondled with from time to time throughout this album when certain moments are forced upon the listener, instead of a seem less transition. This is where the integrations of the metal characteristics take their light. At times you’ll hear thick riffs that jump into tremolos, then transition into choral arrangements and infused melodies, such as on “The Paranoid” and “Introspection”. Even though there are moments of non-progression mixed with its opposite, each musical transistion still works cohesively, which points to the skill and fore-thought of Tveitan’s musical approach.
The collaborations of saxophonist Munkeby adds a bit of air lift to the common metal and progressive notions. Although his additions are present throughout “Eremita”, he tends to stand out quite a bit on “The Eagle and the Snake” and the closer “Departure”; where his amalgamations roll in as a dawdling assault, blending in an atmosphere that is very unique yet desirable, so as to break the monotony of conventionalism. The guest appearances of Loomis, Townsend, and Ihsahn’s wife are noticeable but clearly not a highlight. It seems their inclusions were part of a past relationship matter where past favors were being returned.
The characteristics of the first half of “Eremita” are distinguishable in track nature while the second half tends to commence more towards Emperor’s works off Prometheus in “Something Out There” while still holding onto elements of what Ihsahn is known for; being lush choral arrangements and minimalistic guitar riffs. The key moments of conclusion to Ihsahn’s latest effort is in the “The Grave” where his expressions of depressive lyrics, following suites of digging a grave and all that follows, complementing the barrage of instrumental build ups to a halting falling of atmospheric destitution. We are finally left with the contrasting sounds of “Departure” where unconventional saxophone lightings linger in the haze of solitude.
While cohesive and very solid, Ihsahn’s 4th attempt could explore further into uncharted emotions and make rise to further levels of enjoyment. We are gifted with a solid release that is well above average but still seems to call out for something more; almost saying “use me to my full potential”, “take me further”. It is because of these voids that leave “Eremita” hoping for classic status but still pointing towards something that could be so much more. The enjoyability levels are still here and any fan of Vergard Sverre Tveitan’s work would do well to give this release a solid chance.