Review Summary: Ihsahn’s “Artistic Sidestep” results in a very good and interesting experimental metal album, but a weak second half is what’s keeping it from being held in really high places.
After 2012’s “Emerita”, Everyone was probably not expecting another release for some considerable time. "Das Seelenbrechen" (The Soul Breaking) was announced around mid-2013, just one year after his last album. Claiming to be a “sidestep” of his musical career, and in need of experimentation or of finding new musical grounds or heights, many people were not sure about what to expect. Ihsahn’s new record does a great job reflecting an artist in need to break away of his own borders through a lot of experimentation, but it loses most of its strength towards the end.
“Hiber” starts off in full force, portraying the typical strong riffs and Ihsahn’s recognized shrieking/screaming, which makes you think this is just another typical album of his. Right after that some soft piano starts, leading into some clean soft vocals that might remind a lot of people to an “Opeth” song. After a couple minutes of this, guitars and symphonic fills suddenly burst with energy, and Ihsahn starts its shrieking once more. The atmosphere set and the unexpected climax made this song a highlight in this album.
“NaCl” keeps up with the pace, with catchy riffs and some instrumentation, while Ihsahn once again leaves out his screaming. “Pulse” starts with some piano, but instead of taking a symphonic road as with “Regen”, this time it goes more into an electronic one. Although being simple, this song shows how diverse Ihsahn tries to be with his experimentation.
Although the song “Tacit 2” was a bit troubling to hear at first, given that it is mostly some drum fills and Ihsahn screaming chaotically for 5 minutes. It did not made any sense, until “Tacit” (yeah, Tacit 2 goes first) rolled in, it was the same song but with the other instruments and fills. This move was highly original and experimental, but might not be convincing for many people.
It’s after this half, when the album doesn’t keep up with how it began. “Rec” seems like it is going to get somewhere, but by just lasting 2 and a half minutes just makes it easy forgettable. Just as with “Sub Alter”. It’s not that the songs are really bad, it’s just that they never get to nowhere or hit their climax. “M” only shines a bit after half the song is in, with some cool Rock-ish guitar solo. “See” leads into more chaotic drums and vocals to end the album, which seems to represent the final step in "The Soul Breaking".
Ihsahn’s experimental abilities showed in this album truly shine and make for a good addition to his discography. The variety of sounds, emotions and ideas are planted solidly in here. However, a strange and weak second half, with songs that never seem to get to nowhere, may drag down the experience.