Review Summary: A visionary of music continues to turn heads.
Ihsahn is a staple of extreme music and a well known story as far as metal is concerned. Once known for his efforts fronting black metal pioneers Emperor, this multi-instrumentalist has carved another legacy going solo. Since leaving the world of Emperor, Ihsahn has naturally progressed past the sounds he helped carve into the world of metal all them years ago. His newest offering, Ámr
expands on its predecessors (namely Arktis.
and Das Seelenbrechen
) and continues on the path both in theme and in terms of quality. A feat both rare and welcome in today’s standards.
Despite being embedded in the stylistic choices of his past, Ihsahn has shown a constant need to move. At face value it could be argued that Ámr
is a Arktis. Version 2
. A quick foray into the loathsome, dark journey hints at a synth heavy progression that melds heavy and light into a forty-four minute landslide of quality material.
continues the same thematic journey laid out in the scenes of Arktis.
but doesn’t expand largely on the ideas found within. Instead, a semi-vintage synth graces the backbone of Ihsahn’s music adding flesh to the framework that has been in place since the solo debut. The raspy shrieks that dominated much of Emperor only adds to the contrast of the Norwegian cleans. It’s easy to see that there’s a musical genius at work here, backed by years of experience. Largely, the solo work of Ihsahn can rival (and in places surpass) that of the already overly mentioned Emperor. Progression is natural, whether it’s wanted or not and it’s clear that Ihsahn’s music was bound to evolve, expand and take a different shape.
is a swirling pool of smoke. As it rises, the natural transference of shape gives way to light and then combines, before fading forever. But as each wisp ascends a new form replaces it, showing the flame is very much alive. The music itself is very much the epitome of this analogy. “Lend Me the Eyes of the Millenia” opens the new album with calculated fury as the hook sinks quickly into the mind of the listener. Hypnotic and atmospheric it lends greatly to the older musical habits of the past where savage blast beats meat almost orchestral compositions. Whether or not you can appreciate the newer direction (especially considering that this is the seventh album under the solo moniker) there’s no denying the musical virtuosity found in each of the album’s tracks. Ámr
overall placates the fans of Ihsahn’s light and dark equilibrium and enchants those still [somehow] new to this pioneer of music.
A veritable onslaught of highlights leave the listener with little time for recollection. That’s not to say Ámr
becomes overbearing or oppressive, rather it’s the smooth, yet almost jarring blending of Ihsahn’s musical sides that take away the chance to think past the obvious. The sinister overtones that permeates during “One Less Enemy” sit pleasantly next to the gentle floating melodies while the guest solo from Opeth’s Fredrik Åkesson is far from out of place on “Arcana Imperii”. Even the black metal “purists” should find some peace as Ihsahn belts through the typical aesthetic. “Wake” is an especially fervent example. Ambitious in the making, “Wake” shines through the metal furore, being equally beautiful as it’s heavy, as graceful as it is bleak.
continues, the record gives way to the cleaner experimentations Ihsahn has become known for. The angelic touches that contrast so well with the Emperor-esque evil that peppers the album. It’s an element that has been executed near perfectly. For those wondering where Ihsahn’s newest offering sits in comparison with the previous album, Ámr
it doesn’t really expand on the cornerstones of 2016’s Arktis.
, choosing instead to follow it. It's a natural progression, without the decline in quality other acts fall into the trap of. It’s just a wonder where this visionary of music will take his next offering. The heights already belong to the man named Ihsahn.