Review Summary: Ihsahn invites us home, but not necessarily to his origins.
There's always something poetic and nostalgic about home that transcends any kind of geographical border. It's a refuge, a safe haven, the place where it all began. By calling the first of his two 2020 releases Telemark
(his hometown and where he still lives), Ihsahn invokes a return to his origins, where his musical journey began. In this sense, that little black-and-white hut in the middle of the Norwegian forest on the cover symbolizes Ihsahn's creative Big Bang. Knowing beforehand that this first EP would have a black metal oriented sound, and the second a more experimental signature, it seemed safe to say Telemark
would focus on a darker aesthetic. However, Ihsahn doesn't take us into Emperor's black universe, but rather into the perspective of a 44-year-old musician with a long eclectic artistic background. Stylistically, Telemark
carries us neither backwards nor forwards. It's, in a way, an extension of Amr
, with the greatest novelty being that the original songs are entirely sung in Norwegian. The opener 'Stridig' perfectly mirrors this common spirit, showing evident style similarities with 'Lend Me the Eyes of the Millenia', but now without that extra velvet layer embedded in the previous album. The three original songs differ from each other. While 'Stridig' has a straightforward approach and a slightly more orthodox structure, 'Nord' and 'Telemark' explore other textures. The former being the softer of the three, the latter being the most complex and ambitious piece of music in Telemark
. Its hybrid soul, generating contrasts and multiple crescendos throughout the song, not only successfully closes the trilogy, but also reconnects with 'Stridig', thus closing the cycle.
Orbiting the originals we find two covers, namely Lenny Kravitz's 'Rock and Roll Is Dead' and Iron Maiden's 'Wrathchild', which although seeming out of place, give some unpretentiousness and genuineness to Telemark
. These final impressions have as their primary point of interest the way Ihsahn managed to impregnate his personal signature in two such distinct compositions. The common denominator between these covers and the other songs, besides the author's renowned style, is the saxophone, an element already familiar in Ihsahn's artistic past.
An EP usually tends to look like a somewhat incomplete, unfinished and ephemeral work. Honestly, I don't think that's the case. My main issue with Telemark
lies at a conceptual level, specifically in the way music translated the concept. Naturally, only Ihsahn can assess the link between music and its origins in depth, yet as a listener and spectator I don't feel this hut in the woods, this homeland, as the place where it all started, but rather as a manifestation of the present. Although I genuinely enjoyed all songs, I feel like this first chapter's concept hasn't been fully materialized, as if something was missing. But you know what? At the end of the day, everything is subjective and it certainly won't be these interpretative details that will call into question the work of an artist who deserves the greatest respect, especially when the story isn't closed yet.