Album Review: Ihsahn - Ihsahn

Album Review: Ihsahn - Ihsahn
Photo Credit: Andy Ford

'Ihsahn' is due for release on February 16th via Candlelight Records.

Extreme metal composer, musician, self-producer and all round wizard Vegard Sverre Tveitan, more commonly known as Ihsahn, is one of extreme metal's most prominent names and quite rightly so. With an intricately obsessive artistic endeavour constantly pursuing genre-bending originality beyond the scope of his core of extreme/black metal, the incredibly intelligent and beautifully self-expressive mastermind has returned with his highly anticipated eighth self-titled solo album. Never one for complacency, Ihsahn has admitted that this recent project pushed him to his creative limits.

“On average, I´ve been releasing a full-length album every second year since I was 16. And, you know, that has given me some opportunity to explore different options, so for my eighth full-length solo record, I thought, ‘okay, how can I do what I do best, but also raise the bar tenfold? At the heart of what I do is black metal, extreme distorted guitars and screaming, but since the earliest Emperor recordings you’ll hear the keyboard parts influenced by classic soundtracks by the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Bernard Herrmann, John Carpenter and so on. So, I approached the writing with the intent to present the material in its full-blown metal expression, but also to arrange the orchestral parts in such a way that they would work independently. Somehow an attempt to write a soundtrack within the structures of the full production, allowing me to explore different, and sometimes contrasting, variations of essentially the same music. In the end I wrote all the music as a piano short-score and arranged it for a typical band ensemble and orchestra, accordingly, making sure everything interlocked.”

This isn't a double-album as such, it's the same album but twice over; one is progressively metal with heavy black metal influences and dense orchestral presence and the other is a cinematic soundscape of fully symphonic orchestration only.

The record opens with 'Cervus Venator,' a beautiful instrumental brimming with peaceful grandiosity, easing you in before the rolling drum-beat and bass heavy, chugging riff that follows with 'The Promethean Spark.' Ihsahn's prominent snarls and rasping vocals are instantly recognisable, broken up by intricately technical guitarwork and a cacophony of twisting orchestration. The addition of soaring, melodic clean vocals adds an extra layer to the production and keeps the track melodically interesting. 'Pilgrimage to Oblivion' is sinister and urgent in nature with incredibly heavy black metal influences and orchestral opulence from the start. Again, the combination of those demonic snarls and gorgeous melodic cleans compliment each other well on the backdrop of dramatic atmosphere. 'Twice Born' has an unsettling edge to it, a charging force which is both cinematic and terrifying.

Photo Credit: Andy Ford

'A Taste of Ambrosia' sounds like a final boss battle at the end of a ridiculously over-the-top sci-fi movie and it's honestly the most fantastic thing ever. The tempo changes and time-signatures provide an extra allure drowning in theatrics and grandeur. 'Anima Extraneae' serves as a short breather from the cacophony of creativity with another peaceful yet swelling piano and string instrumental. This doesn't last long however before those ominous drumbeats come back in to play with more sinister rasping in 'Blood Trails To Love.' There's something addictive and curious about this track in particular, especially when the somewhat emotive cleans come in to play before the ominous atmosphere and jarring nature returns.

'Hubris and Blue Devils' is a sublime personification of insanity and madness. The complexity of the time signatures and technical riffage creates a frantic atmosphere which twists and turns in unknown directions with surprisingly melodic moments. 'The Distance Between Us' builds in both drama and tranquility, treading a thin line between emotive cleans and dark demonic rasps as it begins to gradually swell with melodic grandiosity. 'At the Heart Of All Things Broken' is the penultimate track in this journey and is a sprawling monster at almost 10 minutes long. This perfectly encapsulates every ounce of Ihsahn's musical prowess and creative vision. Experimenting with various different elements, this track begins with a slow build of tranquil beauty before those signature growls come back in to play with explosive vigour accompanied by dramatic orchestral flair. Finally, 'Sonata Profana' concludes the record (before the purely orchestral format of the record) with a chilling instrumental which quietly fades in a peaceful void of darkness.

This incredible album is a force to be reckoned with and Ihsahn's most ambitious slab of creative sorcery to date. An overpowering dose of extreme, black and progressively stunning metal incorporating heavy orchestration that would render the likes of John Carpenter and Hans Zimmer null and void. You could listen to it once, twice, a hundred times and you will always absorb something new. The world of Ihsahn is a journey, an epic saga in to the mind of a musical virtuoso. Diving in to the depths of another world of wonder and this recent offering is his most magical yet.

Rating: 9/10
Release Date: February 16th 2024
Released By: Candlelight Records
FFO: Emperor, Borknagar, Opeth


01 - Cervus Venator
02 - The Promethean Spark
03 - Pilgrimage To Oblivion
04 - Twice Born
05 - A Taste Of The Ambrosia
06 - Anima Extraneae          
07 - Blood Trails To Love    
08 - Hubris And Blue Devils
09 - The Distance Between Us
10 - At The Heart Of All Things Broken
11 - Sonata Profana

01 - Cervus Venator (Orchestral Version)
02 - The Promethean Spark (Orchestral Version)
03 - Pilgrimage To Oblivion (Orchestral Version)
04 - Twice Born (Orchestral Version)
05 - A Taste Of The Ambrosia (Orchestral Version)
06 - Anima Extraneae   (Orchestral Version)        
07 - Blood Trails To Love (Orchestral Version)
08 - Hubris And Blue Devils (Orchestral Version)
09 - The Distance Between Us (Orchestral Version)
10 - At The Heart Of All Things Broken (Orchestral Version)
11 - Sonata Profana (Orchestral Version)

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