20/07/12 || Smalley
While Emperor is almost certainly THE best-respected black metal band of all time, they’re still a bit divisive nonetheless; anyone who digs black metal at all loves In the nightside eclipse & Anthems, but when it comes to the 2nd half of Emp’s career, with the less overtly black, slightly more symphonic IX Equilibrium & “Prometheus”, some people are disappointed. Such people qualify as this.
That’s right, I even use smileys in my reviews now! And of course, I ain’t one of those disappointed people, since I like every Emperor record a lot, but I’m still disappointed with a good number of Ihsahn’s non-Emperor albums. The now-defunct Peccatum, which he did with wife Ihriel, was basically just weak, symphonic/goth/industrial metal; Ihsahn, I know you love her, but that doesn’t mean she’s as talented as you are. Anyway, Thou Shalt Suffer’s sole full-length was even weaker, with its dull, ambient/symphonic nonsense, and the one-off folk metal project Hardingrock, while an improvement, was still disappointing considering the talent involved. So for a time, it seemed like Ihsahn was trying too hard to run away from his roots; I mean, I know he’s a creative guy and everything, but it still seemed like he might’ve been trying too hard to distance himself from the legacy of Emperor, at the expense of his music.
Fortunately, while they weren’t perfect, Ihsahn finally started getting his career back on track with his first two solo records, and by the time of 2010’s sublime After, he finally had something that not only lived outside the shadow of his signature band, but also matched their legacy!!! “Eremita”, while not quite as impressive as its predecessor, is still another creative step in Ihsahn’s solo career, continuing in the unique “extreme progressive metal” style he’s crafted, and I’m hella glad that he decided not to quit his solo career after the “A” trilogy; plz stick with that a-record-every-two-years cycle, dude!
Anyway, opener “Arrival” starts us off with an intense energy, especially in Ihsahn’s legendary growling, but it isn’t all brawn and no brains, as our frontman’s musically adventurous spirit show itself in some off-beat (but still effective) clean guitar, as well as some beautiful melodies, courtesy of guest star Einar Solberg’s clean vocals, which are both layered in with Ihsahn’s harsh during the verses, and take center stage during the track’s beautifully bittersweet chorus. “The Paranoid” then lives up to its name with intense. frantic guitarwork and blastbeating, which is broken up both by eerie, intermittent stretches of relative quiet, and another memorable, melodic chorus.
“Introspection” takes us off the beaten path some with its surprisingly relaxed vibe, and the welcome presence of crazyman Devin Townsend as guest vocalist does nothing but add to that feeling, and “The eagle and the snake” ups the experimental vibe with the reappearance of saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby from “After”, who makes you feel uneasy (in a good way!) as you listen, with his sax oddly able to musically sync with Ihsahn’s pounding guitarwork. An odd track to be sure, and pretty sprawling in structure at almost 9 minutes long, but it ultimately stays compelling the entire way, with its intelligent, experimental weirdness, and the Jeff Loomis guitar cameo doesn’t hurt it either. “Catharsis” is another one that lives up to its title with the tense, almost-hallucinatory feeling of its verses, before letting us experience its titular feeling with a calm, soothing chorus, until it goes right back into a bad acid trip-verse. Not something you’d play to get the party kickin’, but still a very memorable, compelling experience nonetheless.
From there, the rest of “Eremita” successfully continues the powerful, avant-garde experimental goings-on that have proven so successful for Ihsahn… all, that is, except for track 8 “The grave”, which, while it does get off to a nice, doomy start, it starts dragging a few minutes in with an aimless, droning mid-section, with sound & fury, but little actually signified. Bummer. But, beside that one disappointment, “Eremita” ultimately more than qualifies as a success for the uber-talented Ihsahn; it may not be as majestically epic as his solo masterpiece “After”, but this is still another very good step in his career, and I’m only even more psyched to hear what his genius comes up with next. See ya in 2014, Ihsahn!
- Released: 2012
- Label: Candlelight
- Website: www.ihsahn.com
- Ihsahn: vocals,guitars, bass, keyboards
- Devin Townsend: guest vocals
- Tobias Ørnes Andersen: drums
- Jørgen Munkeby: saxophone
- Jeff Loomis: guest lead guitar
- Einar Solberg: guest vocals
- Heidi S. Tveitan: guest vocals
- 01. Arrival
- 02. The Paranoid
- 03. Introspection
- 04. The Eagle And The Snake
- 05. Catharsis
- 06. Something Out There
- 07. Grief
- 08. The Grave
- 09. Departure