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Ihsahn - "Eremita" (CD)

Ihsahn - "Eremita" CD cover image

"Eremita" track listing:

1. Arrival
2. The Paranoid
3. Introspection
4. The Eagle And The Snake
5. Catharsis
6. Something Out There
7. Grief
8. The Grave
9. Departure

Reviewed by on May 13, 2012

"There’s prog and black metal, there’s technicality and melody, there’s avant-garde insanity and catchy tunes, all combined into one sonic exploration..."

After ending the trilogy of “Adversary,” “AngL,” and “After,” black metal legend Ihsahn has now moved into a new phase of his solo outings with “Eremita,” an eclectic and prog influenced release that is less direct and more open to interpretation. There may still be harsh, rasping screams filling these songs, but this isn’t black metal in any traditional sense of the term. Entirely new territory is discovered here and the saxophone madness, teased out on the last album, is more fully brought to bear.

Much of “Eremita” embodies the ideals of the avant-garde style by never taking one genre and letting it dominate or go all the way to conclusion, as everything gets mixed with something else or eventually morphs into a different idea. When things are about to go overly brutal, they suddenly get twisted into a dark and macabre melody. When clean singing is controlling a song, an unexpected change of pace will suddenly occur to remind the audience that this is the guy who fronted Emperor, even if his musical style has significantly evolved since that time.

The last album, “After,” ended with “On The Shores,” as though to say the previous musical era was ending as the musician dropped anchor on a new landscape. Keeping that theme going, Eremita opens with “Arrival,” which immediately heads in a different direction than the earlier albums, with a rock influence and a progressive flair. Leprous vocalist Einar Solberg appears to bring out his clean singing for the opening track, which is a very welcome addition, as Ihsahn’s guest growls on the last Leprous album created a buzz for further collaboration.

Before getting pigeonholed as a prog album or a black metal version of Leprous, the follow-up song “The Paranoid” explodes with technicality, bringing to mind echoes of Emperor’s final album “Prometheus.” Continuing to throw the audience off balance, the song occasionally drops the technical stuff and throws in a bit of unexpected catchiness that will ensure the song sticks in your head. The later track “Grief” is also a departure from what Ihsahn has done in the past, as it’s essentially an instrumental interlude, whereas normally that sort of thing would be mixed into other sounds. According to the band mastermind himself, the song is meant to be a musical representation of a poem, so different listeners may get different things out of it.

For the first half of the album, the use of saxophone is done in a dark and evil twist on the big band style, rather than being used like a surrogate guitar, adding a new dimension to the music. As the disc progresses moves along, it does tend to revert back to a style very similar to what was heard on the last album, however. “The Grave” and “Catharsis” in particular sound overly familiar to the last release, although there aren’t too many metal bands using sax these days, so it’s an interesting change of pace regardless.

Although it’s not as actively bizarre or abrasive as the previous band where Ihsahn and his wife StarOfAsh collaborated, in many ways “Eremita” feels feel like Peccatum evolved by another 10 years, like a final follow-up that never happened. There’s prog and black metal, there’s technicality and melody, there’s avant-garde insanity and catchy tunes, all combined into one sonic exploration that should easily pull in fans of any of Ihsahn’s previous albums.

Highs: The evil sounding sax is pretty amazing, the prog sounds add new dimensions to the music, and the growls and guitar work are still just as extreme as ever.

Lows: The sax on the album's second half is too close in sound to the last album, "The Grave" drags on a bit too long, and the "Grief" interlude feels like it could have been expanded more.

Bottom line: Ihsahn moves into a new period of his solo career that mixes avant-garde oddity with catchy song writing, and extreme metal with what can only be described as "evil big band sax."

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)