For those of you not yet familiar with the force of nature who goes by the name of Ihsahn, he’s the founder, guitarist and vocalist of the late, legendary Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal band, Emperor. To give a quick recap, Emperor’s heyday was 1991-2001 during which they quickly became the leading band in their genre, suffered through an early period where three out of the four members were imprisoned (Ihsahn was the only one out of jail at that time) and reunited for a small tour in 2006-2007 (including an LA show that I still kick myself for missing) and have seemingly broken up for good.
That said, we’re extremely fortunate that Ihsahn decided in the mid-2000’s to become the leading voice in progressive black metal crafting a body of work that utilizes heavy guitars, ambient textures, symphonic classical elements, saxophone (courtesy of Jorgen Munkeby of the great avant-garde jazz metal band Shining) and one of the most expressive extreme voices in the world. For those of you who can’t stand throaty “death” vocals, check out the work that Ihsahn did on Devin Townsend’s great new album Deconstruction (on the song Juular -- video here). The man produced a very successful trilogy of albums between 2006 and 2010 (The Adversary, Angl and After) that incorporated an experimental and twisted avant, jazzy edge to his black metal sound and has just released Eremita, one of the most unusual and coolest albums I’ve heard in a long time.
This is just some amazing shit here. Seriously amazing. Forward thinking, modern, dark, edgy and sophisticated. An amazing combination of classical, avant-garde jazz and driving, intense King Crimson-inflected black metal. And he’s got a great cast of musicians. In addition to Munkeby’s insane sax, he’s got drummer Tobias Andersen from Leprous (Ihsahn’s live band and a fantastic prog metal band in their own right), prog metal guitar shredder extraordinaire Jeff Loomis and the one and only Devin Townsend on vocals. Ihsahn himself handles most of the vocals, keyboard and guitars. I always think one should listen to an album from start to finish but in this case, just jump ahead to “The Grave”, an astonishing 8-minute piece that begins with Coltrane-esque sax over slow, heavy brooding guitars and drums with Ihsahn growling before slowing it down even more as we descend into a hell complete with free-form drums and even crazier sax before the song finally just drifts away. After you fall in love with that song, I know you’ll want to listen out the rest of the album (or tell your friendly reviewer to please turn that shit off!).
You can check out Eremita along with the rest of Ihsahn’s albums via the Spotify playlist below.
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