Friday, April 15, 2016

IHSAHN - Arktis.

Ihsahn – Arktis. (2016, Candlelight)

The name of the former Emperor front man Ihsahn should not be a mystery to any metal head.His solo career has taken his early black metal efforts into the prog rock universe with a virulent taste for complex compositions and a tight triptych. Now with his sixth album as Ihsahn we are closer to a mainstream sound that could relate to Spock’s Beard or Pain of Salvation.

This album is wrapped in a superb production that showcases the crisp guitar lines that Ihsahn masters. Every element is felt and the use of more and more cleaner vocals makes Arktis a luminous one. It is clearly reflected in the cover artwork of a bright crosscountry skier or an explorer of the North Pole as a dark shadow on a background of whites and beiges. Even the photo of Ihsahn in the promo material shows him with cold whites that illustrates how contemporary the album is and sounds.

The screeching vocals are still used but with more restraint and they accentuate contrasts in songs like ‘’Pressure’’. Those contrasts are the darker elements that the explorer of the cover illustrate. They remind us that even if Ihsahn has evolved from Black Metal into a prog rock/metal he still has an edge. But his edge couldn’t be has effective if he hadn’t had a vision of his music. He probably is the most talented musician that took a step out of Black Metal to make his own mix of music.

Coming off as a very particular work Arktis might not be for every Emperor fans but I think that it is a solid album that grows on you. It might feel a bit disjointed but it is in the pure fashion of avant-garde metal infused with bits of prog and jazz here and there. Still, I believe that Eremita was his greatest effort but Arktis is not far behind.


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