Friday, 1 April 2016

Ihsahn - ‘Arktis’ (Album Review)

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 8/4/2016
Label: Candlelight Records



By and large, this album doesn’t have enough of what made Ihsahn different to keep it from blending into a number of other prog metal albums you might have heard over the last five years , but to get to the heart of the matter, if you’re already a fan of Ihsahn’s more recent output you should enjoy this as well, the songs fit in nicely within that style, and with more concise songwriting to boot. However If you’re like me, and you tend to favor the man’s earlier work, it’s worth hearing for the sake of appreciating the musical talent on offer, but you may be left cold by the overall direction of what you hear.


‘Arktis.’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. Disassembled
2. Mass Darkness
3. My Heart Is Of The North
4. South Winds
5. In The Vaul
6. Until I Too Dissolve
7. Pressure
8. Frail
9. Crooked Red Line
10. Celestial Violence

Ihsahn is:

Ihsahn | Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboard
Tobias Ørnes Andersen | Drums (Session)

Matt Heafy | Guest vocals on “Mass Darkness”
Einar Solberg | Guest vocals on “Disassembled”
Jørgen Munkeby | Saxophone on “Crooked Red Line”

The Review:

I’ve been listening to Ihsahn’s music, starting with Emperor, for nearly twenty years now. Emperor had a profound impact on how I viewed music, and created an elevated standard by which I judge other albums. Simply put, I count Emperor as being in an elite tier of all-time heavy metal bands, regardless of subgenre. When Emperor ceased producing new material, I understood and appreciated the decision. Ihsahn wanted to spread his musical wings and try new things, without the burden of calling that music “Emperor” when it likely wouldn’t have fit the character and style of that band. It was an admirable choice to make.

How you feel about Ihsahn’s solo work is largely going to depend on what you were hoping to hear from it in the first place. If you’re wanting something approximating Emperor, you’re less likely to have enjoyed anything post-‘angL’. If you kept a relatively open mind, or were at least willing to give just about anything Ihsahn did a chance, you’ve probably had a good deal to celebrate over the course of his solo career. In my case, the last Ihsahn album I really connected with was ‘After’, as ‘Eremita’ and ‘Das Seelenbrechen’ roam too far into prog rock territory to truly hold my interest. Why am I bothering to explain all of this? Because the best I can really say about ‘Arktis.’ is that I respect the level of effort and musicianship at work on the album, and you should know what my bias is when considering my opinion of the album. By and large, this album doesn’t have enough of what made Ihsahn different to keep it from blending into a number of other prog metal albums you might have heard over the last five years.

This album is at its best when it recalls ‘After’ stylistically, with “Mass Darkness” being the best example. The song begins with the sort of epic guitar histrionics familiar to anyone who’s heard Judas Priest’sThe Hellion” (or Ihashn’s own “Frozen Lakes on Mars”). After the initial explosion, the song retreats and begins to build momentum as it heads toward the chorus. It’s the easy standout of the album, with the album’s best hooks and songwriting.

The tracks that follow, “My Heart Is Of The North”, and “South Winds”, offer some keen examples of what falls flat for me on the album. In the case of the former, it sounds like Ihsahn has been listening to a lot of the last two Opeth albums, which is no doubt great news for some of you reading this. To my ears, those albums proved a textbook example of a band that left a lot of what made them unique behind in pursuit of becoming just another prog band. While Ihsahn hasn’t fully made that same jump yet, it is worthy of concern. In the case of “South Winds”, the song is the bizarre clash of an electronics-centric verse, anchored by a steady kick beat, against light prog fare during the chorus and at other points throughout. While there’s something to be said for attempting something with such unlikely musical bedfellows, the dueling personalities don’t comingle especially well.

To get to the heart of the matter, if you’re already a fan of Ihsahn’s more recent output you should enjoy this as well, the songs fit in nicely within that style, and with more concise songwriting to boot. If you’re like me, and you tend to favor the man’s earlier work, it’s worth hearing for the sake of appreciating the musical talent on offer, but you may be left cold by the overall direction of what you hear. In any case, there’s no arguing the man’s abilities.

You can pick up a CD/LP copy here.




Band info: Facebook

No comments: