Ihsahn – Ihsahn Review

Candlelight Records

Past glories can be hard for any musician to overcome, as comparisons will undoubtedly come in for any present or future work one does. It skews perceptions and puts unfair weight on music that should be judged on its own accord.

Ihsahn had to handle that when he split from Emperor and started his own solo career, but almost 20 years later, he has taken many paths less traversed to make disruptive black metal. This isn’t done by being faster than the rest or holding tight to his 1990s output, but by warping a listener’s expectations album by album.

His self-titled eighth album aspires to be a dual extension of his passion for black metal and soundtracks, a merger that is comfortable within the symphonic arena. It isn’t enough to just go back in time and pull out what would be akin to a lost Emperor release, as anyone who has followed his solo work will know to expect something radically different. To do so, Ihsahn has released both a metal and orchestral version of the same album at once.

Basic instincts will be to gravitate towards the metal side, which still contains a great deal of orchestration, especially in the majestic back half of the album. That’s where it reaches its gratifying peak, as the story he’s telling gets to its emotional crescendo. Those that want their black metal kick will find the first half to be a sweet spot, as Ihsahn’s pristine raspy wails are the dominant vocal take.

The main connection between these two versions is three instrumentals — an opener, interlude, and closer — that carry over. While the metal part is key, his passion comes out within the orchestral position. This isn’t the first time an orchestral take has been done to someone’s album, but it hasn’t been done often with as much care as Ihsahn puts into this. Sit back with eyes closed, and be swept into the serene melodies that may be unnoticed with a full band in tremolo mode.

This is an album begging for a live orchestra to play on top of it, something that can only be accomplished with a budget most bands don’t get to have. This self-titled record could be something majestic in an amphitheater with excellent sound quality and plush seating. Though Ihsahn continues to tour with Emperor, solo efforts like this is where his true explorations can shine.

(released February 16, 2024 on Candlelight Records)

Heavy Music HQ Rating:

Watch Ihsahn – “The Distance Between Us” Video

One Response

  1. bobsala February 15, 2024

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