For those you who don’t follow Black Metal or who are not fans of it, the name Ihsahn probably means next to nothing, to me however, who enjoys the genre, I was excited at the prospect of hearing new music from the former Emperor frontman. Emperor for those unfamiliar, were the godfathers of the Symphonic Black Metal scene and produced 4 records including 1994’s classic In The Nightside Eclipse which has been called by critics as one of the most influential of the genre. It did unfortunately have a big influence on the likes of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, but as Mike Patton once commented on Faith No More’s influence on Nu-Metal ‘Hey, blame their mothers, don’t blame us’. The EP is also sung mostly in Norwegian, so best of luck if you are trying to pick up on lyrical themes.
After Emperor folded in 2001, Ihsahn wasted no time in forming a new project by the name of Peccatum with his wife Ihriel which was essentially a continuation. 2006 brought us his debut album The Adversary and his solo career has continued to this day with his latest output, this year’s Telemark, due to be released on Valentine’s Day, which is something to look forward to on that otherwise wretched ‘occasion’. It should be noted that the cover art is somewhat typical for a Norwegian Black Metal artist, a black and white photo of an isolated wooden shack in front of a forest. Decent but hardly earth-shattering.
Ihsahn has always experimented musically and his solo career is no different. Opening track Stridig chugs along at a decent pace with the kind of riffing that could be found on Ministry’s The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste, the vocals have the trademark Black Metal shriek. This is a highly effective opener that sets you up for the rest of the EP.
Second track Nord is a much mellower and atmospheric affair, with a synth and violin tastefully interwoven into the mix, there is also some great soloing to be heard too. This is a rather effective and emotive piece, you could describe it as downbeat along the lines of say Xasthur, though not quite as despairing.
[Telemark] has a Psychedelic flavour before moving gradually into Opeth style Progressive Metal. The track then throws you a loop at around the 3:23 mark and launches into savage Black Metal with blastbeats in tow…
The title track Telemark is the longest track on the EP at nearly 8 minutes long and my favourite. The intro has a Psychedelic flavour before moving gradually into Opeth style Progressive Metal. The track then throws you a loop at around the 3:23 mark and launches into savage Black Metal with blastbeats in tow. It’s interesting that we’ve reached the third track and are only just hearing some raw Black Metal. This would be indicative of Ihsahn’s mindset, no he hasn’t abandoned the genre, but he isn’t about to be limited by it either. The track for the most part continues in this vein, outstanding.
The EP then takes another stylistic twist with a couple of covers, the first being a surprising choice, Rock And Roll Is Dead by Lenny Kravitz (the Poundland Jimi Hendrix). The vibe Ihsahn creates here is not a million miles removed from Firebird, Bill Steer’s (Napalm Death/Carcass) Boogie Stoner-Rock side-project. Rounding off the EP is a version of Iron Maiden’s Wrathchild, again, another artist I’ve never particularly cared for, but it is functional and well played and a fun way to end things.
It should be noted that Telemark is the first of 2 EP’s that will be released in 2020 and judging by the quality on offer here, I am very much looking forward to the second instalment.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc