Ihsahn - Eremita
After recieving word about the new Ihsahn solo record Emerita, I let my anticipation build by delving back into his previous trilogy. As I explored each record, navigating the varied metal, classical and folk-inspired musical pathways, it became abundantly clear that, despite a common musical and thematic narrative running through the trilogy, each Ihsahn record offers something notably dissimilar from each other. After this journey was over, I settled in for Eremita. About a dozen spins later and, once again, I'm left with a new impression on the incredible depth of talent Ihsahn wields.
One of the most vital aspects of a successful solo career, regardless of the creative capabilities of the solo artist in question, is the properly chosen inclusion of accompanying musicians. For a guitarist, the choice of vocalist can make or break his work. For a bassist, the right drummer to form the chemical bonds of a respectable rhythm section is a decision not to be taken lightly. For Ihsahn, a man who is practically a band's worth of talent himself, the name of the game is variety. Bringing back saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby was an initially troubling decision (see my review of "After" for more on this), but thankfully his talents are utilized in a more sparse effective manner this time around. Ex-Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis adds a certain touch and atmosphere to his sections, and the guest vocals (including Devin Townsend amongst others) all spice the feast with unique flavor. One of the most striking attributes Eremita has going for it is cohesiveness, a thread of continuity that ties each song to the last in a way none of his prior records did. Typically, a dozen listens to a record leave me with a list of high notes, low marks and in-betweeners. Eremita is gripping in each movement, thick with an atmosphere of foreboding terror that slowly reveals itself an inch of a time. It leaves you hanging on, mesmerized by the brilliant musicianship, and the artistry of vivid imagery conjured by a man whose combined talents can no longer be labeled as anything except virtuistic. Ihsahn is a talent that stands apart from his peers in the best of ways.
It's been a long journey for the former Emperor frontman, the guy who helped create one of black metal's most enduring collection of statements, beginning in his teens and leading all the way to Eremita, the absolute masterpiece of his solo career thusfar. This record should be required listening for anybody who claims to be a metal fan. It will either open new avenues of expression you never knew existed, or confirm your prior admiration of what is truly "progressive" metal by any known definition of the term.
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