Album Review – Ámr by Ihsahn (Candlelight Records)
The living legend that is Ihsahn has released his latest solo album, Ámr via Candlelight Records. It came out on the 4th of May and is another fine example of intelligent composition and exciting creativity mixed intriguingly with crushing metal force.
Ihsahn is one of those guys that just can’t keep away from music for long. He keeps himself very busy as he seeks constant creative outlets. The famed frontman of black metal legends, Emperor. The inventive solo artist with a massive 7 solo albums in his pocket now since Ámr. The composer, piecing together complex arrangements such as Trivium’s Snøfall. Even the guest artist featuring on albums by the likes of Devin Townsend, Leprous and Jeff Loomis. Ihsahn has spread his influence across many sub genres in metal gaining respect and admiration from all corners, GBHBL included.
Before Ámr was released, two singles dropped and I was a huge fan of both. You can read our thoughts on Arcana Imperii and Wake by clicking on the links. Cracking tracks though with Wake being the stand out one of the two.
The album, Ámr, has a further 7 tracks to go with those 2 and weighs in at around 44 minutes in length. I should quickly point out that if you come to hear Ihsahn’s material purely because of the Emperor connection, you are in for a shock. You may even be disappointed. While there are massive black metal moments, reminiscent of Emperor, Ámr is an expansive album that touches on all the musical areas that have influenced Ihsahn, not just Emperor.
You instantly hear some of these influences with album opener Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia. Starting with an 80’s synth pop line that eventually repeats throughout the whole track. When the vocals come in they are gruff and heavy, like Emperor, and there is a crushingly thick bass line mixed with waves of powerful drum blasts. That synth line stays there the whole way through though, worming it’s way into your mind with it’s repetitive nature. This electronica features heavily on Ámr though, aside from the opener, it tends to be used as a background filling line or to add orchestral sounding elements.
Arcana Imperii is one fine example of the synth being used in the background as guitars take to the front. Equally as heavy as the album opener but much faster paced, it is a fine song and even chucks in a guitar solo courtesy of Opeth’s Fredrik Åkesson. The variety on the album comes fast and hard and after our two very different, but heavy starters we move into a track called Sámr. Sámr is a beacon of light within a darkened start. It is a ballad, showcasing Ihsahn’s vocal skills outside of blackened roars and has a simple but infectious pounding drum rhythm behind the gentle keys and guitars.
One Less Enemy comes next and returns you straight to the darkness with vicious vocals and a crushing riff before a softer, but morose track comes in Where You Are Lost and I Belong. That one uses electronica to enhance it and it works in that the song feels full and powerful. This light to dark to light pattern runs through the whole of the album, as does the different styles on the individual tracks. It keeps things exciting, keeps you guessing but has also been seamlessly blended to make it flow where it could, perhaps should, have sounded disjointed.
Twin Black Angels has an old school feel to it’s riff where In Rites of Passage is steadier and utilises synth heavily in the build ups to the chorus. This gives it an almost Cipher System or Scar Symmetry feel. Marble Soul slows the beat down to groove with long drawn out guitar notes. The vocals are dark and sinister, dripping with malice. This all builds to a cleanly sung chorus that is nothing short of remarkable. Catchy and surprising, it really makes the song. Ámr ends with the excellent Wake which is a fantastic track. Supremely heavy with an evil undertone but a colossal, clean sung chorus. It is by far my favourite track on the album. A jewel amongst a lot of other jewels.
Ámr is a really good album. It doesn’t necessarily progress Ihsahn’s sound more than was evident on the previous solo album, Arktis. Instead it feels like a natural progression from that album but with no loss in quality. Perhaps not something everyone will agree with but the real stand out parts on this album are Ihsahn’s use of cleans. He has a cracking voice and hearing him mix from visceral to clean is special.
Ámr is an intelligently composed album, making massive use of multiple genres and styles while managing to never become just one of them. While there are tracks on here that don’t quite hit the heights of others, any person with a mind even slightly ajar may listen to this and see it sprung wide open. Ihsahn continues to deliver the music he wants to deliver with no apologies. Luckily for us, that music is emotional, intelligent, creative and rooted in heavy metal.
Grab your copy of Ámr now at Ihsahn’s website here or at Candlelight Records here. You can also grab this, and more from this icon at the links below. Keep up to date with news, tour and release info from Ihsahn on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following the links.
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Ámr by Ihsahn (Candlelight Records)
The Final Score - 9/10