Album Review: Ihsahn – Ihsahn (Candlelight Records)

Ihsahn, the enigmatic artist, best known for being the vocalist in the legendary black metal band, Emperor, will release his brand-new self-titled solo album on February 16th, 2024, via Candlelight Records.

Photo Credit: Andy Ford

This being Ihsahn, a creative like few others, this is actually two albums. Not a double album, but two melodically interlinked versions of the same album: one prog metal, one fully symphonic. Two sides of Ihsahn, with a conceptual story revolving around the traditional hero’s journey woven into both.

There is no right or wrong way to listen to these new albums. You can listen to one, then the other. Listen to one track than listen to its orchestral accompaniment. Hell, you could even ignore one completely, although why you’d do that, is anyone’s guess. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to approach this review from a loose perspective. Both albums feature 11-tracks, resulting in 22 overall, which is a hell of a lot of music to write and read about. So, the focus is going to be on the non-orchestral version, with references and mentions to the orchestral versions as and when I see fit.

There’s simply no ignoring either release, especially if you’re a huge Ihsahn (I consider him a bit of a musical genius) fan. The man has gone above and beyond here, which is stunning when you consider this is his 8th solo release. Although it should be noted that Ihsahn is joined on this album by Tobias Ørnes Andersen and Tobias Solbakk, on drums and percussion respectively. While Ihsahn’s son Angell Solberg Tveitan adds additional percussion, and the violins come from Chris Baum.

All deserve a mention because together, they create music that truly transcends genres. Music that challenges perceptions of progressive metal and pushes the cinematic bar to its limits. Don’t be fooled by the orchestral album, the progressive one is both vastly symphonic and cinematic. Evident by the lavish intro that is Cervus Venator, a piece that wouldn’t sound out of place in a fantasy epic.

It sets expectations and guarantees the opulence that follows is not a surprise. Although the fact that metal is still the name of the game here, and Ihsahn really digs into his growly blackened side for a lot of the vocals, might surprise those expecting the cleaner side of his sound.

Expect the unexpected, as Ihsahn makes sure to deliver music that is as unpredictable as it is profound. Nowhere is that better exemplified then by the wonderous combination that is The Promethean Spark and Pilgrimage to Oblivion. Progressive music that offers varying degrees of intensity and beauty, drawing from the man’s blackened past while infusing brash orchestral elements within. Regardless of which version you hear, these tracks exemplify everything great about this album. The orchestral versions offer a unique flavour too, and, in the case of the latter track, can easily hold its own.

Although that certainly applies to a lot more of the orchestral album. With the likes of Twice Born, Blood Trails to Love, and Hubris and Blue Devils sounding immense. Impressive on their own but made all the more impactful when paired with the progressive metal version.

Speaking of which, Twice Born is a concise cacophony of orchestral intensity blended with manic heaviness, wrapped up with a bow of detailed progressive twists. The clarity in sound (the production is perfect) really allows every single element to come through, and you could spend hours unpicking every little detail of a track like this. Days and weeks, if you take the full album into account.

Up there as one of the most expansive and expressive thing the talented artist has ever released. The cinematic drama of A Taste of the Ambrosia and its orchestral counterpart proves this fact. Yet, it’s the likes of Hubris and Blue Devils, and later, At the Heart of All Things Broken that truly amazes, as the levels of progressive creativity reach impossible heights.

The senses are set aflame by an album, a pair of albums, that constantly shimmers and shift in bright and colourful ways. Even if some of these colours are a bit on the darker side. Even when the focus is more on dramatic melody, as is the case with The Distance Between Us, the cinematic majesty and atmosphere floods the mind to the point where you left gasping.

It’s not hyperbolic to call Ihsahn a musical genius, and the proof is in these albums. It would be easy to say that he may never be able to top what he has accomplished here, but we all know that’s not true. For now though, there’s nothing bigger or better than this.

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Ihsahn – Ihsahn Track Listing:

1. Cervus Venator
2. The Promethean Spark
3. Pilgrimage To Oblivion
4. Twice Born
5. A Taste Of The Ambrosia
6. Anima Extraneae
7. Blood Trails To Love
8. Hubris And Blue Devils
9. The Distance Between Us
10. At The Heart Of All Things Broken
11. Sonata Profana

Ihsahn – Ihsahn (Orchestra) Track listing:

1. Cervus Venator (Orchestral)
2. The Promethean Spark (Orchestral)
3. Pilgrimage To Oblivion (Orchestral)
4. Twice Born (Orchestral)
5. A Taste Of The Ambrosia (Orchestral)
6. Anima Extraneae (Orchestral)
7. Blood Trails To Love (Orchestral)
8. Hubris And Blue Devils (Orchestral)
9. The Distance Between Us (Orchestral)
10. At The Heart Of All Things Broken (Orchestral)
11. Sonata Profana (Orchestral)


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  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!

Ihsahn - Ihsahn (Candlelight Records)
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