EP Review: Telemark by Ihsahn (Candlelight Records)

Ihsahn will release the first of two five-track EPs, inspired by and dedicated to his home county of Telemark, on February 14, 2020 via Candlelight Records.

The first Telemark EP represents the dark, brutal and aggressive side of Ihsahn’s compositional identity. With three new original songs and two ferocious cover versions, it represents a celebration of the defiant spirit that first inspired him to follow a creative path, forming Emperor, three decades ago.

Ihsahn further explains; “The title of the EP is Telemark – it’s the county I grew up in and still live in, so the whole thing is situated there and very much inspired by that. So you could say it’s a roots-orientated album. I decided early on that I wanted this to be very purely related to black metal aesthetics. I wanted to distil the basic, bare bones black metal influences of my musical roots, given the overall concept, writing something for and from Telemark. So I decided to do Norwegian lyrics for the first time, too. It feels very much closer to home in many ways.

Ihsahn Telemark
Having spent the last few years steadily becoming a prolific live performer. Both with his solo band and a rejuvenated Emperor. Ihsahn already has firm plans to take the Telemark EP out on the road. The new material crackles with live energy and sounds custom-designed to tear people’s faces off in the live arena: with grand plans to bring the record’s chilling black metal aesthetics to life for some unique live performances, the defiant spirit of Telemark looks certain to shake foundations across the world in 2020.

“My idea all along was that I would perform all the contents of this EP live, but to build the live set, piecing songs from my catalogue that fit with the aesthetics of the EP,” Ihsahn concludes. “I was very lucky to be able to collaborate with the Inferno Festival, so I’ll be premiering this show at Inferno in 2020. The plan is to then follow up this EP with its aesthetic and musical counterpart, wherein I can distil all those more progressive, experimental and mellow elements of my music.”

We all have a ton of respect and admiration for Ihsahn here at GBHBL. Whether through his ground-breaking work with Emperor, or his mesmerising solo work, like the brilliant Amr, Ihsahn rarely fails to deliver. Now, with Telemark, he has done it again. Coming with three original songs and a couple covers, there is plenty to get stuck in to as well. The covers are Rock ‘n’ Roll is Dead by Lenny Kravitz and Wrathchild by Iron Maiden. They are great, but, well they are still covers. They are good versions though. Ihsahn does a solid job of being respectful to the original artists while definitely stamping his name all over them both vocally but also in tone and style.

What I am really here for though are the new songs, and the excitement train starts rolling with Stridig. Eerie guitars build the song up gently before a drum roll adds a layer and we head straight on into black metal heaven. The main riff is wicked, the vocals are intense and powerful in a track that harks back plentifully to Emperor days but not exclusively. Ihsahn’s progressive tendencies shine through too. Especially in that technical intro riff and in some of the drum timings and guitar work. The emotion laden slow down backed by Ihsahn’s roars is a thing of dark beauty as is the explosion back into the heavier side.

Ihsahn Telemark

It is a very strong opener and is followed by an equally strong 2nd track in Nord. Again the intro is not straight up Emperor, if that is what you are expecting. There are little twists and turns that keep things very interesting. The vocals are of course strong but it is the chorus that absolutely owns here. Coming with powerful guitars and choir like backing while Ihsahn spits venom, it will get stuck in your head for days and days. Follow that up with a huge solo and you have the stuff of dreams.

Then comes the title track, Telemark. What a banger this track is. Wow. Starting off with a rock rhythm before a folk melody takes us deeper into the song. It builds slowly, starting with a catchy little melody and gentle drums before the folk melody jumps back in. It is catchy, addictive and more than a little surprising.

As enjoyable as it all is though, the pay off comes when the vocals join in. Rough and blackened, the meaty vocals work really well with the melodic undertones. Then the song takes off and we are thrust face first into a forceful and relentless black metal attack. The traditional sound is punctuated just slightly by higher toned guitars and a little melody. The rest of the track continues to twist and turn all the way through. It leaves you breathless by the time it ends. I found myself quickly reaching for the replay button to start this journey again.

Telemark is a brilliant EP from one of the greatest metal artists alive today. A supreme talent who appears to have a Midas touch. Two good covers prop up the back end of Telemark but this is all about those first three songs. All three songs are brilliant. They are clever, fresh, exhilarating, heavy, progressive, interesting……. You name a superlative, it probably fits. Hearing that this first EP was going to be Ihsahn’s heavier side, you may think it will basically sound like Emperor but it doesn’t. The markings are there. You can hear them clearly but it seems to be more a complete package of everything Ihsahn has become, been influenced by or inspired by.

With a second EP due out too, 2020 is looking like being the year of Ihsahn. That surely has the makings of a good year!

Grab yourself a copy of Telemark from here.

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Telemark by Ihsahn (Candlelight Records)
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