One of the northern metal masterminds is back with new music. Ihsahn, best known as vocalist and guitarist of the Norwegian black metal band Emperor, released his new record Arktis. on April 8 via Candlelight Records. If you are familiar with languages and Ihsahn in general, you will recognize that again he is using a German name for his record; his last record was titled Das Seelenbrechen, which translates to “the soulbreaking” in English. With his last release being quite an unconventional record, it was unclear what direction the music on Arktis. would take. Ihsahn worked with big names like Matt Heafy (Trivium), Einar Solberg (Leprous) and Jorgen Munkeby (Shining) on this record.
Arktis. sounds like it would be a dark and cold mix of music. One of the best things about Ihsahn‘s music is probably that his work has no boundaries or limitations; you will find a great degree of diversity on Arktis., which sounds a lot more rock-influenced than his previous work. Songs like “Mass Darkness“ sounds as dark and progressive as we would have expected, while incorporating a catchy hook that is somehow a little reminiscent of folk-inspired bands like Ensiferum. With that being said, Ihsahn does not rest with one genre, and covers an expanse of sonic territory on his newest record.
The most interesting influence on Arktis. is probably the classic rock inspired riffs and church organs that evoke comparison to Steven Wilson‘s The Raven That Refused To Sing while incorporating Ihsahn‘s signature guttural howls. “My Heart Is Of The North” will definitely convince fans of a Steven Wilson influence as well. However, there is more to this record than excellent guitar work and classic rock riffs. “South Winds” starts with an electronic beat which transitions into a more metal song, and creates an interesting contrast between an organic sound and an electronic sound, while the clean vocals are passionately delivered.
“Until I Too Dissolve” could be a track for driving home at night. It starts with a very classic rock orientated riff that instantly reminds one of bands like AC/DC. The song pushes forward with its driving momentum that will capture the ear of any rock fan with its energy and catchy hook. Even if this song does not fit the experimental style of most of Ihsahn‘s music, it still features some progressive elements. There are screamed vocals on this track, but they seem to be used to heighten emotional intensity and push the song to another level instead of trying to be brutal.
“Celestial Violence” starts with a D minor, and takes shape with the emotional and rousing voice of Ihsahn, establishing itself as one of the most powerful songs on Arktis. The emotional, intense nature of the song cuts to the core of the listener. Especially when the distorted guitars and drums smash in, one will be overwhelmed by the power of the instrumental delivery. It feels like this part can overcome your worries and let all your emotions free, before calming down again. Ihsahn could not have created a more fitting end to such a passionate record. However, there is also one more special bonus track entitled “Til Tor Ulven,” which is based on a story told by a man in Norwegian. This piece feels like a score for a movie, featuring a sparse minor key piano line. This 9 minute piece of noise and music is able convey the tone of the words and, even if you do not understand the tale, one can sense the arc of the story due to the emotional musical minimalism and intonation of this track.
Ihsahn‘s Arktis. again demonstrates his ability as a songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, and he has composed an overwhelming record which features intricate details, experiments and a classic rock vibe that will provide a greater appeal to lovers of this kind of music. Ihsahn has created a strong balance between his influences and a vivid, emotive record. Even if you are not familiar with his music, or rock music in general, one will be able to enjoy the tracks on Arktis., which is as cold as its title, but also beautiful in its nature.
Notable Tracks: “My Heart Is The North”, “Until I Too Dissolve”, “Celestial Violence”
FFO: Steven Wilson, AC/DC, Satyricon
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Buy Arktis. here.
I just love how Ihsahn on this record, just like Deftones on "Gore", expanded his sound while maintaining his own unique identity. I loved Emperor in the 90's, but his solo albums are a cut above. He's one of the musicians who elevated metal into an artform. Brilliant!