Thursday, December 19, 2013
Ihsahn - Das Seelenbrechen
Most musicians of Ihsahn's pedigree will struggle when they step away from their inital catalyst and move into a nerw musical venture. For some reason they can never shake off their heritage and subsequently they fall of the face of the Earth. This Norwegian is at the opposite end of the scale though going from strength to strength with anything he does. Having earned his stripes fronting seminal black metal pioneers, Emperor, Ihsahn remained within that sphere for a good while after his band disbanded, most notably with Peccatum. However, since forming his self-named solo band, Ihsahn, he has steered away from black metal, or extreme metal if you will. At least sonically, lyrically the mentality from said genre is still present.
I have to admit I struggled to grasp his first three solo albums, The Adversary, angL and After, for a long time. Everything fell into place for me though with 2012's Eremita and a whole new world opened up for me. So my anticipations for Das Seelenbrechen(The Soul Breaker) were extremely high. 10 seconds in and any fears are gone as Ihsahn has created a true master piece.
When opener Hilber starts I'm thinking Ihsahn actually has returned to his roots but it's only the vocals that has an air of black metal. Instead when the music really kicks in especially the drums, I am floored by the strong progressive touches. The man is playing all the instruments himself, guitars, bass guitar and keyboards that is and he is amazing. However, drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen from Leprous is the real star! He is out of this world behind the kit and is pulling off strange, odd but truly excellent stuff. This is not a one-time thing in the opener only but in all songs. And his extreme talent allows Ihsahn total freedom in creating the songs whichever way he wants.
Regen - which means rain - starts off with a solitary piano backing up Ihsahn's singing and it brings out a strong sense of Norwegian traditional music and nature. As the song gradually builds up, just like an approaching storm, it's like Edvard Grieg has stepped in and co-composed this song with Ihsahn blending the old and the new of Norwegian music excellently.
Don't know if it's because of Andersen's drumming and Ihsahn's wonderful writing skills combined with outside music influences but throughout Das Seelenbrechen I hear a lot of Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree. The songs are soaring and beautiful, or heavy and thought-provoking...or totally off the wall like the disharmonic and chaotic Tacit 2 and See. Personally I think that's awesome. The way Ihsahn has melded his own fantastic ideas with bits and pieces of those bands is nothing short of a miracle, making this album a one of a kind release.
If you with this release are hoping for a return to his roots you are in for a big disappointment. Apart from fragments here and there, this is as far as you can go from black metal. This is what Ihsahn is nowadays and embrace it instead of complaining. Any musician bold enough to make an album like Das Seelenbrechen should be praised for doing whatever he wants to do, especially when said release is so incredibly fantastic.