Ihsahn - _Eremita_
(Candlelight, 2012)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (8.5 out of 10)
Following Ihsahn's work can be daunting. Beginning at Emperor is easy, since this is one of the most respected black metal acts in history. But then one travels further into later Emperor, which is marked by more experimentation and progressive influence. 2001's _Prometheus_ was a fantastic and final record for Emperor which properly said goodbye to a career built from craft and fire. After the fall of Emperor was the continuation of Peccatum with his wife and brother-in-law. Peccatum continued to test the experimental borders by falling face first into avant-garde compositions and art school ambiance. Peccatum is important, as it bridges the gap between _Prometheus_ and Ihsahn's first solo record, _The Adversary_.

From 2006 to 2010, Ihsahn saw a brilliant period of systematic releases all with exquisite delicacy and merit. Also, if you were a fan of progressive black metal, it was a good four years to be alive. If it happened to be raining outside, even better. 2010's _After_ supposedly wrote the last chapter of a planned trilogy of records with no word of a follow-up. If anything can be expected from Ihsahn, however, it is the fact there will be little downtime between records. Like clockwork, the two year mark has passed and we are offered the fourth record from Vegard Sverre Tveitan. _Eremita_ is here and comes in striking design by Ritxi Ostariz . I wonder if the music will be timid and conventional. Perhaps a nice selection of blues driven hard rock numbers.

At times, progressive metal can be self-indulgent and, despite best intentions, collapse in a convoluted mess. For me, the style has yielded few albums of promise beyond charming displays of self-flexing mirror poses. This is why Ihsahn's recent work has become a luminescent guide which allows me to travel through the sometimes dark and complicated world of progressive metal's cave. Beginning in 2006, I have traversed far beyond what I normally thought would be impossible. I have far forgotten my reservations regarding clean and harsh vocals as well as any hesitation on the use of saxophone within a metal record.

_Eremita_ continues Ihsahn's penchant for guest musicians, as it retains some previous contributors and opens its gates for more. Devin Townsend and Einar Solberg lend their talents as guest vocalists, and former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis offers supporting talent. Returning from his appearance on _After_, Shining saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby contributes a large amount of brass driven atmosphere in a jarring yet successful addition. This guest list had the possibility of derailing into an expected train crash if it were not for the focused direction by the album's creator. _Eremita_ is odd, non traditional and one hundred percent effective at captivating its audience and creating a new and exciting universe.

Besides Ihsahn's successful delivery of guitar work and familiar rasp, one of the most outstanding contributions to _Eremita_ is Jorgen Munkeby. The saxophone use on _After_ was interesting if not somewhat out of place. _Eremita_ on the other hand thrives with Munkeby's improvisational doodling. The saxophone registration on the record is akin to great jazz records, as the instrument is used as an exploratory tool. Much like those records, _Eremita_ reaches new ground which lay far beneath with dark progressive cavern. If we keep traveling further, we will reach the molten core.

Ihsahn's work in the progressive field is making little to no noise in the greater black metal world. I do not even think _Eremita_ intends to be a black metal record, rather the style is loosely connected. Ihsahn has long left the world of black metal for something different yet equally dark. _Eremita_ is outstanding, if nothing else for making progressive metal interesting and dangerous. Few things in _Eremita_ come across as silly and needless and the majority of Ihsahn's intentions land with the weight of infinity.

(article published 6/3/2012)


ALBUMS
3/7/2010 J Smit 6.5 Ihsahn - After
5/11/2008 J Smit 9 Ihsahn - angL
4/18/2006 J Smit 6.5 Ihsahn - The Adversary
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