IHSAHN – After

The arrival of a new IHSAHN invokes curiosity and anticipation as this metal god never fails to stimulate. After concludes the trilogy of IHSAHN albums released to date. To put it in general terms, the album is more like its predecessor AngL than The Adversary. Those, now, trademark cerebral, progressive black metal stylings in the IHSAHN-style are a major characteristic of After’s sound in addition to his complex and interesting song structures. And of course the decadent atmospheres and top notch musicianship, including Ihsahn’s first attempt at 8-string guitar, are all over After.

The most distinctive addition to Ihsahn’s sound is the addition of the fantastic saxophone work of SHINING’s Jorgen Munkeby on many of the album’s tracks. While the marriage of saxophones and black metal may seem like an awkward or bizarre combination, it works.

As with every IHSAHN album, you just get the overall feeling that most other metal bands are simply outclassed and outperformed in comparison. “A Grave Inversed” is a decadent and classic IHSAHN black metal track with all of its blasting fury and twists and turns, and yet Munkeby’s jazz saxophone seamlessly adds character. The excellent “Frozen Lakes on Mars” easily nullifies most bands’ entire back catalogues with its prime riffs. “Undercurrent,” features Ihsahn’s soothing clean vocals, acoustic guitars, and melancholic tone, all topped off with some very nice saxophone leads that only bleeds out the melancholy further. “Austere” explores new territory with its more minimalistic, simplified approach and tasty bass leads from Lars Norberg. The trilogy of albums ends in grand fashion with another big album closer in the form of “On the Shores.” The main riff is a crawling, dark behemoth which personifies most of Ihsahn’s post EMPEROR albums.

While After is not a landmark album, it is still an interesting and high class work. In a lot of ways, it is a culmination of the three album trilogy in which we see Ihsahn improving and elaborating on themes, sounds, and approaches that we started on his first two albums. Without a doubt, After is mandatory listening. (Candlelight Records/Mnemosyne Productions)

SHINING – Black Jazz

You would assume that a band as good as Norway’s SHINING (not to be confused with the Swedish SHINING) would get more love from the media after four albums of excellence. Album number five, Black Jazz, continues the excellent ways of their eclectic and eccentric progressive/jazz/art rock.

As the album title implies, Black Jazz is indeed tinged with darkness but one that is expressly twisted yet subtlely menacing at times. The creativity and uniqueness in the overall presentation can be quite overwhelming for those not baptized in the waters of SHINING’s music beforehand. Shouted, distorted industrial-style vocals, twisted and twisty riffing, lively rock drumming with sprinkles of blast beats, heaviness, abrasiveness, and insane jazz runs are all part of SHINING‘s sound.

The action never gets complacent as the tempo, masterfully kept by drummer Lofthus, never fails to provide tasty jazzy fills, fast blast beats, or stomping grooves. Often times, SHINING will go on long instrumental runs that are just as progressive rock as they are jazz on speed and psychedelics. Technically, they’re up there with the best of them. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re in a twisted funhouse carnival, the world of Alice in Wonderland, or an alien spacecraft on a killing spree of the galaxy.

At the end of the day, does all this madness work? Definitely. The songs are very compelling, catchy, and just straight out charismatic and cohesive. Conventional heavy music be damned. One last thing, this is one of the best albums of 2010. (The End Records/Indie Recordings)

IHSAHN: Progressive Thrills and Chills for a Post-Black Metal Age

The following interview with Ihsahn was conducted and gracefully provided by MetalGeorge for Examiner.com, as the site’s Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner (original article).

Having first acquired a copy of After-the third solo effort from former EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn-in late 2009, it was clear from the get-go that this truly was going to be the first great album of 2010. Time has proven this initial analysis correct, as After survives further investigation in spades, spreading the wealth of its expansive songwriting and proving-beyond a shadow of doubt-that Ihsahn has certifiably arrived as a solo artist. Notoriously perfectionist in his regard for art and music, Ihsahn spoke to Cape Cod Rock and shed a little light into exactly what sort of thoughts drive this creative, driven mind to unleash sounds beyond the oft-limiting parameters of the black metal spectrum.
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Listen to New IHSAHN Track, “Frozen Lakes on Mars”

A track from IHSAHN‘s forthcoming album, After, has been premiered by Guitar World Magazine. The song, “Frozen Lakes on Mars,” is the fourth song from the former EMPEROR vocalist/guitarist’s new album, which is scheduled for a January 26th American release.

Go here to listen to the song: http://www.guitarworld.com/ihsahn_frozen_lakes_on_mars

IHSAHN: New Album After Drops January 26th

Former EMPEROR vocalist/guitarist IHSAHN will be releasing his new album, After, on January 26th (North America) through Candlelight Records. The follow-up to angL was recorded during the first half of 2009 at his own Symphonique Studio with some additional work at Toproom Studio. The new album completes the musician’s planned trilogy of initial recordings. Performing with the Norwegian icon are drummer Asgeir Mickelson (SPIRAL ARCHITECT), bassist Lars K. Norberg (SPIRAL ARCHITECT), and saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby (SHINING). Ihsahn comments:

“This is my first album written with 8-string guitars as basis which has been both challenging and inspiring. I also decided early on that I wanted to mix this album with Jens Bogren (OPETH, KATATONIA) and recorded the album with that in mind. Asgeir and Lars have again delivered superb performances. I’ve always wanted to implement the saxophone in my music; Jorgen’s contributions truly added a silver lining to the album.

“I have felt more confident and more at ease with the material. In letting the songs themselves lead the way I just followed the natural impulses.”

Confirmed track listing for After is:
1. “The Barren Lands
2. “A Grave Inversed
3. “After
4. “Frozen Lakes on Mars
5. “Undercurrent
6. “Austere
7. “Heavens Black Sea
8. “On the Shores

APESHIT’s Top Metal Albums of 2008

We finally got off our asses and did it.  It’s already the year 2009, but we’ve complied a list of our top albums of 2008.  Compiling such a list is never easy, and 2008 was no exception.  Maybe it was a lack of albums that really stood out, or maybe we just weren’t paying enough attention.  Regardless, we took a quick look back on the metal albums we felt were notable in 2008.
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Ihsahn to Support OPETH on Norwegian Tour

Mnemosyne Productions have announced that Ihsahn will support OPETH on their upcoming Norwegian live performances arranged by Rikskonsertene/Statnett.

Ihsahn had this to say about the live dates: “I’ve been getting quite a few live-offers for my solo stuff, but haven’t found time to prioritize this until now. I feel this is an opportunity to try out the material live on my home-ground and to travel with a great band like OPETH while doing it.”

Tuesday 10th of March – Oslo, Rockefeller
Wednesday 11th of March – Trondheim, Samfundet
Thursday 12th of March – Volda, Rokken
Friday 13th of March – Sogndal, Meieriet
Saturday 14th of March – Bergen, USF Verftet
Sunday 15th of March – Stavanger, Folken
Wednesday 18th March – Drammen, Union Scene

IHSAHN: New Empires

Becoming an unquestionable underground legend as a member of EMPEROR in your teens can be a hard act to follow. However, Ihsahn has taken on the task of continuing his musical legacy with his solo albums in addition to his work in PECCATUM and HARDINGROCK. Armed with the strong artistic vision he is known for, his new solo album, angL, is a further exploration of new sounds and places for Ihsahn. One of metal’s most relevant and potent artists shared his thoughts about his artistic vision, Rob Halford, and the challenge of continuing his musical legacy.
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Anyone familiar with Ihsahn’s body of work knows that his focus has always been about progressing as an artist. His new album, AngL (pronounced like “angel”), is no exception as he explores new musical realms. One marked difference between AngL and its predecessor, The Adversary, is that AngL is more progressive, a bit more experimental, and less traditional in terms of black metal. Another immediately noticeable difference is the heavier guitar sound as a result of having more than two guitar tracks as on The Adversary. Much of the material still carries that famous decadent, symphonic, black feel along with Ihsahn’s prime, technical guitar work. There are plenty of songs that blast away with intensity and fury such as opening song, “Misanthrope,” and “Malediction.” AngL also contains plenty of slithering Ihsahn-styled progressive guitar riffs and beautiful, melodic song sections. Perhaps, the best quality of the album is his honest and soulful vocals on songs such as “Elevator” and “Threnody.” The latter is hands down the best song on AngL with its acoustic guitars, fantastic clean vocal performance, and somber and delicate atmosphere. The second best song, “Monolith,” closes things out with a potent sense of tension and finality. OPETH’s Mikael Akerfeldt makes a guest appearance on “Unhealer.” His appearance does not stray too far away from the type of material that he’s known for singing. There is also some nice interplay between Ihsahn and Mikael’s contrasting distorted vocals. SPIRAL ARCHITECT bassist Lars Norberg lays down an excellent performance adding plenty of bass presence and character with his top notch skills. While AngL is not Ihsahn’s best work, it does have some very some strong songs and material that undoubtedly a reflection of his continuing evolution as one of metal’s most talented and important artists. (Candlelight Records)

STAROFASH – The Thread

STAROFASH (formerly STAR OF ASH) dropped a surprisingly delicious debut album in 2001’s Iter.Viator. Curiously, one wondered if the group, spearheaded by Ihriel (PECCATUM, HARDINGROCK, and wife of EMPEROR‘s Ihsahn), could follow-up with equal creative magic. With The Thread, STAROFASH may not have matched Iter.Viator‘s spontaneous excellence, but does succeed with equally unique musical styling and pleasing consistency. The Thread‘s dark, avant-garde, gothic rock is a slight departure from Iter.Viator, which was more heavily dressed with electronic influences. This time around, STAROFASH‘s sound is more organic provided by a more prominent bass guitar, less programmed sounding percussion, and even brass, woodwind, and stringed instruments (perhaps a HARDINGROCK influence). The music primarily revolves around Ihriel‘s simple and melodic piano and keyboard work. Her voice, still breathy and delicate, finely contributes to the post-metal, gothic overtones. Though her singing style is relatively singular, her vocal presence is just enough and never is overdone. Ihriel is also joined by vocal talent, Garm (Kristoffer G. Rygg) of ULVER/HEAD CONTROL SYSTEM, who lends very magnificent vocal melodies on “Blood Bones and Skull” and “Crossing Over.” In fact, the vocal patterns on “Crossing Over” by both Ihriel and Garm are incredibly strong and memorable, let’s hope this isn’t the last collaboration between the two. All around, The Thread is a fantastic soundtrack that may not immediately strike within, but certainly grows with lasting effectiveness. No doubt, the world needs to expose themselves to the uniqueness that is STAROFASH. (Candlelight/Mnemosyne)