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Ihsahn - Eremita CD (album) cover

EREMITA

Ihsahn

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars On Eremita, Ihsahn basically improves all of the qualities that made After such a great progressive metal record.

In the vast realm of progressive metal, very few are as interesting as Ihsahn who's been constantly progressing his compositional style since he debuted with the infamous Emperor, and it's been great watching him get better and better. All of those years of tinkering with composition has led to his fourth album, Eremita.

Ihsahn's trademark high-pitched raspy vocals and warm clean singing, and his recently employed 8-string guitar work, are all present here as they were on After, but the improvement lies in each song's structure (which has overall become more progressive) and infectious, emotional, melancholic melodies. Also, where the previous album slowed down considerably and become more relaxed at around the middle portion onward, leaving the heavier tracks at the beginning, Eremita balances the fast and heavy with the slow and beautiful quite well, constantly shifting and not staying stagnant in one particular feel while still remaining coherent.

Like with After, Norwegian composer, sax-innovator Jorgen Munkeby is featured periodically on this album with either smooth, beautiful sax melodies or harsh avant-jazz noodling, both of which work as well as they did before. In addition, eclectic metal mastermind Devin Townsend makes a vocal appearance as does the amazing Leprous vocalist Einar Soldberg, while guitarist Jeff Loomis lends his talent to lead guitar on one song. Though these guest appearances are few and far between, they do have an interesting impact on the music and ultimately makes for a slightly more diverse album than would be otherwise.

Each song has at least one standout melody, multiple interesting riffs, and eclectic composition style overall. "The Paranoid" is one of the more consistently heavy songs and has a slightly cheesy chorus ("the shame feeds the anger feeds the shame feeds the anger feeds the shame"?) but after the initial kitschiness wears off, it becomes quite infectious and will be repeating itself in your head all day. "The Eagle and the Snake" is a nine-minute epic that constantly shifts from being slow and rhythmic to emotional to fast and heavy, and is really a chore to dissect mentally but is well worth the effort. "Catharsis", a personal favorite, is just one constant eclectic and atmospheric crescendo that builds up to an amazing soft vocal melody. The second epic, "The Grave", is absolutely crushingly heavy and slow funeral dirge, featuring constant avant sax improvisations by Jorgen Munkeby, and there really isn't anything more to say about it other than it is really damn heavy, bordering on doom metal.

If you've been a fan of Ihsahn up to this point, you'll most likely enjoy Emerita quite a bit as well. I'd personally consider this album to be After 2.0, because of the increased progressive elements and overall stylistic intuition. If you've not checked out anything by this artist but enjoy eclectic progressive metal with a thick trace of blackness, you'd best do yourself a favor and pick up Eremita, because it has "Best of 2011" potential written all over it.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#787521)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'Eremita' - Ihsahn (6/10)

Regardless of where Ihsahn goes with his music, it's doubtful subsequent albums will escape comparisons with his flagship work in the legendary Emperor.Although most musicians who choose to go to 'solo' route end up dwarfed by their younger selves, Ihsahn has continued evolving his sound, inching towards prog rock with each album. Many don't share my enthusiasm with Ihsahn's solo material, but his album trilogy of "The Adversary", "Angl", and "After" make up some of the fiercest progressive metal to come out in the past decade. In other words, I had big expectations for "Eremita"; an album I hoped would follow up on the streak of excellence. While the musicianship and scale of the previous albums is still here, "Eremita" does not strike me the same way his earlier work did, even after many devoted listens. The sound of Ihsahn is here in full, but there's something missing that keeps it from truly taking flight.

Anyone who heard 2010's "After" will not be surprised to hear that Ihsahn has more or less tossed out the black metal aesthetic in his music. Although his trademark rasp is still here, progressive metal is the lifeforce on "Eremita". Technical guitar riffs and symphonic overtones are paired with an even greater presence of soft clean vocals. At no time before has Ihsahn so visibly aligned himself with prog. Whether it's time signature-bending organ licks or a five minute-plus saxophone solo, there's the sense that Ihsahn is becoming more liberated with trying new things in his music. Even so, the dark atmosphere has not been forgotten entirely. The ultra-gloomy "The Grave" takes its time to paint a grizzly picture befitting its title.

My first experience with Ihsahn was his Mikael Akerfeldt collaboration on the song "Unhealer" (from his second record "Angl"), so it's pretty cool to hear him bringing other guests into the fold. Among these, Einar Solberg- the lead vocalist for Ihsahn's touring band Leprous, not to mention one of my favourite singers- delivers his trademark belt on the opener "Arrival". Nevermore guitar hero Jeff Loomis throws in a guitar solo, and- last, but not least, Devin Townsend pays Ihsahn back for his cameo on "Deconstruction" and offers some of his unique charm to the spacey "Introspection". Although Loomis' solo does not really stand out in the midst of Ihsahn's brilliant guitar work, the vocal performances are excellent. Ihsahn's vocals here are on a general par with what he has done over the past few albums, although there's certainly an impression that he isn't straining to push himself further than he's already gone before. This is an impression I get with most aspects of "Eremita".

"Eremita" is certainly not bad, but for the first time, I find myself feeling decidedly underwhelmed by what Ihsahn has done here. Looking back on his trilogy, each of those albums had a unique feel to it. "The Adversary" was very symphonic, "Angl" was fierce and to-the-point, and "After" was the leap into full fledged prog metal. With "Eremita", there's certainly a shift in an increasingly progressive direction, but I cannot help but feel that this album is a sequel to the themes explored on "After", rather than something truly fresh. I might even go as far as to say that "Eremita" feels like a collection of b-sides that didn't make it onto "After". The production and performance are all up to par, but "Eremita" seems to lack a personal identity of its own. By the end of "Departure" and period of silence after the album's over, there's a sense of disappointment, and it only seemed to grow with each listen.

Besides its lack of unique identity, I cannot truly pinpoint where "Eremita" is undercut. As I've said, it's got some fantastic musicianship and a sense of real intelligence to it. Almost as if Ihsahn's genius has brickwalled, "Eremita" comes out feeling like a decaffeinated version of what he has done in the past. It's a tightly-knit, enjoyable record, but I think I will remember this album as one that didn't quite meet the expectations I had for it.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#788562)
Posted Monday, July 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yet another great release from Ihsahn, in my opinion. This is Progressive metal at one of its finest moments. The first couple tracks pretty much hit you at full throttle, but there is much variety to be found throughout the album. Plus guest spots from Einer Solberg of Leprous, Devin Townsend, and even Jeff Loomis. The only thing I can really say against it, like all Ihsahn albums, is Ihsahn's vocals can get a little annoying at times. Having said all that, I don't think it is quite as good as the previous album, but it comes pretty damn close.

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Send comments to Puppies On Acid (BETA) | Report this review (#848882)
Posted Thursday, November 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 6/10

Ihsahn's Most Progressive Effort Yet.

"Eremita" is Ihsahn's fourth full length studio album, the follow-up to "After". Ihsahn is most known for being the vocalist and guitarist of legendary Norwegian Black Metal band Emperor; his major characteristic is his "pig squeal" shriek, one of the most distinct, unique and rare type of vocals in Black Metal. They make him stand out from all other vocalists of the genre. But after Emperor, Ihsahn on his own had started a decent solo career, in which he got more and more Progressive in his compositions. "Eremita" represents his most Progressive point, although there still is a great chunk of Black Metal influences.

Once again, Ihsahn surrounds his music with an incredible production, much cleaner and polished than some of his previous works, and with incredible musicians: he himself does a terrific job in every track, with both the shrieks and the clean vocals. But in general, letting the songs flow one by one, it's noticeable that something is missing in "Eremita". The songs are a bit too cold, too calculated in their Progressiveness, and most importantly, not that catchy or memorable, with a few great exceptions like the second track, "The Paranoid", or the sixth one, "Something Out There". Other songs are simply appreciable for their intelligence and structure, like "the Eagle and The Snake", "The Grave" and "Departure".

In Ihsahn's work, the most noticeable trademark (other than the voice) is the frequent use of saxophone, usually there to give a touch of madness, or some genuine cacophony. On "Eremita" this instrument is extremely well-used and placed, and gives that nice feeling of diversity. Ihsahn also surrounds himself with a few, precious guest musicians: Eidar Soldberg from Norwegian band Leprous gives a great performance on the opening track, and Devin Townsend puts in the song "Introspection" so much of his character, and Jeff Loomis does some great guitar playing and solos on "The Eagle and The Snake". But when Ihsahn plays by himself, it's evident that everything is toned down quality-wise: as if Ihsahn had the need to have a special guest's support, because without anyone he would wander almost shapelessly across the album. It would explain why he himself is so present as a guest musician in so many other albums.

Although the songs are Prog-oriented, and a certain level of maturity can be felt, Ihsahn doesn't seem to have put the heart in some of these compositions, and it is frequent that they simply pass by without lingering in the listener's head. Maybe, Ihsahn is more of a perfect guest star character, than a full-time songwriter.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#894805)
Posted Thursday, January 17, 2013 | Review Permalink

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