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IHSAHN

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Norway


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Ihsahn biography
Vegard Sverre Tveitan - Born 1975-10-10 (Nodeland, Vest-Agder, Norway)

Ihsahn (real name Vegard Sverre Tveitand) is a talented Norwegian composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, infamous for his work with the definitive Black Metal/Extreme Symponic group EMPEROR and the Avant-Garde project PECCATUM, and a solo artist since 2006.

Vegard took up the piano when he was seven, and started playing the guitar at the age of ten. Having met an adherent in Tomas Haugen, better known as Samoth, Ihsahn formed a Death Metal group Thou Shalt Suffer, where they recorded two demos. Ihsahn would later come back to the project in 2000 in order to record a neo-classical/ambient album "Somnium" under its name. Ihsahn's most commercially successful work remains with EMPEROR, with which he defined the sound of the second wave of Black Metal in such classics as "In the Nightside Eclipse" and "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk". EMPEROR's latest releases, particularly the swan song "Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise", lean towards a more progressive direction (the songwriting for the last album was entirely done by Ihsahn). EMPEROR ceased to exist in 2001 when the members decided to break up and concentrate on other projects. This allowed Ihsahn to explore his experimental tendencies more freely in the Avant-Garde group PECCATUM, which he formed with his wife Heidi Tveitan (known as Ihriel). Together the two have recorded three full-length albums and two EPs, "Lost in Reverie" being their most critically acclaimed effort.

As PECCATUM split up in March, 2006, Ihsahn started to work on his first solo album "The Adversary", the release of which was initially mentioned not long after EMPEROR dissolved. All of the instruments were masterfully played by the man himself, aside from drums, for which purpose Ihsahn hired the virtuoso Asgeir Mickelson (BORKNAGAR, SPIRAL ARCHITECT). In addition, the vocals on the track "Homecoming" are done by by Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg known for his work with ARCTURUS and ULVER.

"The Adversary" combines influences from progressive rock, classical and heavy metal, as well as Tveitan's rich experience in the Black Metal field, and is a all-around mature effort. The album is recommended to all fans of Extreme Progressive Metal. Ihsahn currently considers writing a follow-up to the album, as well as finding musicians to reproduce the songs in a live setting.

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Buy IHSAHN Music


After [2 LP][Transparent]After [2 LP][Transparent]
Spinefarm 2017
$24.59
$31.96 (used)
angL [LP][Transparent Green]angL [LP][Transparent Green]
Spinefarm 2018
$18.28
$25.57 (used)
Arktis.Arktis.
Spinefarm 2016
$9.06
$7.12 (used)
The Adversary [LP][Transparent Red]The Adversary [LP][Transparent Red]
Spinefarm 2017
$19.33
$24.15 (used)
AmrAmr
Spinefarm 2018
$7.76
$12.89 (used)
After - Limited CD + DVDAfter - Limited CD + DVD
CD-ROM
Candlelight 2010
$17.24
$5.71 (used)
Das SeelenbrechenDas Seelenbrechen
CANDLELIGHT RECORDS 2015
$13.28
$12.70 (used)
EremitaEremita
CANDLELIGHT RECORDS 2015
$7.33
$4.00 (used)
Das Seelenbrechen by Ihsahn (2013-11-04)Das Seelenbrechen by Ihsahn (2013-11-04)
CANDLELIGHT RECORDS
$30.99
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IHSAHN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

IHSAHN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.11 | 100 ratings
The Adversary
2006
3.83 | 84 ratings
angL
2008
3.99 | 202 ratings
After
2010
3.74 | 73 ratings
Eremita
2012
3.93 | 41 ratings
Das Seelenbrechen
2013
3.89 | 91 ratings
Arktis.
2016
3.87 | 61 ratings
└mr
2018

IHSAHN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

IHSAHN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.50 | 2 ratings
After
2010

IHSAHN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

IHSAHN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.28 | 6 ratings
Scarab
2008
4.12 | 6 ratings
Undercurrent
2010
4.25 | 4 ratings
Arrival
2012
4.33 | 3 ratings
NaCl
2013

IHSAHN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 └mr by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.87 | 61 ratings

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└mr
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Always the trailblazer, IHSAHN may not be at the helm of Emperor or the multitude of side projects that propelled him throughout the 90s any longer but after launching his solo career with 2006's "The Adversary," he has shown no sign of ending his ceaseless creative run of albums that takes a little of what came before and mixes in new elements of surprise. └MR (an Old Norse word for both "black" and "loathsome") is IHSAHN's seventh album and finds him in top form with his now usual roster of heavy progressive metal riffs that harken back to his black metal days as well as the artier side of his Peccatum experience.

While increasing the dosages of experimentalism and avant-garde with every subsequent album starting with his debut, IHSAHN hit a brick wall with 2013's "Seelenbrechen" which found many tracks escape the confines of metal altogether and conspired to create dark and sinister dark ambient tracks with some of the sickest vocal performances outside of extreme metal. The followup "Arktis" found IHSAHN streamlining his overall sound where he cranked what i would dare call progressive pop infused metal tracks with strong characteristics of his avant-garde progressiveness but tamed a bit with more accessible hooks and conventional songwriting structures.

While never one to jump too far too fast IHSAHN played his cards rather smoothly and added just enough of the easy-to-digest elements that made "Arktis" a much more accessible album than "Seelenbrechen." └MR pretty much continues the trend with a near identical formula that incorporates the near identical ration of elements on "Arktis." Firstly are the heavier progressive tracks ("Lend Me The Eyes Of Millenia," "One Less Enemy," "Arcana Imperii," "Wake") that contain the harshest elements of his extreme metal sounds such as the raspy black metal vocals and balls-to-the-wall guitar bombast on steroids with incessant time signature attacks that unapologetically wreak havoc on unsuspecting stereo systems.

In addition are several mid-paced tracks ("Sßmr," "Where You Are Lost And I Belong," "Twin Black Angels") that showcase IHSAHN's mellow and tender side where he displays a much more accomplished range of clean vocals and the tracks rely almost exclusively on melodic hooks with heavier guitar elements only added to generate some heft. Could he even be seeking the next alternative metal hit of some sort? These are the tracks that find IHSAHN deviating the most from his relentless pursuit of everything extreme and experimental that has pretty much dominated his approach up to "Arktis," which flirted with some of these metal oriented progressive pop tracks but └MR makes no false pretenses that these aspects of IHSAHN's song styles are here to stay.

There are also a couple of tracks ("In Rites Of Passage," "Marble Soul") that fit somewhere in between the two extremes presented above. These two tracks implement both styles and alternate between the two with mellow clean vocals styles for the slower segments and the raspy vocals for the heavier driving parts. These tracks (as well as others) mix it up with electronic segments which is another aspect of └MR that seems to be developing more on each album, that is the use of retro prog sounding keyboard parts. While restrained as not to go all Opeth on us, the trend is unmistakable as slowly but surely IHSAHN is dedicating at least a segment of his music to turning more progressive rock than metal but these tracks are cleverly sandwiched by the heavy hitters as to avoid a complete derailment in the fanbase's fickle tastes.

└MR was the first IHSAHN album not to completely blow me away upon first listen. Instead i felt like this was an "Arktis II" of sort but this guy's music is intricate and has an uncanny capacity to grow on me fairly quickly and even though this is probably by far the most accessible of anything he has done in his career with sing-along vocal segments and irresistible pop laden hooks coming out of the woodworks, IHSAHN has a brilliant way of keeping a layer of extremity that makes it so unusual even though the hooks are so utterly seductive. Is this a sign of even more commercial directions being pursued? Well, we'll have to wait and see but at this point these developments aren't detrimental to the album's continuity. Once again IHSAHN has crafted a very well designed slice of progressive metal even if it's not deviating significantly from what came before. Very much the enjoyable musical endeavor.

 └mr by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.87 | 61 ratings

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└mr
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars There are some musicians who have had such a major impact on a genre that they have the right to be viewed in a different manner to mere mortals, and Ihsahn is surely one of these. He originally came to prominence as frontman, guitarist and keyboard player with legendary Norwegian black metal pioneers Emperor. They released classic albums like 1995's 'In The Nightside Eclipse' and 1997's 'Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk' before initially calling it a day in 2001, although they have returned a few times since then and are currently active again. However, Ihsahn (Vegard Sverre Tveitan) has gone on to release solo albums that have shown amazing diversity that look back to what he has achieved in the past while also looking ahead into pastures new, creating sounds and songs that captivate anyone who hears them.

With just drummer Tobias ěrnes Andersen, and a guest guitar solo on one number from Opeth's Fredrik Akesson, Ihsahn has created what to my ears is his most diverse and powerful solo release yet. There are songs, and sections of other songs, that could easily be played to a listener and they would have no comprehension that the man behind them has also produced some of the most amazing black metal anthems ever, as it bears no relationship to them at all. But, there are also times when he lets his past come back into the present, to create something that is taking the essence of Emperor and turning it into something new. Some of the songs may have gruff vocals, while other shown Ihsahn in a few more melodic and contemplative mood. It is this refusal to sit within any implied structure or rigour that makes this such an outstanding piece of work. One just never knows what is going to come next, what twist or turn is going to take place, and the result is a progressive metal album that is true to both words.

This is progressive music in its truest sense, attempting to take a genre and twist and meld it as opposed to siting inside one particular genre or another: the music is a breathing living beast and Ihsahn is sat there guiding it further and further into the dark bleak void. Ihsahn says, "Knowing that the form would be somewhat similar to what I did on the previous album, and given that I write stuff in a certain way, I wanted to change the wrapping this time. So instead of going with my go-tos of strings and orchestration, I focused on analog synths and more in-your-face sounds. It goes back to the beginning of Emperor, when we brought in strings and horns inspired by orchestral movie scores by John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, but at the same time we loved all those eerie synth soundtracks of f.ex John Carpenter┤s Halloween. I've also been listening to some contemporary r'n'b and hip-hop stuff with those deep, deep 808s. It's just somehow darker than a lot of metal or black metal. It has a depth and an energy to it that I find captivating, so I wanted to explore those arrangement styles as well."

Listen to the delicacy of his vocals on "Where You Are Lost And I Belong", contrast that to what is going on musically, which is jagged and sparse, and there is no doubt that this is yet another classic that fans will be talking about for years to come. Ihsahn is undoubtedly one of the most important musical talents to come out of the Norwegian metal scene, and this is an essential release.

 angL by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.83 | 84 ratings

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angL
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "angL" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive/extreme metal act Ihsahn and is the successor to "The Adversary (2006)". The album was released through Mnemosyne Productions in May 2008. After Emperor originally disbanded in 2001, Ihsahn (real name Vegard Sverre Tveitan) first collaborated with his wife Ihriel (Real name Heidi Solberg Tveitan) on the avant-garde metal act Peccatum, but in 2006 he opted for a solo career, and thus Ihsahn was born. As the case was on "The Adversary (2006)", Ihsahn handles all guitars and keyboards, and most of the singing on "angL". Asgeir Mickelson (Borknagar, Spiral Architect...among others) again handles the drums, and bass and fretless bass are played by Lars K. Norberg (Spiral Architect). Mikael ┼kerfeldt from Opeth makes a lead vocal guest appearance on "Unhealer".

The music on the album continues down the progressive/extreme metal path of "The Adversary (2006)", just better produced, better written, and better performed. Stylistically Ihsahn is still in the same genre as Opeth, and "Unhealer" could almost have been a track by Opeth if I didn┤t know better. Ihsahn is not a clone act though and Tveitan still manages to create an original sounding style (despite the obvious references to Opeth). The balance between light and dark, acoustic/distorted guitars, clean/raw snarling vocals, and atmospheric and heavy moods, is something Tveitan masters to perfection. His past in Emperor is not heard often in the music, but the way he uses the swirling neo-classical oriented keyboards, and the occasional blast beat section do lead my thoughts in that direction.

The material on the 9 track (10 tracks on the Japanese edition), 47:22 minutes long album is of a very high quality throughout. Every track is intriguing and memorable, and the quality of the material only drops very few times during the listening experience. Highlights could be "Scarab", "Emancipation", "Unhealer", and "Monolith", but it┤s a consistently high quality album which deserves to be listened to from beginning to end.

As mentioned above "angL" is also a very well produced album, performed by very skilled musicians. It┤s hard not to praise the inventive drumming by Asgeir Mickelson, but everything on the album is skillfully played. For instance check out the many well played guitar solos and harmony themes. To my ears Tveitan is a bit of a compositional genius too (his classical/symphonic arrangements are also quite clever) and taking all features into consideration "angL" comes of as quite the brilliant release and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

 Arktis. by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 91 ratings

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Arktis.
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Arktis." is the 6th full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive extreme metal artist Ihsahn. The album was released through Candlelight Records in March 2016. It┤s the successor to "Das Seelenbrechen" from 2013. Ihsahn is of course known for his time with groundbreaking Norwegian black metal act Emperor, but his solo career is by now also quite prolific. On "Arktis." Ihsahn handles vocals, bass, guitars, and keyboards, while the drums are played by session drummer Tobias ěrnes Andersen (Shining). Andersen┤s bandmate from Shining, J°rgen Munkeby, also makes a guest appearance on saxophone on the track "Crooked Red Line". Matt Heafy (Trivium) and Einar Solberg (Leprous) make a couple of guest vocal appearances. This is still predominantly a solo effort by Ihsahn though, but that┤s how it┤s been since day one of his solo career.

The material on "Arktis." can overall be described as progressive extreme metal, but it┤s always hard to give an adequate description of Ihsahn┤s music, because he is so eclectic. The music features loads of progressive rock influences, but also thrash, death, black, and traditional heavy metal influences, as well as some nods toward avant garde and electronic music. It may sound like it could be a messy style mishmash, but Ihsahn is a more skilled composer and performer than most, and he is able to combine his many influences into a well sounding whole.

The material on the 10 track, 48:07 minutes long album are diverse in style and if you think you know what you┤re in for after listening to the two opening tracks "Disassembled" and "Mass Darkness", you┤re in for a surprise. Ihsahn continues to twist and turn conventions throughout the album, but no track seems out of place or disrupts the flow of the album, and that┤s regardless of tracks like "Until I Too Dissolve", "Crooked Red Line", and "Celestial Violence", sticking out quite a bit. The latter is a brilliant and incredibly beautiful epic track, which closes the album, while the saxophone on "Crooked Red Line" makes that track stand out. "Until I Too Dissolve" stands out too as it features a a strong traditional heavy metal riff, which brings Van Halen to mind.

"Arktis." is very well produced. The sound production is clear, powerful, and detailed. It┤s a production which brings out the best in the layered and and intricate musical compositions. The musicianship is as always on an incredibly high level. Ihsahn is not only a strong vocalist who can sing both extreme metal vocals and clean vocals with conviction and passion, but also a skilled instrumentalist, who handles all instruments with seamless ease. The guest musicians also bring a lot to the album, to further enhance the listening experience.

Upon conclusion "Arktis." is another high quality release by Ihsahn, where he once more shows the world his musical genius. Fans of progressive extreme metal featuring strong melodic choruses, epic atmospheres, a restrained experimental approach (in other words not overtly avant garde in nature, although still occasionally experimental) and a generally adventurous and diverse approach to songwriting should find a lot to enjoy here. I always recommend fans of Opeth to listen to Ihsahn if they don┤t already known him, but in truth Opeth is only a reference because they have a similar progressive songwriting approach and a similar extreme metal meets strong melodic sensibilities way of creating music, because Ihsahn┤s music is generally quite an unique listen. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

 Arktis. by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 91 ratings

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Arktis.
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Blackwater Floyd

5 stars Great riffs, dark and beautiful melodies, eerie atmosphere, what more is there to ask? I've had Ihsahn on my radar for quite some time, even back in 2006 when I was just getting into metal (via DT), but knowing he came from that infamous Norwegian early 90's black metal scene, his music didn't call to me, so I never got around to listen to any of his solo work.

Recently, having acquired some more "extreme metal" tastes (such as Opeth, Meshuggah, Death, Mastodon, Cynic, Leprous), I decided to give his music a little go. First I listened to his early solo work, but those few songs I heard where just enough for me; so I moved to Das Seelenbrechen and was pleasantly surprised by the complexity and the emotion of his songs. Didn't listen to the whole thing though, in fear that black metal style tunes would come up and "ruin it" for me. Einar Solberg's presence on this record and Ihsahn's collaborations with Leprous is what ultimately brought me to "Arktis".

I never really liked black metal per se, but some of it's elements present in other genres of metal (little blast beats here and there in prog metal for instance; growls) seem to be appealing. That's what makes Arktis such a good album, it doesn't rely on some formula to work on so many levels; each song is unique. There's brilliant musicianship throughout the eleven tracks, but the thing that got me was, the context. This "unsettling" feeling I got when I finished listening to it, brought me the sensation of actually being in the north, aimlessly walking on the ice and snow. The bitter cold, the whiteness... Progressive doesn't mean technical, and though "Arktis" is no stranger to technical prowess, it certainly does not need it to be as compelling as it is.

2016 is getting a lot better now! This is a solid five star album, any prog fan should give it a go.

 Das Seelenbrechen by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.93 | 41 ratings

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Das Seelenbrechen
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Das Seelenbrechen" is the 5th full-length studio album by Norwegian extreme progressive metal artist Ihsahn (Real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan). The album was released through Candlelight Records in October 2013. Ihsahn is best known as the frontman/guitarist in Emperor, but has since the split-up of that band busied himself, first with Peccatum (with his wife Ihriel (real name Heidi S. Tveitan)), and then with his solo act Ihsahn.

The music on "Das Seelenbrechen" is best described as extreme progressive metal, even though it features elements from both noise/drone, avant garde, ambient, black metal and other musical genres too. Ihsahn creates quite a unique sound although I do hear nods toward artists like Opeth and Devin Townsend here and there. Especially the clean vocal sections on the album lead my thoughts toward the former mentioned, while the occasional layered "wall of sound" leads my thoughts toward the latter mentioned.

"Das Seelenbrechen" is a pretty varied release with both beautiful melodic material like "Pulse" and "NaCl" (which also features an irresistably charming hard rocking riff), progressive extreme metal tracks like "Regen" (which is an absolutely fantastic track) and "Hiber", a Pink Floyd influenced track in "M", and more experimental material like "Tacit 2" and "See". If you are not ready for the eclectic songwriting approach, I can see a few listeners getting dissappointed somewhere along the way. The first four tracks on "Das Seelenbrechen" are probably the most easily digestable material on the album, while the latter half of the album is more in experimental mode.

The sound production is clear, powerful and professional sounding and the musicianship is outstanding. Ihsahn plays and sings everything on the album except for the drums which are played by Tobias Ornes Andersen. Ihriel provides some choir vocals. It┤s not surprising that "Das Seelenbrechen" is of a very high standard on all parameters, because Ihsahn has always been an incredibly talented musician and composer. His eclectic musical style might not be to every listener┤s liking, but it┤s apparent that he does exactly what he feels for and you gotta respect that. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

 After by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.99 | 202 ratings

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After
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ihsahn's post-Emperor projects have never quite gained the prominence of the mighty Emperor, but albums like After might be worth a reappraisal if you happen to like the more progressive direction his work has taken. As with much of his post-Emperor work, it's a mixture of progressive metal and black metal influences, and I'd say it's more on the prog metal side of the equation than black metal (blackened prog metal rather than progressive black metal), with really only the vocals steering towards a more black metal direction a lot of the time. J°rgen Munkeby of Shining's saxophone is an unexpected addition - for better or worse, the mighty sax hasn't had much of a presence in metal - but a welcome one. Still, I can't help but think that as far as experimental progressive metal with a black metal aesthetic goes, both Shining and Ihsahn's unleashed apprentices in Leprous kind of outshine this.
 Eremita by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.74 | 73 ratings

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Eremita
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by 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.

 Eremita by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.74 | 73 ratings

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Eremita
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Puppies On Acid

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.
 Eremita by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.74 | 73 ratings

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Eremita
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by 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.

Thanks to Trickster F. for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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