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Ihsahn should really need no introduction to readers of Metal Discovery. One of metal’s original architects of the Norwegian black metal sound (and symphonic black metal) with the masterclass that is Emperor carries on his solo foray into extreme music. This is his fifth outing under the name Ihsahn, and if you want black metal then it’s not found on this album, but you’ll find something more disturbing, deeper emotions, more human, and the sound of a soul breaking from order into chaos. The title of the album roughly translates to The Soul Crusher or Soul Breaker, and although not a concept album there is a feeling of journey when listening to it as a whole. Starting with the familiar in tracks like ‘Hiber’ and ‘Regen’, these feel the closest to where Ihsahn has been with his previous work, although there is an almost Opeth sound in the progressiveness. Not so much as to be a problem, and Ihsahn does take it one step further with powerful choirs and an occasional symphonic flourish. As the album progresses we’re introduced to cleaner sounds, especially with Ihsahn finding his clean vocals, quite soft and certainly fitting. This does really give a ‘Ghost Reveries’ Opeth feel but this is no bad thing in my book, especially as there is much to set it apart, but Ihsahn now firmly resides in this ball park. A real introspection begins with track four, ‘Pulse’, and it’s from this point onwards that each track feels like a journey. The lyrics feel very personal and with the right backing this could be a huge hit in different circles than Ihsahn usually treads. It’s got a very commercial American rock song with gothic tinges feel. It’s just a great song and deserves to be heard. But for each track like this, there is a track like ‘Tacit 2’ which is aggressive in its avant-garde soundscape. The track mixes disparate drums crashing and clattering with guitar feedback and off kilter riffing only half heard. The vocals are half spoken and half screamed. Otherworldly and desperate is the best way to describe it. With an album that has great power on the big sounding tracks, an introspective ambience, disturbing piano sounds, Pink Floyd-like moody guitar solos, jazz breaks leading to music of almost cinematic proportions, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say in my humble opinion this is Ihsahn’s best work under his solo banner.
Review by Paul Sims
21st Oct 2013
1) Hiber
2) Regen
3) NaCI
4) Pulse
5) Tacit 2
6) Tacit
7) Rec
8) M
9) Sub After
10) See
"... this is Ihsahn’s best work under his solo banner."