Published Apr 06, 2016It takes an expert songwriter to consistently and cohesively blend a multitude of styles into one album and still maintain a signature sound. Within the realms of extreme metal, there are few who have mastered this better than Ihsahn.
The composer and multi-instrumentalist has been tinkering with metal's multifarious palette of genres since 2006, shedding the skin of his former influential black metal band Emperor in favour of a more experimental solo endeavour. On his sixth studio album, Arktis, Ihsahn has continued to follow his left-field path through a labyrinth of heavy progressive music. Rather than the improvisational approach he took for his previous album Das Seelenbrechen, the Norwegian-born musician has instead focused his latest efforts on maximizing the creative potential of each composition, while staying within the confines of more traditional song structures.
The resulting album is a multi-layered affair that blends his signature blackened progressive rock with some interesting new stylistic diversions. The dark, pulsating electronic beat and gravelly, whispered yells on "South Winds," for example, immediately bring bands like Rammstein or Nine Inch Nails to mind, while "Until I Too Dissolve" features huge classic rock-style riffs and soaring, melodious verses. Shining's Jorgen Munkeby once again lends his jazzy saxophone playing to "Crooked Red Line," a climactic track that is sure to be a fan favourite.
At this point in his career, Ihsahn is as much an artist as he is a musician. On Arktis, he continues to push the boundaries of his creativity while boldly challenging listeners to expand upon their definition of heavy music in a way that embraces evolution. It might not all resonate, but that's okay: true musicianship is not really about obtaining perfection, but the journey towards it, and Arktis is a thoroughly fascinating one. (Candlelight)