Ihsahn - Telemark (EP)
Candlelight Records
Progressive Metal
5 songs (24:42)
Release year: 2020
Ihsahn, Candlelight Records
Reviewed by Goat

Named after his home city, the latest release from ex-Emperor frontman Ihsahn is a mixture of the expected and the unexpected, sadly not always to the best possible outcome. Those familiar with his brand of progressive yet still black-at-heart metal will find the original pieces here very much a return to normality after the synth-y experiments of 2018's Àmr, much heavier and closer to his earlier style. Each piece is constructed from progressive blackened metal rumbling, driven by guitars and Ihsahn's typical screech, with added saxophone jazziness thanks to long-term contributor Jørgen Munkeby (of the Norwegian Shining). Opener Stridig is a terrific opener thanks to the engaging build in the structure, a mid-point melodic meander adding to the tension rather than releasing it, and the track as a whole a great reminder of Ihsahn's technical wizardry on guitar. The following Nord is a little slower and groovier to the point where even the backing saxophone can't help it from feeling dull by comparison. It's a great showcase for Ihsahn instrumentally (who played everything bar the drums, here handled presumably by former Leprous sticksman Tobias Ørnes Andersen) but isn't a particularly interesting listen.

Fortunately the title track is much better, opening with a melodic flourish before taking a winding proggy road, nicely akin to later King Crimson, that repeatedly launches into near-blackened gallops before devolving back into technical grooving. Some subtle orchestral backing towards the end adds to the atmosphere, and even at just under eight minutes long it keeps your attention and interest well. You can say the same for the two covers that close the EP, Iron Maiden's Wrathchild and Lenny Kravitz's Rock and Roll is Dead, although obviously the latter will raise eyebrows! It comes as something of a leftfield choice, to say the least, and fits uncomfortably in the tracklisting after the title track, yet a couple of listens later and it proves to be a fun enough piece, the infectious clean-sung chorus with the guitar and saxophone interplay enjoyable in their own right.

After that, Wrathchild seems downright dull (and let's be honest, as much as we all love early Maiden it is a blatantly crowdpleasing choice!) despite the saxophone adding an extra layer to the classic; it's a slightly bizarre thing to experience Ihsahn having fun! Emperor fans will have likely heard their Bathory and Mercyful Fate covers, yet they weren't unfitting to the band's mystique and each release from Ihsahn up until now has been a serious collection of songs to the point where Telemark can't help but feel a little throwaway in comparison. So as good as the songs here can be, and as solid as this release is overall, it's nonetheless not one of Ihsahn's better solo ventures when his discography is taken into account. Fans will get a kick out of this, however!

Killing Songs :
Stridig, Telemark, Rock and Roll is Dead
Goat quoted no quote
Other albums by Ihsahn that we have reviewed:
Ihsahn - Amr reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ihsahn - Arktis. reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ihsahn - Das Seelenbrechen reviewed by Goat and quoted 76 / 100
Ihsahn - Eremita reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
Ihsahn - After reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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