Ihsahn - Amr
Candlelight Records
Progressive Metal
9 songs (43:49)
Release year: 2018
Ihsahn, Candlelight Records
Reviewed by Goat

With seven solo albums to his name since the abdication of Emperor, Ihsahn has without doubt made a most impressive post-imperial career for himself, and latest album Amr is another gem. That cover art may well raise eyebrows, yet the music here is as aggressive as his solo material has ever been - the fur cover on that chair concealing something sharper and nastier. Opener Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia especially has black metal bite, buried beneath a layer of synths as much of the album is to some extent, new to his sound but not unwelcome. If past albums referenced prog and jazz through their structures and use of saxophone, then Amr is a limited step into the 80s with new wave influences - very limited, let's be clear. With one or two exceptions aside, you won't be hearing any of this on the radio any time soon. By and large, Ihsahn's post-black progressive metal remains the same at root, yet each album seems to experiment in a different area and does it well, including Amr. The aforementioned Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia builds to a heavy torrent of sound, synths and electronics clashing atop the metal instruments while Ihsahn himself shrieks over the top; black metal if it were born ten years earlier, in a different setting?

Arcana Imperii opens like countrymen Shining with a big, bassy electronica-backed beatdown, soon switching it up and introducing the album's first proper chorus, Ihsahn's clean vocals the best they've ever been here and on the following Samr, which is much lighter and largely driven by vocals and gentle beats. It's about as close as he's come to a ballad yet, perhaps a little long at over five minutes and driven by a massive chorus not quite as effective as it could be, yet placed as it is between two more 'metal' songs is effective enough. The latter of those, One Less Enemy, is groovy post-black metal a la recent Satyricon, complete with rigid, almost martial drumbeats but again simply drenched with synths - losing the coldness and simplicity of Satyricon, but gaining a woozy, almost unnerving atmosphere that envelops the listener like fog. That's continued on the following Where You Are Lost and I Belong, another almost-ballad that's held back from that fate by the ominous percussion, verging on a Peccatum dark rock feel overall!

If any two tracks here sum this album up, it's that and the following In Rites of Passage, which takes the use of synths to sheer avant-garde level; the differences and similarities between the two showing the album off far more cohesively than previous strays into experimental territory (Das Seelenbrechen, most notably). And even in the more poppy-feeling moments here, such as the hook-laden Marble Soul, the album's smoothest chorus is married to passages of harsh shouts and deliberately odd (but still very infectious) 'ahh-ahh'ing. Obtusely, the first single from this album is not the downright radio-friendly retro-rocking Twin Black Angels, which is built on technical yet not unfriendly riffs and drums, bearing a hell of a chorus that's not over-relied on at all but allowed to sit amongst the soloing and even contrasted with more harsh vocals. The album ending with another heavier track in Wake, probably the most typical and guitar-driven present, makes the experimentation stand out all the more and definitely rewards repeated listens. Ihsahn could definitely have gone in a genuinely poppy direction if he wanted to, but the man's music is still a damn sight too complex for that, and for all the fuss made this is still very much Ihsahn to the core. Another great album, then.

Killing Songs :
Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia, One Less Enemy, Marble Soul, Wake
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Ihsahn that we have reviewed:
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
Ihsahn - angL reviewed by Goat and quoted 78 / 100
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