Sure, Ihsahn looks a lot like Ricky Gervais with long hair and less of a gut. Sure, his albums can get pretty out there, especially recently. Ihsahn’s solo work is almost entirely bereft of references to Emperor’s work despite that band catapulting his career and garnering loads of praise. But his solo work is experimental, unique and forward-thinking. His musicianship and talent are almost unending. And his career arc has taken a leap into the more sparse style of music that leaves more room for listener interpretation. In that way, he even shares something with the great Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko. So, today, we bring you The nine Circles ov…Ihsahn!
The respect, admiration and awe I hold for Ihsahn cannot be understated. Even when his songs don’t grab me, or maybe some even miss the mark, his ability, confidence and sheer will to produce works of startling gravity and genius is something to be admired. So, without further ado, enjoy a few tracks from one of our generations more talented and visionary musicians.
“And He Shall Walk in Empty Places” (The Adversary, 2006)
The Adversary was the album that got it all started for Ihsahn’s solo career. Most likely the most reminiscent of his earlier work with Emperor yet, at the same time, revealing his penchant for thinking outside the box and exploring new sounds.
“Misanthrope” (angL, 2008)
“Bring me my wine…” This track says it all. The recognizable vocals, his technical proficiency on instrumentation (he didn’t play drums on angL) and his unmistakable style.
“Unhealer” (angL, 2008)
Being connected can certainly help any artist launch a solo career. And Mikael Åkerfeldt’s unmistakable lead vocals on “Unhealer.” At this stage in Ihsahn’s career he’s still not completely his own man and the Åkerfeldt vocals serve to tie the work to Opeth-era metal. Nonetheless, the track is brilliant.
A Grave Inversed (After, 2010)
Despite After’s title track being a bit of a departure from the sound that will eventually make him stand on his own, “A Grave Inversed” has the one aspect that most music is missing: saxophone (provided by Jørgen Munkeby). The combination of the saxophone and the ripping guitar lines is bone-chilling.
“Undercurrent” (After, 2010)
The second longest track on After, “Undercurrent” once again features beautiful saxophone work of Sade proportions. The track also features monumental rises and cataclysmic falls into the abyss. A beautiful work very symbolic of Ihsahn’s vision on After.
“Arrival” (Eremita, 2012)
While many may look at Eremita as Ihsahn’s weakest work, it’s an important turning point in his career. Backing vocals from Devin Townsend reveal just how high the respect level for him has climbed by 2012. “Arrival” is a beautiful opener and a near perfect tone-setter for Eremita.
“Departure” (Eremita, 2012)
As Ihsahn moved from After to Eremita he began to craft songs that left more space for interpretation. “Departure” is significant of that take. The near danceable intro shows another side of Ihsahn. But do not fear, for the groove oriented and chugging rhythms to follow will lean towards headbanging rather than dancing.
“Regen” (Das Seelenbrechen, 2013)
Das Seelenbrechen saw Ihsahn return to doing his albums almost entirely on his own. With the usual assistance on drums, the big names are completely gone. Ihsahn is on his own to create this near metal dreamscape of an album. “Regen” shows Ihsahn’s patience, range and versatility. A real brilliant addition to his catalog.
“M” (Das Seelenbrechen, 2013)
“M” is out there. A sprawling four-minutes and thirty-seconds taking inspiration heavily from Pink Floyd. Ihsahn shows that he can shred on guitars with less than eight strings. His technical proficiency and touch for melody are on full display on this one.
There you have it. Now go get weird!