IHSAHN – Telemark

IHSAHN – Telemark

Since disbanding the mighty Emperor in 2001, Ihsahn has been exploring progressive and experimental territory with his solo project, finding many different areas that he has created some very exciting music in. With seven full-length albums under his belt, he has decided to release two EP’s this year that will embody his love for Norway and black metal with older, wiser eyes, the first being ‘Telemark’.

The first three tracks are Norwegian black metal taken back to its base level – all the aesthetics of the genre are on display (the only exception being the clear, brutal production), but he has whittled away all the bells and whistles to expose what he considers the bare bones of this dark art. In doing so, he has released what could possibly be some of the best black metal that he has ever written, the purity of the sound far outweighing the cabaret dressing that can so often dilute and weaken the music.

Opener ‘Stridig’ punches hard and immediately shows where he is headed. That trademark Ihsahn vocal is as vicious and starkly evil as always, leading the pounding, stripped-down music through a dynamic and heavy journey of impressive delight, and the addition of horns throughout add a completely new level of vibrancy and pomp without any possible cheesy layers. ‘Nord’ and ‘Telemark’ keep the adrenaline high and flesh out this uncontaminated Norwegian direction, with the highlight being his incredibly tasteful and ludicrously intricate guitar solos (something that Ihsahn has always had in his arsenal) and more of the brass that, whilst not a traditional black metal sound, fills out everything happening here and just makes it sound better. This is black metal housed and bathed in progressive waters, and it takes the breath away.

The final two tracks are covers of Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’ (an inspired choice) and Iron Maiden’s ‘Wrathchild’. Being an EP, covers are always a fun addition to the original music, and both are exactly that. The Kravitz song is both upbeat and vicious at the same time, and it’s so great to see someone borne from such a restrictive genre as black metal taking such chances and succeeding. ‘Wrathchild’ doesn’t stray very far from the original, but Ihsahn’s snarling vocal and the sheer heaviness of the production make it an exciting listen and remind the listener why Maiden are so damn great.

It’s an EP, so it’s hard to pack in vast landscapes of sound and exploration that can be found in a full-length record, but Ihsahn works his ass off here. It’s short enough to inspire and entertain, and long enough to serve the purpose of what he’s trying to achieve (keeping in mind that there is a sequel in the near future), and it is more than a worthy addition to the man’s catalogue. For me, ‘Telemark’ is yet more evidence that Mr. Tveitan (as his post office most probably know him) is a modern genius working within the progressive/black metal idiom, and he has a lot more sumptuous delights for his fanbase to devour in the years to come.