Vegard Sverre Tveitan, better known under his alias Ihsahn, is one of the most revered musicians within the Norwegian extreme metal scene. With Emperor he pushed the symphonic black metal envelope and with Peccatum he explored the boundaries of avant-garde music. Under the Ihsahn moniker he released three critically acclaimed solo albums. Now he’s back with a new record, entitled “Eremita”.
“Eremita” represents the next step in Ihsahn’s musical evolution. The basis is still a hybrid of progressive, death and black metal, but this time around he went for a melodic, more jazz-based experimental approach. It’s not that different from what Leprous has done on their “Bilateral” album. Songs like “Arrival”, “Introspection”, “The Eagle And The Snake” and “Catharsis” are poignant examples of this jazz/progressive direction. Just as on the previous record Jørgen Munkeby (Shining) played some guest saxophone parts. However, this time around his parts are an integral part of the overall Ihsahn sound, instead of the proverbial last-minute polish as on “After”.
“The Paranoid”, “Something Out There” and “The Grave” contain some of the harsher moments on “Eremita”, but it doesn’t come close to the sonic violence of “A Grave Inversed” or “The Barren Lands”, let alone anything closely related to Emperor. This is totally fine with me, because I do really appreciate the calmer and more experimental approach. Endless blastbeats, lightning fast guitar solos and the typical black metal screeches simply doesn’t fit into the overall framework of this album. The last song, entitled “Departure”, is in that regard the perfect summary of what “Eremita” is all about. It is basically the perfect synthesis between jazz, prog and (extreme) metal. Ihsahn’s wife Heidi Tveintan (Starofash) provided some hauntingly beautiful vocals on that track.
Devin Towsend lended his vocal talents on “Introspection” and Einar Solberg (Leprous) did the same on “Arrival”, thus further strengthening the Leprous link. His band mate Tobias Ørnes Anderson took care of the drum duties on “Eremita”. Former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis provided a couple of guitar leads on “Catharsis”. All of these guest musicians added their own flavour to this stunning album.
“Eremita” is without a doubt the most ambitious and experimental of Ihsahn’s solo albums and it another step further away from his black metal roots. It’s a typical grower, because it takes several attempts before the song material starts to sink in. For me “Eremita” makes perfectly clear that Ihsahn is one of the few true visionaries within the (extreme) metal scene. Heartily recommended!