Structured amongst a journey of Immense chaos, malevolent, rhythmic clarity and Avante-Garde jazz fusionesque extreme artistry today we welcome to the world “Ámr”, (Nordic meaning black, loathsome or dark) the magnificent seventh solo album courtesy of black metal legend Ihsahn. After Emperor decided to take an unknown hiatus of sorts Ihsahn has proven himself as a prolific and incredible pioneer of a solo career that furthers, expands, explores and diversifies his career far beyond what fans of his previous more extreme black metal roots could ever have foreseen. His solo artistic journey has seen him discard any shackles that have bound him to his roots of old and write and record albums that are nothing short of stunning in their complexity and Ihsahn’s musical ability to merge many different musical genres and styles that, whilst as diverse as possible still has the Ihsahn signature thanks to his recognisable vocals.
So what can the listener expect to be gifted by “Ámr”? Well, a stunningly polished artistic, musical landscape painted with strokes much broader and distinct that was left behind from the volumes of 2016’s Arktis.
The opener, “Lend Me The Eyes Of The Millennia” leads the listener into the album subtly with a perfectly haunting analogue synth intro which sets the scene for the duration of our journey through “Ámr”. Ihsahn then greets us with his raspy voice as a prelude to the rest of the track, all of a sudden the blast beats kick in all the while complimenting and diversifying a cascading hypnotic flow of guitars and orchestral synths. The perfectly harmonious beginning to the album of “Lend Me The Eyes Of The Millennia” cannot be overstated.
Next up is the first official video release “Arcana Imperii”, one of the signature and trademark songs that we would acknowledge as Ihsahn. A chugging guitar-driven tune that has us moving our heads along to Ihsahn’s heavy yet repetitious song structure. Thanks to his previous solo albums we are now well acquainted with Ihsahn’s ability to serenade his fans with hauntingly golden clean vocals and heard on “Arcana Imperii” we hear some of Ihsahn’s best vocal work. But, make no mistake readers, the best is still yet to come!
And that is courtesy of track three “Sámr”. Slowly bleeding into our eardrums at first in a quiet synth for a moment and then a slow reassuring and heavily hypnotic beat and guitar kick in for a brief interlude then a mere bass synth pulse accompanies Ihsahn’s now standout clean voice and quiet guitar strums leading into a grandiose chorus and big as the reputation Ihsahn can claim as is his by right. And then back down we are blissfully led to the verse which follows, is a slight, beautiful guitar lead and then back up to the grandiosity of the song which overall gives the package of “Sámr” a stunningly epic yet stripped back a moment of clarity on “Ámr”. And onwards we trek to “One Less Enemy”. Both introductorily driven guitar and synth with a slow pulse rhythm as Ihsahn’s raspy vocals symbiotically compliment and diversify the previous track “Sámr”. The same yet polar opposite juxtaposition of dark and light reflecting one another. Damn “Ámr” is a fucking magnificently crafted album. On “One Less Enemy” there is nothing over the top or extreme and overbearing. It is a blissful, quietly heavy and beautifully brutal work that both shadows, reflects, diversifies and disconnects anything we have heard from Ihsahn in his stunning twelve-year solo career out of the light of Emperor. Track four hears the listeners gripped tightly in the embrace of “Where You Are Lost, And I Belong”. This is the song where Ihsahn extends his hand to us and merge as one with him deeper into the lightened darkness of both his and our psyche. It is a dichotomy of unifying and dividing musical artistry that both connects and disconnects us from ourselves. Deep, slow and heavy sonic discordance grips us as we are both serenaded and quietly berated by Ihsahn’s dual trade off vocal ability. “Where You Are Lost, And I Belong” both lifts and deflates the listener and is a perfect union of split and conflicting emotions but soothing all while.
“In Rites of Passage sonically detracts and reflects both light and dark in such perfect harmony, pulsatingly constant and discordantly superb, it has a defibrillator type reinvigorating and reviving complimentary synthesiser/guitar duality nuance that we the listener ebb and flow through a sonic delivery of both electronic and metal bliss.
The descriptors in the sentences above clearly defining Ihsahn’s incredible “Ámr” are the driving force until the end of this epic masterpiece we have forged for us thanks to the inspiring and influential Norwegian.“Ámr” is Ihsahn’s current standout highlight in his illustrious solo career. It is a polarising snapshot of a man that has proven himself musically without fear of ramifications of his diverse and experimental creative desire to express both his and his fans emotions.
Finally, the closer “Wake” is as close to Emperor’s past as you’re going to hear on “Ámr”, and it is the perfect end to a near-perfect album.