rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Cervus Venator
02. The Promethean Spark
03. Pilgrimage To Oblivion
04. Twice Born
05. A Taste Of The Ambrosia
06. Anima Extraneae
07. Blood Trails To Love
08. Hubris And Blue Devils
09. The Distance Between Us
10. At The Heart Of All Things Broken
11. Sonata Profana

IHSAHN's indelible impression upon the world of heavy metal is undeniable. Initially making a name for himself as EMPEROR's driving force through to his solo career, he has been a groundbreaking leader in both black and progressive metal. His eponymously titled eighth solo album is arguably his most ambitious creative endeavor yet, and he strikes gold with this lofty, two-pronged expression.

There are two versions of the self-titled release: One is metal-focused, the other is driven by his passion for orchestral music. Apparently from EMPEROR's beginnings, the music was informed by his love of cinematic scores, soundtracks crafted by the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Bernard Herrmann and John Carpenter. He challenged himself here by composing a full-tilt metal album that would allow the orchestral version to work independently.

The music is intricate, loaded and purpose focused, with as much for tech and prog nerds to dissect as for regular metalhead to enjoy. "Ihsahn", the album, is a boiled down version of all that he is musically. At times it's prog-inclined and orchestral, evident with the grand and epic finale "At the Heart of All Things Broken", which is just as jarring as it is emotion laden. The album is also hateful and chaotic, as with the EMPEROR-esque "Pilgrimage To Oblivion", which storms forth with black metal's embrace of fire and brimstone, blasting with rage and fury. "The Promethean Spark" reveals IHSAHN at his most measured at the onset, boasting his dueling harsh, blackened shrieks as well as his soothing melodic singing before layers of grand orchestration lead toward a powerful conclusion.

Threading through his earliest days with EMPEROR to his solo career starting from 2006's "The Adversary", IHSAHN has never repeated himself. He hasn't reached into new terrain this time around, instead he's refined what he does best and pieced everything together in ways that sound fresh and challenging, for both him and listeners. There is no doubt that IHSAHN is one of metal's leading imaginative forces, and this self-titled release is possibly his solo career's high point.

Author: Jay H. Gorania
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