Ihsahn

Eremita

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The title of Ihsahn's fourth post-Emperor solo album, Eremita, derives from the Latin word for "hermit," but there's nothing here suggesting a musical recluse, shut off from the world at large, exciting collaborative opportunities, or new avenues of expression beyond his well-established black metal legacy. This open-minded vision was already quite evident on prior Ihsahn solo albums, of course, but on Eremita it arguably flowers more confidently than ever before, even when it comes to more black metal-infused numbers such as "Arrival" (where vocals vary from familiarly blistering rasps to operatic vibratos), "The Paranoid" (which progresses from blastbeaten hell to quasi-industrial riffing), and "Something Out There" (the most Emperor-like hellacious symphony on hand here). Take "Introspection," for instance, which builds around a melancholy lick and murmured vocals that would appeal to ‘90s shoegazers; or "Departure," which flirts with bossa nova amid a generalized instrumental freakout; or dreamy guitar symphony "The Eagle and the Snake," which beautifully showcases Ihsahn's orchestrating skills for the instrument while an infectiously pesky saxophone (also heard on the deeply atmospheric "Catharsis" and elsewhere) flits alongside, alternately crooning, skronking, and carrying the song into Krautrock land. Another extended meditation, the doom-jazz odyssey of "The Grave," also quickly transcends its metallic trappings to visit Bowie and Eno in their late-‘70s Berlin laboratory -- once again with the help of that snaky sax and inspired percussion courtesy of Leprous drummer Tobias Ørnes Anderson. Speaking of those aforementioned collaborators, Anderson's bandmate, singer Einar Solberg, cameos on "Arrival," the angelic Heidi Tveitan on "Departure," and Shining's Jörgen Munkeby delivers all that inspired sax playing -- again, hardly suggesting a hermit-like recording process. So, unless Eremita's title refers to an artist digging deeper within himself to uncover heretofore unknown ideas and feelings, consider it a misnomer, because these songs instead showcase an Ihsahn who's finally comfortable enough in his chameleon's skin to let his versatility flourish, and black metal's dark shadow be cursed.

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