Reviews for June 19th, 2012

The end of Emperor was a real bummer. You know what the silver lining was though? Now we get twice the amount of music from these guys; Ihsahn is doing his thing and Samoth is doing his own things, as well. Today the planets align and two titans converge as both Ihsahn and Samoth’s The Wretched End are releasing albums in North America today. It is like Christmas in June here in George’s metal wonderland.

Ihsahn – Eremita

First up today is “Eremita”, the fourth solo album from Ihsahn. For the youngsters in the room, Ihsahn was a founding member of Emperor, one of the early (and in my opinion, best) Norwegian black metal bands to come out of the early 90s. Emperor called it quits in 2001 (I cannot believe it has been eleven years already!) and, among other projects, Ihsahn has been releasing solo albums every two years since 2006.

I have eagerly snapped up each of these solo releases as they dropped, and today was no exception. As usual, the production is immaculate. I love how crisp and bright all of Ihsahn’s albums sound. I feel like I can almost tell one of his albums by the sound of the production alone.

Over the years, Ihsahn, while staying decidedly metal, has also become more avant-garde in his approach to music. He introduced saxophone to the mix on his last album, “After”, and it appears again here on “Eremita.” While there are certainly areas of pure black metal fury, there are also progressive elements creeping into these solo releases. I have heard progressive death metal before, but this combination is refreshingly different. I love how beautiful, technical passages and clean vocals can give way to face-ripping ferocity in the course of the same song.

“Eremita” is both the raging storm and the beautiful sky that follows. I love this album and cannot wait to explore the nuances that one can only discover over the course of many repeat visits.

The Wretched End – Inroads

Samoth’s post-Emperor path has included albums with Zyklon, Scum and now, The Wretched End. The Wretched End released their first album, “Ominous” in 2010, and now they return in 2012 with their second album, “Inroads.” Samoth, of course, provides guitars, while the rest of the band is rounded out by Cosmo (Mindrgrinder, Scum, Zyklon), also on guitar, bass and vocals and Nils Fjellström (Dark Funeral, In Battle) on drums.

The opening moments of “Inroads” are somewhat quiet, but hint of the roaring explosion of molten metal that commences at the fourteen second mark of “Tyrant of the Mountain.” Where “Eremita” is progressive and avant-garde, “Inroads” is intense and in-your-face death metal that sweeps up the listener and slams them to the ground like violent ocean waves pounding the beach. There are moments of respite where quieter passages ebb the flow of brutality, but with inevitable eventuality, it turns from caressing one’s eardrums to pummeling them once again.

I call this music death metal, but that may be too broad of a stroke for “Inroads.” These songs are not melodic death in the Swedish style, though they are melodic; neither are they brutal in the Cannibal Corpse style, but that aggression is certainly present. I suppose it could be technical death metal, but that does not feel quite right either. It is rather like death metal with some of the atmospheric elements of black metal, but without the symphonic baggage to clutter up the mix. However one chooses to classify it, this album rises above the vast majority of extreme metal today.

I highly recommend checking out both “Eremita” and “Inroads.” I will continue to hope that eventually Ihsahn and Samoth will reunite for an Emperor album, like they did for several shows in 2006 and 2007, but if that never happens at least they are still delivering the goods individually. Check out the video for “Death By Nature” below.