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Rock - Released September 11, 2020 | Spinefarm Records UK

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Metal - Released February 14, 2020 | Spinefarm Records UK

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Metal - Released April 8, 2016 | Spinefarm Records UK

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Metal - Released May 4, 2018 | Spinefarm Records UK

After blowing up Emperor in 2001, guitarist, keyboardist, and composer Ihsahn embarked on a solo career that has been strangely dazzling in its focused creativity, expansive scope, and a relentless willingness to throw caution out the window. While his first five solo offerings retained their tangential connection to second wave black metal, all the while pushing its more progressive and vanguard elements, the evolution shifted jarringly with 2016's Arktis. Guitar tones were more overdriven than jagged, analog synths became as dominant as orchestration, and songs were written consciously with melodic, even poppy, hooks and dense but pronounced rhythms, atmospherics, and dynamics. Ámr, album number seven, marks the first time in Ihsahn's career the he made an album as a conscious extension of its predecessor. This doesn’t mean that it sounds the same, not by any stretch, but it is a refinement of the process that created Arktis. With the notable exception of a lone guitar solo by Fredrik Åkesson of Opeth on " Arcana Imperii," Ihsahn's only accompanist is drummer Tobias Ornes Andersen. The production here is less symphonic in arrangement, this is far more stark and immediate. Ihsahn allows each instrument and vocal layer a separate space here, creating a more open if no less foreboding vibe. Opener "Lend Me the Eyes of Millenia" is a conscious nod to his black metal past, but with a profound twist. The dirty vocals let the listener know immediately that this is Ihsahn with its snarling blastbeats and modal structure, but the Roland 808 synth lines claim the foreground instead of tremolo picking. It's merely the way in, however. The popping, swinging drums and rattling guitar riffing that commence "Arcana Imperii" comes right out of '80s hard rock, while swirling keyboards are framed quite separately around lush vocal harmonies and a proggy pop hook, with Akesson's guitar break simultaneously adding tension and release. Elsewhere, as on "Samr" and the gloomy "Where You Are Lost and I Belong," composer John Carpenter's creepy synth scores to his films -- particularly the original Halloween -- influence the spacious, near-Gothic, funereal, instrumental approach and subdued anguished singing at once menacing and vulnerable. The skeletal synth intro to "Twin Black Angels" recalls the original John Foxx incarnation of Ultravox, as electric guitar and skittering snares frame a lush, loss-filled balladic melody that gives way to a rocker in bridge and refrain where dirty vocals are interspersed with clean ones around a soaring guitar break. Despite, or perhaps because of, the '80s references, only Ihsahn could have combined all of these individual elements and made them gel with his imprimatur style. Closer "Wake" adds the tremolo picking back in alongside wobbly careening synths, filthy vocals, and blastbeats though the chorus is in clean, almost bright four-part vocal harmony before the instrumental bridge traverses the threshold of the anthemic. If Ihsahn attempted to make an accessible, catchy, mainstream metal album with Arktis, Ámr is the sound of him perfecting that vision, and as a result, comprises one of his finest outings. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Metal - Released January 25, 2010 | Spinefarm Records UK

Former Emperor frontman Ihsahn's third solo album is closer to mainstream rock than its two predecessors, but is also a totally unique statement -- and a brilliant one. Opening track "The Barren Lands" features progressive rock riffing, an almost art-funk rhythm, and guitar solos worthy of Living Colour. Faster tracks like "A Grave Inversed" are impeccably produced, abandoning black metal's ultra-trebly screech for an intricate thrash reminiscent of Rigor Mortis' Freaks -- except for the honking, almost free jazz saxophone (!). The ten-minute "Undercurrent" heads into jazz fusion territory, with liquid, almost fretless-sounding bass underneath delicate, repeating guitar figures and drums that fall somewhere between Tool and Opeth's quieter moments. But it gets heavy, whipping into another furious yet utterly controlled art-thrash hurricane. It's not the only ten-minute track on the album, either; After ends with "On the Shores," which is almost Yakuza-esque in the way its guitars roar in aggressive yet majestic fashion while the saxophone skronks and squeals up front. This is a seriously mind-warping manifesto from a guy who helped create symphonic black metal with Emperor; he's now moved into the progressive, post-black metal territory occupied by artists like Nachtmystium and particularly Enslaved. © Phil Freeman /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 28, 2020 | Spinefarm Records UK

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Metal - Released May 26, 2008 | Spinefarm Records UK

Singers who record as solo artists are a rarity in black metal. As a rule, black metal vocalists who leave a band either join another band or form a new band but don't start recording under their own names or marketing themselves as solo artists. Ihsahn, however, is an exception to that rule, and marketing himself as a solo artist makes a lot of sense because the name Ihsahn carries considerable weight in black metal circles thanks to his contributions to Emperor. Ihsahn's second solo album, Angl, maintains the symphonic black metal orientation that the Norwegian vocalist favored on his previous solo outing, The Adversary, and while black metal is Angl's main ingredient, there are certainly many other influences as well. Among them: power metal, progressive metal, death metal, and gothic metal. Angl is very focused, but at the same time, Ihsahn is even more unpredictable and far-reaching on this 47-minute CD than he was on The Adversary. He is also decidedly melodic, achieving a healthy balance of heaviness and musicality. Angl is about forcefulness, intensity, and aggression, but it is also about musicality, songcraft, nuance, and intricacy; in other words, all of the things one expects from symphonic black metal. Some black metal purists will no doubt insist that Angl isn't a legitimate black metal release because it doesn't sound like Gorgoroth or Marduk (just to give two examples of Nordic black metal bands that love going for the jugular). But then, Ihsahn never claimed to be a purist, and this album is strictly for those who like their black metal with a great deal of melody. Angl is an excellent follow-up to The Adversary and is even a bit stronger than its predecessor. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Metal - Released June 18, 2012 | Spinefarm Records UK

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. © Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
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Metal - Released October 21, 2013 | Spinefarm Records UK

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Metal - Released April 8, 2016 | Spinefarm Records UK

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Metal - Released April 5, 2006 | Spinefarm Records UK

When a vocalist for a well-known band provides a solo album -- either while he/she is still with the band or after leaving it -- the material might be a big departure from the band's work, a carbon copy of the band's work, or something in between. In the case of former Emperor vocalist/lead guitarist Ihsahn, The Adversary is definitely an example of "something in between." This 2006 release, which is the Norwegian headbanger's first solo project, is neither a carbon copy of Emperor's black metal nor a radical departure from it. The Adversary has a lot to offer from a black metal standpoint, and yet, this is hardly a disc that caters to black metal purists. The black metal that Ihsahn embraces as a solo artist is symphonic black metal -- that is, a very melodic, intricate combination of black metal, power metal, and/or progressive rock. In fact, The Adversary gets so far into power metal and prog metal that some of the material really falls outside of black metal altogether; there are a few parts of The Adversary that wouldn't be out of place on an album by Rhapsody or Dream Theater. But there are enough black metal-oriented tracks to remind Emperor fans that while Ihsahn is continuing to stretch out and expand, he has not forsaken black metal or forgotten his past. In avant-garde jazz, musicians use the term "inside/outside" to describe performances that combine the extreme (the "outside") with more conventional melodies, rhythms, and harmonies (the "inside"), and that concept is easily applicable to symphonic black metal. The Adversary is an inside/outside effort in which the inside is clearly dominant but the outside is still a hot, spicy ingredient. It is also a rewarding way for Ihsahn to launch his solo career. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 17, 2020 | Spinefarm Records UK