Ihsahn has always been a musical maverick, from his legendary work with Emperor, to his controversial “Zyklon-B” EP, which I’ll say for the record, I thought was brutally superb despite whatever anyone else wants to tie to it, and it’s that brutal aspect to his style that draws me and that ability to be progressively ‘off the wall’ and brutal too is an admirable talent in his solo endeavours that I am similarly drawn to, “The Adversary“, “angL” and “Das Seelenbrechen” being the ones which have most inspired me the most.
Fast forward to the present and his latest EP “Telemark“, the first of two five-track EPs inspired by and dedicated to his home county of Telemark with, for the first time ever, Norwegian lyrics, a great aspect as it’s a language that lends extra brutality to a vitriolic delivery, so always a winner with me and further steeping the EP in Black Metal aesthetics. This first “represents the dark, brutal and aggressive side of Ihsahn’s compositional identity” and it is very much an EP of two halves.
The first part is three new original songs; the brutally progressive and punchily addictive, “Stridig” with its dense layers of sound balanced against wistful reflective interludes, it epitomises all I love about his work, “Nord” with its strong Black Metal undercurrent and an overlying melody which doesn’t dominate and superb lead work that soars emotively and title track “Telemark” hypnotic with a bit of a blackened folk feel worked into a very complex Progressive Black Metal sound, all three are superbly unique, innovative pieces that I enjoyed immensely.
Then there is the second part, consisting of two covers; “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Dead” [Lenny Kravitz cover] here Jørgen Munkeby‘s saxophone work is the best bit about this track, my issue isn’t with this version, I’m just not enamoured with the original so I really don’t get this cover, I find it an odd choice, however it is way better than the original but too far outside of my comfort zone. The second track “Wrathchild” [Iron Maiden cover] is the better of the two, probably because I like the original and Ihsahn more than does justice to the original superb lead work but ultimately, I prefer to hear Ihsahn performing his own material.
“Telemark” is available now on Candlelight Records.
Rating – 4/5