Against this backdrop Ihsahn returns to the scene with his fourth solo album, Eremita. This is Latin for recluse or hermit. Eremita is a continuation of the progressive and experimental course as set on its illustrious predecessor, but it’s altogether quite a different animal. Where After is marked with a very dark and desolate atmosphere Ihsahn’s latest offering is more melodic and progressive in nature.
“The Paranoid” and “The Grave” contain plenty of aggressive bursts, but the emphasis is clearly on adventurous arrangements and jazz-inspired musical twists and turns. This new approach is highlighted on tracks such as “The Arrival,” “Introspection” and “The Eagle And The Snake.” Another key element is Ihsahn’s increasing preference for using his clean vocals, although his trademark snarls and screeches are still presents in the more aggressive parts. In spirit and approach, Eremita could be the evil twin of Bilateral by Norwegian progressive/avant-garde metal outfit Leprous.
Speaking of Leprous, two of its members play a key role on Eremita. Singer Einar Solberg lends his vocal talents to “Arrival” and Tobias Ørnes Anderson is responsible for the excellent and imaginative drumming on this album. A barely recognizable Devin Townsend provided some guest vocals on “Introspection.” I don’t think his parts add a lot to that particular song, but it’s always to have a luminary like him on your record. Former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis added some tasteful guitar leads on “Catharsis.” The biggest stars on the album are Heidi Tveitan’s beautiful vocals on “Departure” and Shining’s Jörgen Munkeby. His freestyle jazz-inspired saxophone parts really give Eremita its edge.
I put Ihsahn in the same category as Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Paul Masvidal (Cynic) and Devin Townsend (The Devin Townsend Project) as visionary musicians who transcend musical boundaries and push the metal genre as whole to a higher musical level.
Ihsahn described the song material on Eremita as some of his most spirited to date. In terms of ambition, scope and adventurism that’s certainly the case here. This is also the record where he truly severs all ties with his black metal past. Some may lament this, but I admire Ihsahn’s craving to try new elements. Eremita didn’t blow my mind like After did, but this album is still one of the musical highlights of this year.
(released June 18, 2012 on Candlelight Records)