Ihsahn - Ihsahn
Candlelight Records
Progressive Symphonic Metal
11 songs (48:37)
Release year: 2024
Ihsahn, Candlelight Records
Reviewed by Goat

Building on his ever-growing legend, the former Emperor frontman is back with an eighth full-length, as decisively arrogant as ever with both a regular and an orchestral version being released. Artists generally self-title an album when they want to mark it out as a statement, an opus that has had a lot of work put in, even if fan reaction is not quite up to the self-regard that the artist holds it in... and you can see why Ihsahn chose that route here. Heavily infused with orchestral elements from the go and featuring full symphonic intro, interlude, and outro pieces, Ihsahn is high on itself. And frankly, deserves to be; with clear influence from his black metal past audible in the likes of Pilgrimage to Oblivion and a hefty dose of orchestral instrumentation backing the riffs and drum beats that we expect and receive, this is sophisticated ear candy indeed.

It's difficult to find certain details - is this a full orchestra, or as the Metal Archives listing would suggest, less than so or even a digital mimicry? If a full orchestra, which? Perhaps if Ihsahn or Candlelight Records bothered to update their websites we could find out from there... Yet even taking such annoyances into account, there's a lot to like about this (and for the avoidance of doubt, this review is of the regular version, not the (extra) orchestral version). The balance between the harsher vocals and metal, and the clean singing and orchestral elements, is very finely-crafted, making the likes of Blood Trails to Love work perfectly as dramatic and grandiose constructions, aided by some technical King Crimson-esque flourishes here and there. First track proper The Promethean Spark (after pleasant and short orchestral intro Cervus Venator) has a groovy directness initially that builds into a complex prog-a-thon, followed by the intense and galloping epic that is Pilgrimage to Oblivion.

Songwriting generally is superb, varied and rich, making for a rewarding listen. There are plenty of lyrical throwbacks to previous works for fans to listen out for, including the mention of 'the adversary' on Hubris and Blue Devils' woozily nightmarish jazzy rampage. And the only real weak track present is the ballad-esque The Distance Between Us, an energy-sapping meander that doesn't quite get off the launch pad despite some nice moments. It delays hearing nine-minute epic At the Heart of All Things Broken, the longest piece present, which fulfils much the same role with its softer opening, building with a slightly slower pace to the most grandiose (and oddly Borknagar-esque) conclusion.

Of course, the downside to this album being such a perfect balance of light and heavy is that it's very limited in appeal - orchestral fans aren't going to be won over by the harsh vocals and metal elements, and metalheads already either love or hate the style. It's pretty much an album made by Ihsahn for himself, and as such immune to criticism! Those who have followed his solo career from the start will undoubtedly have their own favourites yet it's hard to see this coming in at the very bottom or very top of rankings given albums such as Das Seelenbrechen and After exist, respectively. As an artistic statement, Ihsahn is a profound moment for metal; as an album that you'll pick up and play repeatedly for enjoyment it comes in comfortably towards the middle end of the upper tier of his work. He'll do both better and worse in the future.

Killing Songs :
The Promethean Spark, Blood Trails to Love, Hubris and Blue Devils
Goat quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Ihsahn that we have reviewed:
Ihsahn - Pharos (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Ihsahn - Telemark (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Ihsahn - Amr reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ihsahn - Arktis. reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ihsahn - Das Seelenbrechen reviewed by Goat and quoted 76 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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