Author: Brian Grebenz
(Candlelight Records, 2013)
#FOR FANS OF: Progressive, Experimental
What can be said about Ihsahn, that hasn't already been said? His body of work speaks for itself. Emperor's 'Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk' still remains as one of the top five metal albums ever released, to these ears anyway. Sixteen years after it's release the "anthems" still ring out each and every time it's spun and is still one of the few albums in my collection that actually grows stronger with time. 2010's epic 'After' showcased the diversity of this man's musical ability. Ihsahn has never, and will never conform to the limitations that any label would put on him. He consistently challenges his listeners with each release. 'Das Seelenbrechen' is Ihsahn's fifth solo release and his most expansive work to date. If 2012's 'Eremita' pushed the proverbial envelope, then 'Das Seelenbrechen' tears it up, stomps on it and then sets it on fire. Ihsahn's latest opus definitely focuses more on the progressive side of his work. Almost all of the black metal elements have been stripped away. This is the type of release that could divide his fan base. For the record. let me state, that I am on the "love it" side of the fence. The album starts off in familiar territory with opener "Hiber". The song starts off with him screaming between the three chords that ring out. It then moves forward with a creepy little keyboard passage underneath the distorted heavy guitar riff. The crushing heavy tune to start the album has become a staple in his solo work. However, after the opening track this album takes a turn towards the more mellow side of things over the next three tracks. This comes to a head with the amazing "Pulse". This song is my personal favorite on the album and shows how experimental Ihsahn is on this release. It starts off with an electronica feel, which it maintains throughout most of the song, and the vocals here are clean and simply some of the best he has ever done. At the songs close, the guitars have such rich tones and his vocals soar repeating the words "Incompatible, with myself". The next two tracks "Tacit 2" and "Tacit", in that order, are dark, eerie songs where the main focus is pounding drums and Ihsahn's harsh vocal style. These two tracks appear in the middle and act as a transition from the first half to the second half of the album. "M" which starts out sounding like it could be a lost track from 'Perdition City' era Ulver, with a spoken word passage that adds to the already dark, foreboding atmosphere, then climaxes into a melancholy rock sound that is very Pink Floydish. That vibe is furthered by what is the best guitar solo on the album, a cleaner sounding bluesy solo with lots of bends that are, no doubt, a salute to David Gilmore. "See" closes out the album with more of the experimental sounds that Ihsahn seems to be working with on this release. Another track that sees him going off and doing things outside of what the norm is for Ihsahn. 'Das Seelenbrechen' is a complete album and should be listened to as such. There is a definite flow happening here. This album harkens back to the 1970's experimental phases of King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator. However, this is not retro sounding in anyway. I am drawing those comparisons soley based on the experimental nature of the release. Ihsahn has stated that this release was going to be different and away from his more metal sounding stuff. I can only hope that he decides to build off this release and continues to further experiment with different sounds.