Ihsahn – Artkis (Candlelight/Spinefarm)

Wednesday, 13th April 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

Wonder if the teenage/hardcore Emperor version of Ihsahn would be impressed by how far he’s come with his experimental edge. You’d think he would be, as Mr. Ihsahn was one of the few who were suitably unafraid to bathe black metal keyboards. Then, it was a no-no. Now, it’s perfectly acceptable. Ihsahn’s solo work has been oftentimes too “out-there” to a fault sometimes (see: saxophones), but when he’s dialed in, and the songs are there, it’s thoroughly welcomed. In turn, Artkis (his sixth solo outing overall) is his boldest move yet.

We’ll get to the guest spots in a moment, but opener “Dissembled” is the album’s clear-cut highlight, a sweeping, sing-a-long joint that shows just how far Ihsahn’s singing vocals have progressed. He’s absolutely perfunctory here. “Mass Darkness,” featuring Trivium’s Matt Heafy is no slouch either, with Heafy’s burly (and surprisingly quality) clean vocals lending weight to the chorus. Yet, it’s the album’s quirky numbers that do the job. The ’70s prog action of “My Heart is of the North,” or the diabolical seething “South Winds” are heartened explorations into electronic and industrial territory without bowing to either sound’s conventions. Is that an ’80s arena rock riff leading off “Until I Too Dissolve?” Indeed there is.

Artkis may find Ihsahn flying all over the sonic map, but it never gives off the impression he’s doing such deeds just for the sake of simply doing them. These cuts are purposeful, at times, elegant (“In the Faults”) and brash (“Crooked Red Line,” which contains the album’s most notable guest spot from Shining’s Jorgen Munkeby). And if you want to get down to it, Artkis opens doors for Ihsahn even he possibly once thought never would be open. Ihsahn is a true artist. We’re lucky to have him.

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