Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen (Candlelight)

Sunday, 3rd November 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

Another year passes and we find ourselves in the midst of a surprising new Ihsahn release. Eremita was a staggering and well-loved release for me last year so I found myself thrilled with the prospect of a new release so soon. Some doubt did indeed creep in with thoughts like ‘what if this is just a collection of Eremita b-sides?’ coming during the summer, but within minutes of indulgence those fears were quickly put to rest: Das Seelenbrechen is a monumental release that takes listeners further down the left-hand path that Ihsahn has saw fit to walk for most of the last decade, leaving himself tied to no one sound or scene, pushing the limits and lovingly taking us along each time.

Sharing only shades of colour with Eremita, Das Seelenbrechen is a much different beast, more prone to melody throughout the first half “Pulse” (a hauntingly late-night work) and “NaCl”, not far removed from the jazzy and electronic underpinnings of late-era Peccatum. The second half, however, is a noisy, chaotic, and violently cathartic affair that comes as something of a shock given the often-pretty first half. The mid-point and highlight of transition is the two-part “Tacit,” with “Tacit 2” being an exposition of feedback and jazzy-drum soloing with Ihsahn screaming the world bloody throughout. “Tacit” adds in some very Alan Holdsworth vibes, but the jazzy indulgences and the mood only darkens with the subtle use of melody and horns (yes, no sax, BUT HORNS!).

The last few tracks of the album is when the world truly comes unglued and all reasonable expectations are blown apart. “M” is a down-tempo and even bluesy affair of hazy atmosphere and melancholy soloing. “Sub Alter” is a quiet, almost minimalist-work that segues well with noise-heaven end game track “See”, where quiet beginnings turn to more expressionistic indulgences of noise and jazz drumming, the album ending on a bleak and unresolved note. Ihsahn has rarely tackled the same moods more than once from one album to the next and  Das Seelenbrechen is no exception to that precedent. While an enormous work it’s likely to be his most divisive yet, but it’s a fantastic next-step along the musical path of one of metal’s most talented minds.  One can only hope he continues this album-a-year kind of release schedule!

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