Despite the fact that Emperor have been announced as Bloodstock headliner for next year, Ihsahn’s solo career pushes ever further into the unknown world of extreme progressive music. Surprisingly enough, it has only been little over a year since the release of his last album, “Eremita”, proving to be arguably the most experimental work of the man’s entire career yet. “Eremita” was said to be part of a new trilogy of albums which follows swiftly on from Ihsahn’s first three solo efforts, and so “Das Seelenbrechen” (German for “The soul breaking”) continues this new, perhaps conceptual, path.
Naturally, “Das Seelenbrechen” is a completely different beast to any of Ihsahn’s previous four albums. What is most notable is the fact that Ihsahn’s harsher vocal style isn’t that prominent in his music anymore, and the majority of the tracks on this album largely reflect that. However, whenever they are sung with harsh delivery, as on the heavier, more distorted and disturbing likes of ‘Tacit’ or mind-numbing closer ‘See’, you can finally discover those more extreme roots left behind by the Emperor of yesterday within Ihsahn’s deep soul. However, these are simply three songs out of a possible ten, and the remaining seven are driven by a more harmonic, brooding vocal delivery which, although sometimes becomes slightly monotonous, never quite takes away from the overall atmosphere provided by the music.
Musically, everything seems either completely atmospheric or disturbingly ambient. Songs which fit the former, such as the effervescent opener ‘Hilber’ or perhaps the maniacal ‘NaCl’, are perhaps the best examples of what Ihsahn has been trying to achieve ever since he delved into the world of progressive metal, whereas the latter, driven by an experimental ambition which very rarely uses guitars, drum or bass work, particularly makes the intense likes of ‘Tacit 2’ or ‘Sub alter’ all the more enjoyable to listen to. The rhythm section isn’t a particular highlight, but there are moments where it truly shines through, as on the magnificent ‘Tacit’ (A song which overshadows its predecessor, ‘Tacit 2’) and equally as mesmerizing ‘M’, and you can safely ignore the sometimes boring mid-sections of those songs when still trying to figure out how complex those drum rhythms can get.
“Das Seelenbrechen” isn’t entirely flawless, and the repetitive, overused ambiance of ‘Pulse’ and ‘Sub alter’ are enough to make you want to to return to the louder, more aggressive nature of albums such as “After” or indeed “Angl”. Yet this isn’t merely a revaluation of Ihsahn’s ambitious musical surge, so much as a powerful and experimental approach to the ever burgeoning progressive metal sound which is perhaps what Ihsahn has been attempting to achieve throughout the past eight years or so. Maybe the next album will finally be the masterpiece everyone-Ihsahn himself included-wanted to hear.
5. Tacit 2
9. Sub Alter