As a man of many talents, Vegard “Ihsahn” Tveitan has long drawn inspiration from many genres of music which has ensured the works of both seminal Black Metallers Emperor, Folk project Hardingrock, the classically inclined Peccatum and his sprawling progressive solo work have all remained at the forefront of innovation.
Fourth release Das Seelenbrechen (Candlelight), translating to “The Soul Breaking” in English, sees Ihsahn pushing further into the realms of Avant Garde experimentalism. Aided by the fine gents in Leprous, Tveitan has crafted an increasingly bold complex concoction of intricate time changes, free jazz passages and snarling extreme metal. ‘Hiber’ begins with jagged riffs over which Vegard snarls “The seeds of evil flowers grow…” before chiming keys are entwined with hypnotic synths that wouldn’t be out of place on a Goblin record. It is grand and highly involving material which will merit many repeat listens in order to fully comprehend.
‘Regen’ sees a tender, clean vocal rendered gracefully while shuffling drums and tinkling keys build up tension before that terrifying roar commands “Let the heavens cry!” amongst a whirlpool of power chords and cacophonous symphonics. The eerie, clean vocals of the man himself have gone from strength to strength and while the unmistakable screams are still harrowing in their intensity, they play second fiddle to the heart rendering, solemn falsettos which form the likes of ‘Pulse’.
Such a performance may draw comparisons with the work of former collaborator Mikael Åkerfeldt, yet they retain a feel all their own. Certainly the aforementioned track will not amuse hardcore black metal fans with its synthetic beats which recall acts like Massive Attack but it serves as more than just a breakwater between walls of discordance. Far more challenging are the hellish freejazz workouts of ‘Tacit 2’ a wall of feedback with Tobias Andersen adding a dense layer of tribal percussion underneath torn throated screams.
Stereotypical extreme metal this isn’t and while the discordant rhythms may take a bit of getting used to, the appearance of long time collaborator Jørgen Munkeby lending some ferocious alto saxophone to the demented freak show adds a sublime yet schizophrenic groove. Certainly a few of the seventies prog references do feel somewhat obvious but when you consider the level of musicianship and the speed with which this rich tapestry of styles has been lovingly woven together, it is truly outstanding. A resolute and forward thinking release which boldly presses the agenda of its author. Das Seelenbrechen is a grotesquely wonderful creation.