(9/10) New Ihsahn albums are always a kind of surprise egg. You never really know what to expect. The only assumption that is always true is, that you need to expect the unexpected and the new album confirms this thought.
Before you get a chance to get to the music you're eyes will discover the cover. Wisely chosen it shows the Norwegian explorer Fritjof Nansen on an Arctic expedition. In one or another way this is a perfect synonym for Ihsahn's music. Nansen was, with his expedition, always entering new territory and the same goes for Ihsahn. Vegard Sverre Tveitan, Ihsahn's real name, is constantly looking for e renewal of his sound. The Norwegian musician stretches the borders of experimental metal music with each record.
"Das Seelenbrechen" was experimental, dark and bombastic. I don't what to go that far saying the Ihsahn re-invented himself as musician on "Artkis", but compared to the predecessor, the new album is quite melodic. It almost has a positive vibe and for what ever reason I was more reminded to Devin Townsend than to Emperor.
"Arktis" shows a different Ihsahn. "Disassembled" is the first track and it starts with a more complex sounding guitar. Ihsahn's jangling vocals join in and you feel on safe ground. The first twist comes with the chorus. All of a sudden melodic keyboards and electronic samples get some space. The whole song is build on this interplay which makes it really exciting.
One of the tracks that is a bit more blackened is "My Heart is of the North", a song that focus more on mighty riffs and a lower groove, dominated again by Ihsahn's vocals.
As a well chosen counterpart, the next tune on the tracklist is called "South Wind". It's not only the 'North'/'South' comparison that is a contradiction. "South Wind" is a light-hearted track with a lot of clean vocals, some samples in the beginning and a strong electronic component. It's this kind of interactions of different poles that makes "Arktis" to a very thrilling album.
A song that includes all of the before mentioned is "Until I Too Dissolve", which I think is a composition that reflects the entire album best. So if you want to get an idea about how "Arktis" sounds, check out this one. An interesting extra with this song is the 80's melodic US metal part at the end.
I have to say that I was impressed by "Arktis". This album stenches the borders, is experimental and entertaining by still being very approachable. I think that Ihsahn fans will like it and if you have been unable to get on with Ihsahn's sound in the past, give this album a chance. I think you might like it too.
- Mass Darkness
- My Heart is of the North
- South Winds
- In the Vault
- Until I Too Dissolve
- Crooked Red Line
- Celestial Violence
- Tim Tor Ulven (Bonus track)
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Release Date EU: April 8th, 2016