Sound — 7
Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Ihsahn has been composing and performing music since 1990. Ihshan first began to make a name for himself as part of the blackened death metal group Thou Shalt Suffer. When one of the main songwriters began to work on outside projects, Thou Shalt Suffer began to dissolve, and Ihsahn then moved into a new musical direction with the avant-garde metal band Peccatum, which drew influences from a broad variety of genres, including industrial and European classical music. The project Ihshan is arguably most well known for is the black metal band Emperor: a group who music critics now name as being a highly influential band which aided in popularizing the genre.
During his time in Emperor, Ihsahn manned not just the microphone but also electric guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards. Emperor remained active throughout the early '90s to the early '00s, before disbanding in 2001. Since then the group has reunited for several one-off shows in 2007, and is looking and reforming once again next year. During Emperor's inactivity, Ihsahn now dedicates his time heavily to solo albums, as he is once again doing with his recently released fifth studio album "Das Seelenbrechen." With this new effort, Ihsahn continues to create the signature melody-infused heavy metal which his fans have come to know and expect based upon his previous collaborations and projects.
Songs such as "NaCl" are best described as a cross between progressive metal and black metal. The track begins with a thunderous percussion section and heavily distorted guitar, before evolving into a piece comprised of tight vocal melodies and guitar chords which sound peaceful in comparison to those briefly included in the intro. Others, for instance "Pulse," fall more in line with mainstream alternative metal, and includes a mostly quiet instrumental section with a high-in-the-mix bass line which doesn't compliment the rest of the song as a whole.
Lyrics — 6
For his fifth studio album, Ihsahn mans lead vocal duties for the entire new outing just as he has done with his previous solo efforts. There are moments on the album where a proper studio mixing and production quality allows Ihsahn's vocals to truly shine above the quiet instrumental work. The harmonies boasted in the previously mentioned "NaCl" are standout, and are one of song's the better qualities. However, this cannot be said for the entire album, and when it comes down to songs such as "Pulse" the vocal performance ends up being submerged underneath a murky bass section and quiet guitar playing. Especially after hearing the bright singing style previously showcased on the album's other tracks, this quality is even more so unfortunate.
Overall Impression — 7
With his fifth studio album "Das Seelenbrechen," Ihsahn delves into a variety of different musical influences and genres, and emerges with a new collection of songs which from an instrumental standpoint manage to work together with very minor flaws. The rampaging percussion and guitar piece heard at the beginning of "NaCl" doesn't work with the rest of the song, but not enough to necessarily take away from the listening experience. The production quality is another unfortunate downside to an otherwise strong album. When his vocals do shine through the muddy mix, Ihsahn knocks it out of the park. Any fan of the black metal music genre as well as the progressive metal music scene should find this album to be a worthwhile listen.