After following Ihsahn on his last three albums I'm becoming more and more impressed with this artist's versatility and creativity as a solo artist. I especially drawn to the eclectic nature of Eremita, his concept album that included Jørgen Munkeby on saxophone among others, only to be blown away by its follow-up, the largely improvised Das Seelenbrechen. the man just continues to defy easy categorization and I love that.
With his latest Arktis, there is a bit of a more straight-forward metal sound that still manages to keep you on your toes expectation-wise. Mass Darkness is a pretty standard (and by "standard", I mean in comparison to Ihsahn's usual genre-bending alacrity) metal tune, with Trivium's Matt Heaffy on vocals, working like a nice appetizer that relies on classic sounds before tripping you out with more exotic musical fare. Speaking of which, South Winds kicks in with a sweet electronica groove makes me think of classic 90s industrial metal before a Steve Vai-esque chorus. This is a good example of how effortlessly Ihshan blends genre conventions without distorting the final hybridized product so much it loses anything for listeners of any constituent genre to grab on to and enjoy. Brilliant stuff. Until I Too Dissolve brings back a little late 80s/early 90s melodic metal sound in a very satisfying way I didn't realize I needed. Frail brings back a little electronica/metal mix before hitting you with Crooked Red Line's Pink Floyd meets In Flames, thanks in part to old co-hort Jørgen Munkeby back on saxophone. This is just amazing stuff. Just don't play the bonus track Til Tor Ulven when you're trying to fall asleep. Yipes.
The Bottom Line: If you're a fan of genre-bending, or just really creative music, I can't recommend Ihsahn's Arktis enough. It's just some of the most interesting metal you can find out there today, and I'm so glad every time I hear he's got new product out. Give it a listen.
- Genghis thinks this album is the cure to metal fatigue...