Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ihsahn - Ámr (2018)

Former Emperor frontman and professional man bun wearer Ihsahn is a man who is not afraid to challenge his listeners, to force them to take in a different kind of music that they normally would not be brave enough to try. His special blend of progressive black metal has certainly made some eyes turn, and he has delivered it in some really nice records as of late. He now seeks to continue that impressive streak with his seventh solo outing "Ámr", but strangely enough, he does not push the limits further this time, he actually takes a step back, admiring what he has accomplished in the past.

What I mean by that is that "Ámr" could be seen as sort of a retrospective of what Ihsahn has put out over the years, an album that takes small bits from its brethren to create something personal, and it comes out pretty... okay? Well, the start of the album ain't half bad, but it might be a little misleading though, with both "Lend Me The Eyes of Millennia" and "Arcana Imperii" being much more aggressive than the rest of the album. Shame, since both are terrific songs, especially "Lend Me..." with its epic climax and really cool use of electronic equipment.

After the opening duo, "Ámr" becomes a more soothing experience, still fairly heavy in its moments, but still pretty soft. It is not a full 180 from what the album started out with, but it is enough of a change to make you scratch your head. It just does not feel right to open up the album with two energetic songs, and let the rest of the tracks be more laid back. Not saying that it is a full on poor decision, but it feels like Ihsahn did not think this through completely.

Oh well, the remaining tracks are still easy to swallow, with all ranging between 4-5 minutes in length and are not too complex or too strange for a seasoned Ihsahn listener. What I lack though in most of these tracks is an impact, something to stun you. "Sámr" has this angelic chorus that is awe inspiring, and "In Rites of Passage" has some nice intense moments, but other than those, there just is not much to get hyped over.

And like the direction of the record was not confusing enough already, it ends with a heavy and epic track in "Wake", yet another track that is great, but does it really fit in here? Man, this album does not seem what it wants to do with its life, and even if there are a good amount of nice tracks in here, and another stellar performance from the man himself, it just does not matter if the album has little to no cohesion. Sure, you can enjoy the songs individually, but an album is supposed to be consumed as a whole piece,and in that regard, "Ámr" does not impress.

So all in all, Ihsahn delivers a decent album that probably will not stand the test of time, at least not as well as some of his previous outings. "Ámr" is not bad by any means, it just fails to paint a complete picture. There is certainly quality in here in individual songs, but there are also mediocre songs that lacks creativity and drive, dragging down the album quite a lot. It tries to take influence from earlier records, but cannot create a path of its own, spinning out of control to a middle ground that just does not satisfy anyone. So fans might certainly get something out of "Ámr", just do not expect another game changer.

Songs worthy of recognition: Lend Me The Eyes of Millennia, Sámr, In Rites of Passage

Rating: 6,5/10 Marble Souls

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