Ihsahn // Eremita
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — A hermit never gets constructive criticism.
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: ihsahn.com | facebook.com/ihsahnmusic
Release Dates: EU: 2012.06.18 | US: 06.19.2012

Ihsahn - EremitaIn the days since Emperor‘s demise, Ihsahn has kicked a lot of ass. But After was a controversial record without a doubt. While I gave it my thumbs up at the time and I still enjoy it, I feel like it hasn’t aged well—with the saxophone performance being my biggest complaint. Sure, jazz and metal have histories of solo players who push the boundaries of what is “acceptable,” but the saxophone performances get pretty taxing after a while to these Angry Metal Ears. So for me, the thing that I’m looking for from a new Ihsahn record is that it lives up to the songwriting and groove-oriented riffing from The Adversary and especially angL which is one of my favorite records of the last 10 years. As you can guess, then, I approached Eremita (Latin for “hermit” and the root of the English word “eremite” if you weren’t aware) nervously.

Only to be blown out of the fucking water by the first track. With Leprous singer Einar Solberg in tow, “Arrival,” starts out with just the kind of groovy riff I expect from Ihsahn. The chorus melody is fantastic and Solberg’s performance is perfect for this track as he layers and offsets Ihsahn’s own easily recognizable croaks. This moves smoothly into the track “Paranoid,” which starts out with Emperor-era blasts with keyboards bolstering the trem-picked riff, and gives off the sense of the blackened core that still must exist within Ihsahn. The song peaks with a fantastic chorus that really just hits home with Ihsahn doing the cleans himself. What follows, however, is a lot more morose and shaky than the first two tracks. “Introspection,” “The Eagle and the Snake,” and “Catharsis” all are way less riffy and a lot more akin to “Austere” or “Undercurrent” from After. But instead of being beautiful and interesting, they’re instead minimalistic and slow, causing slight anxiety and boredom at times. The saxophone in “The Eagle and the Snake” is used in a super cool way, but that’s like the one highlight from those three tracks for me.

Ihsahn“Something out There” again is reminiscent of Emperor in its riffing style and keyboard backups, but again with Ihsahn’s trademark vocal style and chorus melodies that really no one could ever imitate. The track also has the best guitar solo on the album, bar none—this may be the track Jeff Loomis guests on. However, the album moves southwards again after that short highlight, with the dreaded saxophone o’ doom making its reappearance on the doomy, brooding “The Grave.” Like the earlier tracks, “The Grave” drags along, with riffs and combinations of notes that seem almost random, are certainly very abstract and just get plain long at 8 minutes. Any hope for a hook or the things that Ihsahn is so proficient at starts to die after a while, leaving this listener ready for some moss gazing. And while “Departure,” the closing track of the album, offers up some heavy riffing, it feels a bit more like “generic death metal riffing” than the kind of groove-laden hooks that we’re used to. What saves “Departure” from itself for me is amazing guitar solo and clean vocal parts in the middle and a couple of great riffs thereafter.

Ultimately, Eremita is abstract. And it’s weird. I see the curve of the writing and the story arc in it and I appreciate what it is. But I don’t know that I want to listen to this album, because I don’t find it to be particularly gripping. While there are indeed moments of despair, insight and sort of anxiety inducing “riffs” and passages here that are perfect for the mood and get what they’re supposed to get across—making the listener feel slightly uneasy and bored isn’t really that much of a success in my book. Seldom do the things that made angL and The Adversary addictive and mandatory records for me show up, and that’s really on about 3 tracks. And even compared to After which I like less, I find myself far more generally glazed and distracted while listening to Eremita. So while I respect Ihsahn more than pretty much anyone in the scene for his riffing and song-writing, this album doesn’t do it for me. There will be those who love this album, I can’t tell you which camp you’ll be in, if you dig minimalism and more abstract music that borders on amelodic, you’ll probably love it. But even die-hard fans of After might be thrown off a bit by Ihsahn’s approach here.

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  • very disappointing, you are usually spot on with your reviews. needless to say, i will still give this a go, no pre-orders from me however. still hoping i end up liking it!

  • Oh dear. I was really hoping to read a 4.5/5 singing the praises of angL 2.0. This doesn’t bode very well :( 

  • as a huge fan of everything Ihsahn i cant wait to get my hands on the disk in 2 weeks. i appreciate your review as you are a genuine fan as well. i  was hoping he would lean more towards angl as i had read recently Ihsahn say it was his favorite in his trilogy. yea i was also hoping he would ditch the sax and focus more on his guitar and ambient keyboard.

    • Yeah, sax is there but more effective. I’d hoped for more angL as well. Still, it’s a step back, and that’s a bummer.

  • Juular

    While I disagree immensely, I can’t help but feel my insides shrivel up at your dangerously well written review. *sigh*

  • R. Beaulieu

    The reviewer didn’t like After that much either.  So, I think his negative review is a positive perspective for me.  I’m really looking forward for Eremita.

    • I also said that I liked After way better and that it was different than After, which had only two songs I didn’t like, not 3 songs I did.

      • R. Beaulieu

        Are you fond of Peccatum ?  Because, from what I’ve heard of Eremita so far, it’s more avant-garde than anything and reminds me of Peccatum.

        • I never listened to Peccatum because I heard his wife was really bad.

        • Love peccatum. Awesome stuff, and most importantly, no f*(&^king saxophone.

  • Wow. Yeah, I’d say we definitely disagree on that one. Thanks for the props on the writing in any case. I’d be curious to know what you think of this album in a few months. It strikes me as the kind f thing that will fade away for the most part. Contrary to what you wrote, I didn’t think the majority of the record was fast at all. I thought it was plodding and while it’s a reference to Nietzsche, and it makes sense in that context, I still am pretty bored. :p. That said, a well written review. :)

    • Juular

       Thanks man. It’s always good to get a compliment from someone you admire! I don’t know about it fading away, I really hope that’s not the case because I am enjoying it quite a bit, but as usually I’ll just have to wait and see.

      • Well, I hope it doesn’t. I love Ihsahn’s stuff and I appreciate those who dig it as well. What I said at the end of this review is definitely true: there will be those who love this record, it just depends on what you dug about After. But I’m disappointed because I was really excited about this album and it’s just really flat for me.

        • Juular

           Yeah, I can definitely understand. I know a few other people over at HBIH didn’t really enjoy it either. It sucks that you didn’t like it, but I definitely understand WHY you didn’t, and it’s a fair conclusion to come to. Just give it a few years, maybe his next album will hit you a little harder. :)

  • Hello AngryMetalGuy! I totally respect your reviews. In fact I come here
    to read the most satisfying reviews, however I will have to disagree to
    this. This album is truly what I expected of Ihsahn. Infact what makes
    me happy is reminiscence of a lot of Emperor-like
    arrangements—deep/dark/layered arrangements. I agree with you somewhat
    on the flow of the record, but it sort of got onto me after a couple of
    listenings. Having followed all of Ihsahn’s music, including “Thou Shalt
    Suffer” and “Peccatum” I can totally see where he is coming from in
    this record. I also see the point of Munkeby’s return on this record,
    they have truly cracked their collaboration on this record. On “After”,
    it felt forced at some parts, but here its coherent. Also like all good records, its made to listen in sequence. Totally flows.

    Also, I am
    surprised no one mentioned—do you all realise Ihsahn is playing 8 strings!
    Who plays 8 strings like that??? He truly used 2 extra strings to make
    the sound and composition fuller. Absolute amazing record for me.

    My rating: 9/10

  • So I finally heard it yesterday when they released the stream on AOL (seriously, who does that?) and I must say that while I liked some parts of it, I really found it very tame and streamlined, and with some really groan inducing moments, and most definitely I won’t be buying it. 

    The only time my ears perked up was the part where Loomis guests, it has the feeling of his signature shredding, and it really is the only moment of greatness I can relate to. As I said a bit earlier on the Jeff Loomis review that got some new posts today, they should just get it on with a proper new band already.

  • I need to listen to this some more.  So far it’s moments of absolute bliss fucking killed by that sax. The most telling part for me in your review is that comment about the notes sounding random. I’m not a fan of the sax anyway, but jurgen’s solos all sound like the atonal ramblings of someone who can’t be assed learning the harmonic structures.  It’s all squeet blort followed by random garbage.  I’m hoping i can get past it, but today, after one too many sax entries i had to turn it off, I found the sound and style of it so grating, repetitive and predictable. And that’s halfway through only my second listen. I have never, ever felt the need to stop listenning to anything Ihsahn has done, but that sax makes this album almost unlistennable for me.  Hoping and praying (not!) he does a remix without the sax, because the bits without the sax are unfuckingbelievable.

  • On the record for loving the sax. Totally strengthens the Chaotic Evil impact of the songs. (But I’m generally a sucker for sax in metal, Yakuza, etc.) So thanks for introducing me to this band, even if it’s only for having the part you hated (and the part I love).

    • The sax is used really well in a couple of places, but I hate it when he’s just improvising without any melodic structure.

  • I love Ihsahn, but this album was so disappointing. Hopefully his next one will be better.

  • I respectfully disagree with your review AMG.

    In my opinion, this is the best post-emperor Ihsahn to date, and I can easily give it 4/5.

    However, I’m too lazy to write a whole review and justify why I liked it so much =)