Ihsahn is an artist who can do whatever he wants, he could release an Earth, Wind & Fire covers album and people would still take note. His influence among modern metal is near unparalleled, whether it is through his work with the legendary black metal titans Emperor, his solo material or his various other projects and collaborations with fellow artists throughout the years. You can’t deny he’s done it all and stuck to his guns throughout. Ihsahn is a man after all who is influenced from a wide range of areas, including King Diamond, Radiohead, Nosferatu and The Simpsons (read the whole list on his Facebook page).
Whenever Ihsahn releases something it’s an event and Arktis is no different. Blending a mix of extreme metal, progressive rock, classic metal, jazz and more, Arktis is another masterpiece from the great man himself. For those who are unknown to his work, Arktis is a great reveal for those who are unaware of his talents. With Arktis there is a great sense of fun that has not been present in previous albums, it’s easy to tell Ihsahn enjoyed making this album in the studio. Aided by Leprous‘ Einar Solberg, opener ‘Disassembled’, has an epic, rousing chorus that is incredibly infectious while maintaining the classic Ihsahn vibe we all know and love. Single ‘Mass Darkness’ is different, it lives up to it’s name with a dark foreboding introduction. But then it changes, turning into a really lively song that injects energy to this record. Featuring Matt Heafy of Trivium, the galloping guitar work adds to a fun environment. Next song ‘My Heart Is Of The North’ meanwhile offers a prog attack on the senses with otherworldly guitars and keys lacing the track. Ihsahn is not only the master of adapting different styles but also blending them. This is shown on ‘South Winds’; an offering where the darker parts of the song contains parts reminiscent of the darker Marilyn Manson material, mixed with Ihsahn’s signature progressive hooks. With Arktis, Ihsahn pushes boundaries in every measure, constantly challenging the listener. ‘Until I Too Dissolve’ has a riff and chorus straight out of classic rock while ‘Frail’ is a darker, synth-lead beast which plunges the album into darkness.
The album features many guest appearances by friends of Ihsahn. As well as the aforementioned appearance by Solberg and Heafy, Jørgen Munkeby of Shining plays a very jazzy saxophone on the doomy ‘Crooked Red Line’ while Norwegian author Hans Herbjornsrud also contributed to the album. Ending with the dark yet epic ‘Celestial Violence’ (where Solberg pops up again), Ihsahn has made one of the most interesting, dynamic and diverse albums of the year. Arktis is simply amazing.
This is an album of interesting contrasts where the changes aren’t forcefully applied while retaining his signature sound. A diverse album that is an absolute joy to behold, Ihsahn has done it once again.
Best Tracks: ‘Disassembled’, ‘Mass Darkness’, ‘Until I Too Dissolve’ and ‘Celestial Violence.’
2. Mass Darkness
3. My Heart Is Of The North
4. South Winds
5. In The Vaul
6. Until I Too Dissolve
9. Crooked Red Line
10. Celestial Violence
11. Ihsahn – Til Tor Ulven (Søppelsolen) (Bonus Track on LTD ED CD and 2LP only)