Party In The Paddock. Ricky Ponting. Cascade beers. The humble Apple Isle has gifted us …
Black metal pioneer Ihsahn is back, ready to fire on all cannons with his new album Àmr. The 11th instalment of the Norwegian’s solo career packs punches with dark depths of sonic experimentation, impressive vision and high-level musicianship.
Before he hits up Aussie shores on tour in May, Ihsahn shares the intricacies of his songwriting process, reflecting on 11 albums across a 12-year solo career.
Each album is wonderfully diverse, a personification of the different sides of Ihsahn as a musician. Though he’s been quoted as saying he never set out to make anything more melodic or particularly accessible with Àmr, Ihsahn has composed with many contrasting elements, providing food for thought. “I’ve been doing this for a while now,” he says, “You don’t start out to make things accessible, you don’t start that as a career, you just have a passion for things.
“When it comes to my career it means spending more time doing what I love. Especially since going solo, I’ve been able to explore all these musical ideas and territories without having to make band compromises.”
That exploration and discovery all stems from a single source—a notebook Ihsahn has had with him since he went solo. The use of this notebook he says, accentuates his creative ideas and allows him to avoid the otherwise linear route of album writing. “I write all the general ideas, the lyrical ideas, images, musical references, sound references, for what kind of album I want to make. I sketch out and add creatively–not as a limitation but more of a focus point for creativity.
“With this album I was very much focused on traditional song writing. The album before [2016’s Arktis] was a lot more experimentation–every song was far out, even for me. Instead of using my go-to, orchestrating things with strings and all that, I wanted to explore a more contemporary production.”
“I look back at my first album; it was me starting over. Very traditional heavy metal influenced but I wanted to build a new platform for myself–I didn’t want a continuation of Emperor.”
[ Ihsahn ]
From 2012’s Eremita to Àmr it’s as though Ihsahn has experienced a personal growth through his music. With his first several solo releases, Ihsahn retained a method of writing much like that of being in a band, but from 2012 up to this point, he has expanded, almost transitioned to experience musical and creative liberation. “My whole solo career has been a journey,” he muses.
“I look back at my first album; it was me starting over. Very traditional heavy metal influenced but I wanted to build a new platform for myself–I didn’t want a continuation of Emperor. I think the first two albums were me trying to approach a new musical platform. The third album was a conclusion of a trilogy, with more instruments, saxophone, extra guitars. I continued that sound format into Eremita and I felt to take the next step I need to switch focused, do a more improvisational album with Das Seelenbrechen. This is just a different perspective.
“In general it’s easy for me, it’s nothing that profound, I just love working with music, I’ve done it all my life. After a while you can get bored with yourself, I just like changing stuff up. I never consider how this will be perceived, I just trust the process. Even though I take a totally different approach to an album, it’ll still sound like me.”
It’s strange; as a solo artist, Ihshan has released more than double the albums he did with Emperor–that in itself is evidence of his love of music and his thirst to keep creating and to be happy in new ideas. “I started playing when I was six or seven. I got my first guitar when I was ten. This is all I know. It’s hard–you change, of course, over the years, but for some strange reason, I know that sounds a bit metaphysical, but the source [Emperor], that’s why I label my music as black metal. It’s the core energy, the driving force to do what I do. The need to do that is still the same.
“Every song, every album is just another attempt to express that, that original core abstract, that black metal, that goal for some kind of musical, emotional perfection—for those few seconds when the hairs on your arm stand up.”
IHSAHN will be touring Australia this May.
Friday May 4, Crowbar, Brisbane QLD
Saturday May 5, Max Watts, Sydney NSW (Direct Underground Fest)
Sunday May 6, Max Watts, Melbourne VIC (Direct Underground Fest)
Monday May 7, Max Watts, Melbourne VIC SOLD OUT
Tuesday May 8, Amplifier Bar, Perth WA