Solo careers, are they a good idea or are they merely a massive flop? Personally I think they can go either way, but generally they rarely live up to the solo artists prior or more revered achievements. An example of both extremes would be Devin Townsend, Strapping Young Lad might be incredible but I feel Devin really flourished when he ventured out on his own. Equally on the other side of the spectrum you have British Lion the side project/ solo styled band of the almighty Steve Harris, it pains me to say but British Lion is merely an excuse to see Steve perform up close and meet the legend himself. So with Solo careers in mind let us turn to one of Black Metals most prolific titans.
That titan is of course is Ihsahn of Emperor fame, In The Nightside Eclipse is easily recognized as one of the most legendary Black Metal albums of all time, refining and paving the way for Symphonic Black Metal to flourish, but how does this master fair on his own. Àmr is the seventh full length release from this well rounded multi-instrumentalist but how does it match up to Ihsahn’s previous solo and Emperor back catalogue will it rise or will it fall? Personally I was a big fan of Arktis and have since awaited the release of Àmr so without further ado let us plunge into the mind of this solo wizard.
The first thing to really strike me was a trait that pops up continually throughout, synths. Forget the string arrangements of previous works now its all about retro sounding disco synths to bring a bizarrely Ghost like air to Àmr Songs such as Lend Me The Eyes Of The Millenia and Sámr probably show this trait off the most. In a way it pains me as Ihsahn is clearly a little bit of a trend follower in so many ways, but equally he always shows progression and adaptability making his music forever fresh and enticing. Vocally this album has a wealth of harsh vocals backed by really quite stunning Prog Metal clean tones Twin Black Angels being a high point vocally.
Instrumentally Àmr is a wondrous journey, taking influence from Prog Metal, Black Metal, Technical Metal, Groove Metal and dare I even say at points Jazz. The tech element is what undoubtedly struck a chord with me the most, beautiful winding guitar passages, hinted with Jazz like drum rhythms and structures to create unique sounding powerful and overall Extreme Metal. In Rites Of Passage, and One Less Enemy really stand out for me as hard hitting testaments to Ihsahn’s genius.
This may not be Emperor and in some ways it may be detached from Arktis exhibiting a less Prog nature but I can assure you of one thing, it’s very good. I could and most certainly will be listening to this time and time again. I feel that by now it has become obvious that Ihsahn flits on the wings of fashion but in a strange way that keeps his musical exploits intriguing, different and unpredictable. Equally Àmr shows a great deal of accessibility for new fans to not only Ihsahn’s solo work but Extreme Metal in general.
(9/10 George Caley)