2. The Paranoid
4. The Eagle and the Snake
6. Something Out There
8. The Grave
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I walked through the dark gates of Ihsahn’s latest mind trip, Eremita, with no expectations, yet I still encountered something I did not expect. The opening notes of Eremita present a very different mood than is found on its predecessor, After, but in a similar way as After, this is no casual listen; Eremita is an album which will require your full, undivided attention. The various soundscapes Ihsahn presents within the confines of Eremita will toy with your emotions. Each song reaches for a feeling of hope, but alas, this feeling is never quite achieved as it is consistently overshadowed by the themes of desperation and isolation found throughout, thanks to the dissonant saxophone performance provided once again by Jorgen Munkeby of Shining, a deceiving yet tasteful drum performance by Leprous drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen, and of course, the black-magic guitar wizardry and haunting vocal performance by Ihsahn himself.
Ihsahn appears to have a gift of conveying different emotions through the use of instruments, and this is one of the great strengths of Eremita. Epic pieces such as “Catharsis” and “Something Out There” are driven by dark melodies which are hard to swallow but not easily forgotten. The eerie guitar and saxophone heard on “The Eagle and the Snake” form a musical metaphor; the way the instruments weave in and out of each other’s clutches can be visualized as an eagle and a snake on the hunt for one another in the desert, and the song climaxes with a groovy break, complete with a virtuosic shred-fest compliments of Jeff Loomis. “The Grave” casts the listener into a claustrophobic mind prison where the spastic drums sound like the hands of someone desperately trying to escape, and the melancholy saxophone sounds like the torturous pleas of someone who is eternally trapped.
Many of the sounds found on Eremita are symphonic in nature, utilizing strings and orchestral sounds to accent and emphasize certain passages. In this way and in several others, Ihsahn’s blackened style of progressive metal is extremely reminiscent to his (slightly) zanier contemporary Devin Townsend, who consequently returns the favor from Ihsahn’s guest performance on last year’s Deconstruction and provides guest vocals on the introspective “Introspection.” However, Ihsahn is a musical mastermind in his own right, and he is in no way trying to impersonate Mr. Townsend by including these musical flourishes; rather, he’s paying homage to him and his work. This is perhaps most evident within the off-beat groove of “The Paranoid” and the schizophrenic prog metal piece which closes the album, “Departure.”
Ihsahn has crafted an astounding work of progressive metal in the form of Eremita. This is an album which demands multiple listens in order to fully grasp what Ihsahn is trying to accomplish. For those interested in black metal and progressive metal, this is bound to be one of your favorites of 2012. For everyone else, give it a shot; I wasn’t terribly familiar with Ihsahn before I began listening to Eremita, but reviewing this album inspired me to revisit After, and since then both albums have been in consistent rotation, not only on my iPod, but also in my head.