Reviews || Ihsahn - "Telemark"

On February 14th 2020, Ihsahn released his latest work, an EP titled "Telemark", via Candlelight records. It features 5 songs total, three original and two covers. This EP follows 2018's critically acclaimed "Ámr". I haven't followed Ihsahn's post-Emperor projects down to the detail but I am still quite familiar with his work. His creative spirit and the ways he's channeling his ideas, as radical as they may be, into solid pieces of unhindered artistic expression have always fascinated me. To be honest, the release of "Telemark" slipped my radar, which I'm mildly ashamed of, but better late than never, right?

The overall mood of the album is unmistakeably dark. Ihsahn is determined to pay tribute to his motherland, Norway, to a point quite understandable through the projection of the sound. His approach is based on pure simplicity; nothing feels overworked or over the top, but some edges are purposely left rough. He revisits his musical roots while filtering his vision through a raw, almost black rock n roll attitude, all while maingaining a purely experimental character. Knowing Ihsahn is responsible for the entire instrumentation, I can't help but notice the beautiful guitar work, especially when it comes in the form of double solos.
Opener "Stridig" has an inherently chilly, almost hostile atmosphere that will engulf the listener. Au contraire, "Nord", which follows, has a more downtempo, almost melancholic, touch and cleverly showcases that certain element that makes Ihsahn's music recognizable. I frankly can't pinpoint what it is but I trust that oldschool Emperor fans will get what I'm saying; that feeling when you listen to a song and you can immediately tell who wrote it based on some key details. Moving on with the title track, "Telemark", which introduces a peculiar, almost folk, pattern that is prominent throughout the song. There is a beautiful transition from aggressiveness to melody before the vocals erupt to snap us back to the harsh reality. Rather terse structurally, it builds up very nicely, although I think the solos keep my interest a bit more than the verses. 
As we mentioned, the final two songs are covers. The first is Lenny Kravitz's "Rock N Roll Is Dead", a rather unusual choice. However, I do admit that the contrast between the funky vibe of the song and Ihsahn's dry screaming is quite interesting and after a few spins it really grew on me. Iron Maiden's "Wrathchild" on the other hand is just... weird. The instrumentation feels off, making me think that Ihsahn tried a little too much to give it a similar spirit to the previous song when it was absolutely not necessary -that or that Less Than Jake hijaked the recording session. I do understand that creativity has no boundaries, especially for this specific artist, but this song will be a hard pass for me.

Overall, the general concensus is that "Telemark" picks up where "Ámr" left off but with a darker twist. Ihsahn chose to take his experimenting nature one step further, creating a sonic landscape bare of extremities and effectively open to any sort of creative play that served his purpose. The choice covers were a bet that he partially won, and I surely applaude him for taking such a brazen step, although I would have peronally loved to continue diving into his mind with a couple more original compositions.
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