05. Tacit 2
09. Sub Alter
Ihsahn, at this point in time, is a man with very little left to prove. The career he has built with his work in both black metal legends Emperor and his solo, more progressive leaning, work has created a legacy that many musicians would dream of having and a reputation for being a forward thinking innovator, always wanting to better his previous record. So, with the announcement that he would taking a slightly different direction with Das Seelenbrechen, merely a year after the release of his previous album Eremitia, it’s clear that Ihsahn still isn’t willing to rest on his laurels.
That aforementioned change in direction came in the announcement that Das Seelenbrechen would be influenced and constructed more by improvisational passages — an interesting concept when you consider that much progressive metal prides itself on being rigidly defined in it’s musicianship. Ihsahn is certainly not the first to go down that road and he probably won’t be the last, but it’s striking how much of a difference it has made here.
Opener ‘Hilber‘ starts us on a familiar track with the hoarse screech of Ihsahn’s voice set against crashing drums and guitars before entering an instrumental section that brings to mind some of the more grandiose moments of After with all it’s orchestral bombast. The track itself invokes some almost Opeth-ian juddering passages and an atmosphere that harkens back to his black metal roots, but still remains very true to his previous work. This story is similar elsewhere on the album as well with ‘Regen‘ experimenting with some sombre piano sections that are juxtaposed with crushing doom-laden riffage before climaxing in an extremely tasteful guitar solo and, album highlight, ‘NaCl‘ that is built around a solid motif that burrows it’s way into your head from it’s very inception.
Alongside this, however, is a whole selection of tracks that see this Norwegian pioneer covering and exploring new ground unlike pretty much any other metal musician out there today. ‘Pulse‘ presents our first taste of Ihsahn’s new found freedom and plays out a serene, almost dreamlike, electronic piece that is driven and commanded by clean vocals and piano — it acts as a gateway into the ‘second half’ or ‘other side’ of the record that presents more challenging pieces such as the free-form drums and noise that is ‘Tacit 2‘ and the dark and moody Pink Floyd influenced ‘M‘ that acts as the score for the most desolate and bleak view of the future possible.
Your personal enjoyment of Das Seelenbrechen is going to be dictated by mostly by how much satisfaction you can derive from hearing an artist attempt new styles with varying degrees of success, for example some of the music borders on more a ‘film score’ vibe than the constant attention-grabber of his previous work. Regardless, it paints a bright future for his music — if Ihsahn can continue down this path, refining as he goes, he will cement his status as one of the grandest titans of progressive metal music.
Ihsahn’s Das Seelenbrechen gets…