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Ihsahn - Pharos

by Eric Poulin at 19 October 2020, 8:42 AM

IHSAHN is an extreme progressive/experimental metal band Notodden, Vestfold og Telemark, Norway, and this is their latest offering, the second EP released this year entitled “Pharos” through Candlelight Records, back on September 11th, 2020. Once again, I get to review one of my favorite artists of the last decade, who has produced some amazing albums over the years and the last full-length “Arktis” was a very ambitious craft of progressive metal and experimental music. The same could be said for the more compact EP “Telemark” that came out earlier this year that included a very innovative cover of “Wrathchild” from the almighty IRON MAIDEN.

This EP starts off with “Losing Altitude” and some whacky effects in the background while the guitars glow with echoes and reverb. The vocals really shine on this one and reminded me why I am such a huge fan of the vocal delivery of arguably one of the greatest vocalists in metal today. In terms of the musical approach, I guess the song relies a bit on a touch of ALICE IN CHAINS with DEPECHE MODE but still packs a great punch in the rhythm portions. I really enjoyed the added vocal effects, which has been a key element in the other albums.

Spectre at the Feast” is a more string-based and piano-oriented piece and really reminded me of the “Damnation” album from OPETH because of its gloomier atmosphere. What heavily differentiates it however is the much louder and feeling-based chorus, one that really carries the song into more accessible territories, but also makes it all that more memorable. It has a very uplifting solo from the master itself as well. Who says more mellow pieces of music do not have an impact on a metal album?

The title track “Pharos” which also happens to be the longest song on the album, once again relies on some beautiful piano parts and even though the parallel is easy to make, yes it does have a PINK FLOYD influence (as most songs with this style have). It even possesses some Hammond organs, jazz-fused guitars and a passage that is very symphonic (something I have not really heard since the glory days of THERION). If some of you are familiar with the solo works of David Gilmour, his album “On an Island” you can hear some of that incredible masterpiece on this song, with the added dramatic components that have made IHSAHN one of the more formidable artists of this generation.

We now transition to two cover songs, the first one being from PORTISHEAD, which I was not familiar with (I only really know a few of their greatest hits), the song called “Roads”. Since I don’t have the knowledge to compare with the original, I can say this version is very gloomy and while it does contain some light distorted guitars, the main aspect in the song are the vocals, showing how honest and emotional IHSAHN can be, when in the right context. You could say the song is the perfect soundtrack to a rainy day.

The second cover song is from the pop rock band A-Ha, entitled “Manhattan Skyline” filled with the stereotypical 1980s electronic effects. The song is definitely more up tempo than the previous song and what is really astonishing here is how IHSAHN can change his vocal style to an almost operatic tone, back to what made the European pop band so popular back in the day in their unique vocal delivery. His versatility in grasping the 1980s rock approach to hitting those falsettos and very difficult vibrato notes is something to behold. The song also features Einar Solberg from LEPROUS that adds a lot of depth to the vocals.

It seems that this album wanted to really show the mellow side that has influenced IHSAHN over the years and it is safe to say most of these song are not that heavy in terms of music, they do have a strong amount of emotion and dedication in the lyrics and the arrangements. If you want a more mid-tempo album (under 30 minutes) to listen to; this is worth a listen, providing you are not expecting an overdose of solos and sheer aggression.

Songwriting:  8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Losing Altitude
2. Spectre at the Feast
3. Pharos
4. Roads (Portishead cover)
5. Manhattan Skyline (A-Ha cover)    
Ihsahn - Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Record Label: Candlelight Records


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Edited 02 December 2020

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