Over the years, the presence of the influential German philosopher, the self-professed “hermit of Sils-Maria”, has been keenly felt, littering Ihsahn’s work as both solo artist and Emperor frontman. The album title alone (Eremita being Latin for “hermit”) would have been enough to tip us off, but the man himself is there, upside-down, on the front cover. Most tellingly, though, it is the emotion-doused content that seals the deal.
As a solo artist, Ihsahn has always been quick to seek the input of others and this time round he has called on the assistance of guitarist Jeff Loomis (ex-Nevermore), drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen (Leprous) and teased vocal performances from his wife Heidi S. Tveitan (Starofash), Einar Solberg (Leprous) and Devin Townsend. Also, it’s no surprise to see Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia) on mixing duties again as Ihsahn had admitted to having trouble getting the sound he wanted without him – “Originally my plan was to mix it myself, as I did with the first two albums, but I just had to throw the towel in and get Jens to do it”.
Ihsahn. “There’s some jazz-influenced stuff and there’s some progressive stuff. There’s some really fast stuff and some really dark stuff.” The lyrical content is definitely both dark and oppressive, matching the conjured bleak and forbidding soundscapes. With Ihsahn’s paint-stripper-gargling larynx regularly seeing action we get lycanthropic pained howls that come direct from his tortured soul. It all begins to hark back to some of Emperor’s final outpourings. In this morbid place, the jazz saxophone plays less of a significant role in the chaos – instead, the returning Jørgen Munkeby chooses to languish within; to merely dot the i’s and cross the t’s of the hermit.
Of his guests, surprisingly it is Devin Townsend, naturally eager to repay Ihsahn’s own guest spot, who seems to have made the biggest of impacts on the man here. The throbbing pulse of “The Paranoid” and more intuitive moments of “Introspection” echo parts of Devin’s own Deconstruction. The former track’s deep groove and enigmatically rotating lyrics – “the shame feeds the anger feeds the shame feeds the anger feeds the shame” – could even mark it out as the debauched, blacker cousin of “Juular”.
Eremita is a transformational album that can turn from sullen acceptance, of the kind that afflicts both “Catharsis” and the ugly, horror-movie synth melodramatics of “Grief”, to become something more approaching a grim determination for “Something Out There” and “The Grave”. Then there is the lunatic element; tracks such as the desperately posturing and over-reaching “Departure” and the far more-likeable “The Eagle And The Snake” that hammer in a whole host of twisted shapes; strong, angular changes both oblique and acute. The pair are mazes that you will constantly find yourself getting lost in. The absorbing and wildly meandering guitar solo and blasts of discordant sax that lurk in the latter are the mere cherries on top.
Comparing Eremita to his last release, Ihsahn has said it is “not as joyful” and “a lot more claustrophobic” and it is most certainly both those things. Predictably, it’s an album that craves its own isolation. So lock the door, slam on the cans and buckle up. It’s one wild, nightmarish ride that Nietzsche, himself, would no doubt have begrudgingly approved of.
Also online @ The NewReview (with video preview) = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/ihsahn-eremita