EP REVIEW: ‘Telemark’ by Ihsahn

Ihsahn will release the first of two five-track EPs, inspired by and dedicated to his home county of Telemark, on February 14, 2020. Telemark, titled after that county, sees dark compositional ideas developed and Ihsahn’s decision to have Norwegian lyrics for the first time.

The first three tracks of the EP are originals. The eerie opening to the first, Stridig, sets the tone of the EP. Ihsahn brings something extra to the traditional black metal sound. The fast-paced guitars and percussion in this opening track keep the momentum high with a sense of adrenaline. The dissonant guitar motif of this track; the heavily distorted bending of notes is fairly simple but makes a significant impact to the feel of the track. The bridge suddenly slows with a careful layering of guitar melodies which introduce a melancholy mood. The vocals feel relatively low in the mix for this track and drift further into the distance for this section, but thematically, it works well to enhance the ghostly, dark atmosphere of the music. It also pushes the instrumentation into the foreground. Nord sees the dark atmosphere develop as the EP progresses. Ihsahn has cleverly produced these fast, catchy guitar melodies that, as they run through the tracks, induce the haunting mood. The chorus of this track is particularly interesting with the backing, choir style, vocals providing an uplifting sound.

The introduction to the title track, Telemark, features more of Ihsahn’s detailed compositional style. The contrapuntal melodies across the instruments produce a fantastic effect. The harsh vocals cut through the melodies with a powerful punch. The heaviness of the tone contrasts the guitar tone and effectively segues the transitioning instrumentation underneath as it rises and falls in texture. The latter half of the EP brings two covers. They’re an interesting addition to the release. Rock and Roll is Dead has the instantly recognisable brass and guitar riff. The harsh vocals take a little bit of getting used to. It’s not that it doesn’t work; the contrast of the instrumentation staying fairly true to original makes this vocal style sit a little awkwardly. Ihsahn’s instrumental style is similar in his cover of Wrathchild. The music is very brass focused with the guitars layered in. The harsh vocals suit this track a bit more than Rock And Roll Is Dead. The track has retained its original feel with enhancements in the instruments and vocals. These covers do greatly contrast the darker themes portrayed in the three original tracks, in many ways having such a varied selection on the EP brings something different to the table.

Ihsahn has produced a fascinating listening experience with this EP. There are so many emotions, themes and ideas running through tracks it creates a fully immersive experience. His compositional flare really shows through the three original tracks. His stylistic choices for the two covers are very different but retain enough similarities to the former half of the EP to not feel completely out of place on this release.

7/10

For fans of: Emperor, Enslaved, Arcturus
Words by Holly Royle

‘Telemark’ by Ihsahn is released on 14th February on Candlelight Records.

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