Ihsahn – Pharos

[Candlelight Records, 2020]

Intro: Petros Papadogiannis

Undoubtedly, the legacy Ihsahn left as the leader of the Norwegian black metallers Emperor was important for the genre. Despite the fact he’s been recording as a solo artist since 2006, Ihsahn has remained in the consciousness of part of the public as “the guy from Emperor”. That’s unjust, as he has offered us some very interesting albums in which he embraced different musical paths, such as prog.

Earlier this year, he released a five-track EP entitled Telemark, which included two covers along with three compositions of his own, which honor his black metal past.

With the exact same recipe, that of three original compositions and two covers, he released the second EP this year, Pharos.


The prologue to something important?

The opener, Losing Altitude, presents the softer side of the artist. Ihsahn knows his specific vocal abilities, but that does not stop him from delivering his melancholic lyrics with a low and expressive voice. The style is definitely reminiscent of Katatonia, and the alternative guitar riffs remind us of Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains).

Specter at the Feast offers us a version of the serious side of pop-rock in an electric frame, in the same way that the Swedish Ghost do. The composition could very well belong to the latter.

The title track is an atmospheric composition with a gentle vocal interpretation, but also choral outbursts that create an imposing intensity. We could say that the approach is close to the commercial side of today’s prog rock, similar to the mild moments of Soen and Opeth.

The two covers have been placed at the end of the EP, with the first being Roads (originally by Portishead). Knowing that Beth Gibbons’ heartbreaking performance could not be repeated, Ihsahn makes a decent effort vocally. Musically, however, he takes a small risk and enriches it with additional electronic sounds, and the occasional replacement of the keys by electric guitar beats, with absolute respect to the original song. He manages to make it sound extroverted, without losing its identity. The result is considered successful.

Leprous were live session musicians for Ihsahn (who is married to Einar Solberg’s sister), so Einar’s participation on vocals for the cover of A-ha’s Manhattan Skyline is no surprise. It is impressive how close he sounds to Morten Harket in the low notes, while he gives a more theatrical tinge in the high notes. Although the cover is heavy, it’s still close to the original. Without taking any risks, I’d say that this is not a cover, but a performance of the song to the musicians’ delight. Personally, I found it unnecessary.

Overall, the EP is a good effort with an impressive instrumentation. “The guy form Emperor” leaves the more interesting stuff for the future.

7 / 10

Petros Papadogiannis


2nd opinion


First of all I have a positive opinion on the release of a series of EPs that keep the audience warm and artists active. Ihsahn clearly moves very close to the artistic context defined by Einar Solberg and his band, Leprous. But while sweetening his sound very cleverly, Ihsahn does not use exactly the same orchestrations and essentially differs significantly by adding instrumental parts, small guitar solos, and ΄00s gothic metal riffs. With the title track being the basic proof of all the above, it is easy to conclude that the composer chooses kinship with those who achieve commercial and artistic success, not out of necessity, but mainly because the Norwegian scene has always been a melting pot of common influences where everyone adds something to a successful recipe. Let’s be honest, he did more or less the same with Emperor. The cover of A-ha’s Manhattan Skyline is probably one of the best covers on pure pop compositions by any rock or metal artist. On the other hand, the cover on Roads without a voice comparable to Beth Gibbons’, sounds bland.

7 / 10

Alexandros Topintzis