Released: 2013, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
On the 21st of October 2013, Ihsahn, the mastermind behind Norwegian black metal dark lords Emperor, released his fifth solo album Das Seelenbrechen taking his musical approach to a whole new level. Recorded at his own studio in Norway in collaboration with drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen (also of prog crew Leprous) Ihsahn presents Das Seelenbrechen as an album that is “a sidestep in his musical career before continuing his solo work with a full-on metal album again."
Das Seelenbrechen (translated from German as The Soul Crushing) contains 10 songs of various length and is an album that guarantees a technically saturated musical experience to shake the ground with its heaviness and take the listener on a hypnotizing journey where chaos meets perfection.
“Hiber” kicks off the album by introducing sharp and heavy riffs and technically complex arrangement. It makes a strong and pounding opener that perfectly reflects Ihsahn’s earlier work of art. By mixing shrieking vocals and heavy rhythm with classical and instrumental soundtrack-like parts, Ihshan makes even the most obscure musical style combinations work.
The second song on the album “Regen” opens with lyrical piano intro and melodic vocals showing no sign of any black metal influence. However, 2 minutes into the song Ihsahn amplifies it by bringing back heavy drumming and soaring vocals alongside choir and orchestra elements making it a one of the most atmospheric highlights of Das Seelenbrechen .
Aside technical mastery and experimental approach, Das Seelenbrechen presents spectacular guitar work, especially on songs, like “Regen” and “M,” which particularly stands out as a track starting off with dimmed melody and whispering vocals and gradually turning into an explosion of a song with distinct Pink Floyd vibe and a guitar solo worthy of David Gilmour.
Other songs to highlight the album are “NaCi” and “Pulse,” which both come across as the most progressive, yet catchiest songs with complex and striking melodies, great usage of sound effects and abstract structures.
Das Seelenbrechen is all about extraordinary approach to composition and blending different musical styles. With this album Ihsahn challenges not only his composing abilities, but also his ever so loyal fanbase, as on this particular record he allows himself to shamelessly experiment with electronic music by mixing it with orchestrations and instrumental improvisations. After listening to Das Seelenbrechen multiple times, it is clear that on this record Ihsahn is completely relying on his musical imagination and letting his talent take him to different heights of his career as an artist.
Songs like “Tacit 2” and “Tacit” add significant amount of chaos and dissonance to Das Seelenbrechen also adding avant garde touch to its overall sound, which is full of contrasts and holds a lot of darkness.
It’s absolutely mind-blowing to hear just how much attention Ihsahn pays to detail on each end every song off Das Seelenbrechen. To fully hear and explore the multiple musical layers of each track, Das Seelenbrechen should not be just heard, but studied, as it reveals more and more detail every time you listen to it.
Das Seelenbrechen is not your traditional Ihsahn’s album, as this time he’s taking heaviness in music to a different level that is not necessarily fuelled with aggression or amplified by loud guitars and stomping rhythms. His mastery in composing ‘heavy’ music goes beyond that, as puts the main focus on atmosphere. “See,” which is the closing track of the album is a great example of just that.
Das Seelenbrechen possibly marks some of the most challenging material Ishahn has ever recorded. With this one, he’s drifted away from most of his usual Black Metal influences and moved towards progressive improvisation, reflecting emotions and capturing a certain atmosphere.
Review by Anna Dumpe