IHSAHN - Arktis

Vegard Sverre Tveitan, you son of a bitch.  You've done it again!  Oh, I'm sorry.  That's Ihsahn's birth name.  Only true metalheads would know that.  True metalheads...with access to Wikipedia.  But that's not important!  I could have whipped up this review a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to sit with Arktis.  I wanted to absorb its flavors as though it were marinating me.  And there are a lot of flavors here.  My God (er, Satan), Ihsahn cranes his blackened wings and interposes everything from black metal to witch house.  From 80's traditional metal to piano balladry.  From Weather Channel jazz to killer shit you can't even categorize (I'm looking at you, "Frail").  From here to eternity!  Fret not, votarients; the whole of Arktis sounds like Ihsahn.

This album is so fucking good.  Can I just end it there?  No?  Aw, piss.  2013's Das Seelenbrechen was highly experimental to the point that at least half of it was improvised in the studio.  I didn't care for it, but I recognize Ihsahn's need to make that record and I would never begrudge him artistic freedom.  Thankfully (for me), Arktis is more song-oriented.  The arrangements are "pop-influenced."  I use quotation marks because I don't want to scare off any obstinate metalheads.  This isn't a pop opus, you goons.  You know what it is?  It's MUSIC.  The three opening numbers bring you the kind of commotion one might expect from a regulation Ihsahn disc.  "Disassemble" features melodic vocals from Einar of Leprous fame (those dudes are frequent collaborators).  Sweet leadoff track, and then...hold on, let me break this paragraph.

There we go.  "Mass Darkness" cleaves your cock/clit off and spits it down your mother's throat.  Too much?  I'm laughing out loud.  The riffs are mean-spirited, and overall, the song simply feels apocalyptic.  The kicker is that Matt Heafy (yes, the Trivium lad) helps out on the chorus.  If it's any consolation, I couldn't tell it was him.  Skipping ahead to "South Winds," this is where Arktis gets expansive.  Electronic elements are introduced, and somehow, it feels like they are supposed to be there.  Righteous stuff.  My favorite ditty is "Until I Too Dissolve."  Holy shit.  This is King Diamond spliced with Van Halen spliced with, well, Ihsahn!  Musically, it's the 80's traditional metal I was yacking about earlier.  Vocally and lyrically, it's gorgeous.  It's one of those songs that aims directly for the ticker.  Or in this case, my ticker.  Your results may vary.

"Frail" is experimental art rock?  Avant-garde?  Avant-prog?  Avant-art experimental progressive black metal?  Look, I don't fucking know what to call it, but it's amazing.  Smooth harmonies, a succinct solo and optimal weirdness.  Einar handles lead vox duties on "Celestial Violence," a lovely madrigal (I'm totally misusing that word, and there is nothing you can do about it).  It closes Arktis with tampation (I totally made that word up, and there is nothing you can do about it).  If I haven't made it clear, I love this album.  You should purchase it with the currency of your country.  I'm honestly not sure where I would personally rank Arktis in Ihsahn's solo discography.  It's awfully close to being the best, but I hold Angl close to the chest.  Now I shall rest.  In my nest.  And await the results of my blood test.

I can't be a father right now.  I swear to Christ.  She needs to shut the fuck up.  She knows I don't understand Mandarin!  Goddamn.

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