Two years after the release of "The Adversary", his first solo album, former EMPEROR maestro Ihsahn is back with a new one, "angL". Darker, heavier and more intense than its predecessor, the album sees Ihsahn embrace the furious metallic sound that defined his earlier recorded works, while still indulging in some fascinating musical experiments and paying his respects to the traditional melodies and riffs of old school metal along the way. Dom Lawson of Kerrang! magazine spoke with Norwegian metal's premier genius-in-residence shortly before he unveiled the new material. He took the magazine through the album track-by-track and shared a few thoughts and insights about the songs and what they mean to him on a musical and personal level. A couple of excerpts follow:
Q: There seems to be a lot more guitars on this album. It's a lot heavier than "The Adversary". Was that something you set out to do?
Ihsahn: "I really wanted 'The Adversary' to be quite thin-sounding and I didn't overdub any guitars, and things like that. This time, the way the material developed, even before I started writing I realised that when you're solo, you have to have some parameters, so I wrote some guidelines. I have this book where I write musical ideas, lyrical ideas and sketch out the idea of what kind of album I want to create, with some key words and all that, and a modern and heavier sound was one of the main things. Last time I wanted to have a go at being very pure in how I picked the sounds, with just one guitar in each speaker. We recorded it in a very old school studio. This time, I wanted to have a go at a more modern, overdubbed, massive sounding album. That's the privilege of being a solo artist. You can really indulge your curiosity for doing different things."
Q: Have you ever been tempted to enlist a producer to help you in the studio?
Ihsahn: "We never really had a producer. The ego overcame that idea! Probably at some point it would be interesting to have a producer, but then again, the reason why I continued to do all this myself is that I want to learn from it. It's good to use your own stuff as the guinea pig, rather than to destroy someone else's work."
Q: It's quite progressive, but in a different way from the songs on "The Adversary"
Ihsahn: "Yes, I think that's a general thing for this album. I don't think it's more progressive in any way than 'The Adversary'. The progressive part of 'The Adversary' is more clear cut, with odd speeds and time signatures, whereas on this album there is some progressive riffing and arrangements, but the progressive tonality and melodies are much more apparent on 'The Adversary'. On 'Emancipation', for instance, the main riff is a certain way and then you have a contrast with the long guitar lines in the middle. It's kind of progressively built, but the way it sounds is different from an 'Adversary'-style thing. That's the main objective. Even though the arrangement may be tricky, that complexity shouldn't take the leading role."
Q: Has it been liberating to write as a solo artist, and to be able to write slower songs with less blastbeats and more space between the instruments?
Ihsahn: "I think so. The overall impression or the way of doing it is very extreme, but I've always been into having beautiful elements in there, and that's where the more epic, symphonic parts of EMPEROR came from, I think. It's all extreme, but the underlying melodies and the feel of it aren't that extreme, and I think with this material I can put a bit more emphasis on that element without everything going at 150 beats per minute the whole time."
Q: Do you still feel obliged to satisfy the rules and conventions of the black metal scene to any degree?
Ihsahn: "Not really. If I had any concerns or felt competitive within that scene, it would be the strange feeling of being one's own little brother, because since the split EMPEROR has become even bigger than we ever were, so I know that everything I do, whether it's in a similar style or a different style, will always be compared with EMPEROR. That's my main competition. I have to show that I'm about something real even though I do not play in EMPEROR. In the end, I've come to the point where I just do my best and do it honestly and people will have to either like it or not. As an artist, you always try to better yourself and I know I'm a much better musician and song writer than before, but still people rave about things I did when I was a teenager. The majority of fans of music that I've done are still mostly attached to things I did years ago. They think I'm way past my peak, I'm just a shadow of myself, fiddling around in my old age with some riffs, you know? Most people stop evolving as listeners, I guess."
Q: Would you ever contemplate doing another EMPEROR album?
Ihsahn: "If we did a new EMPEROR album, we'd get shit for it whatever it sounded like. We could do something that sounded like 'Anthems' and we'd get shit for it. We could do something new and more appropriate, and we'd get shit for not sounding like 'Anthems' If we did an album because people wanted one, it would be a paradox. Would people really want an album that we didn't want to make? No one would ever be satisfied, I think."
Read the entire interview at this location.