Shapeshifting progressive metal pioneer Ihsahn has once again pushed the boundaries of unconstrained creation — this time with the release of his striking single/video tribute to Norwegian pop pioneers A-HA.
He has shared the video for his cover of the band's "Manhattan Skyline", which appears on his new EP, "Pharos", out September 11 via Candlelight Records. The version features the phenomenal vocal talents of Einar Solberg of LEPROUS.
"Manhattan Skyline" was originally released by A-HA in 1986 and reached No. 13 in the U.K. singles chart. With a refresh for 2020, Ihsahn has produced a delicate but true-to-the-original tribute, combining a soft, ballad-like verse that explodes into a bombastic rock chorus featuring all the melodramatic grandeur of the original.
Directed and filmed by Troll Toftenes, the video sees Ihsahn at his most passionate. With the breathtaking landscape of Norway as the backdrop, Ihsahn plays his Aristides T/0 Lilac Pearl Satin guitar atop Gaustatoppen, the highest mountain in Norway, at sunset while Solberg's earnest and emotional vocals soar to otherworldly levels of brilliance.
Ihsahn admits that his love of A-HA is not new, saying, "There are some hints of A-HA even on the second EMPEROR album."
This revelation may frustrate followers of the orthodoxy present within extreme music. But for Ihsahn, he has never worried about being confined to certain expectations.
"I never wanted to be as one-dimensional [with] this black metal image," the artist explains. "When I turned 40, I stopped caring. But if you start out playing black metal when you're 16, it's hardly because you want to be everybody's favorite."
"Pharos" is another triumph for Ihsahn, a polymathic composer who has already leant his iconoclastic spirit to rule-breaking bands and projects. He has yet again woven intricate, sonic landscapes that cement his status as a true musical alchemist. Recorded at his home studio, with additional drums by Tobias Solbakk at Jukes Joint Studio, "Pharos" is musically and conceptually a reverse image of "Telemark" — the first of the two linked EPs, released back in February of this year.
The light to "Telemark"'s dark, "Pharos" features three original compositions and another cover, which is the haunting "Roads", which was originally done by British trip-hop collective PORTISHEAD.
"'Telemark' was everything that was close to my heart: basic guitar riffing, screaming vocals," Ihsahn said. "I thought, 'I need to do a sequel where I do the exact opposite' — things that I don't know how to do, explore sonic territory that I haven't explored."
"Pharos" EP track listing:
01. Losing Altitude
02. Spectre At The Feast
04. Roads (PORTISHEAD cover)
05. Manhattan Skyline (A-HA cover, featuring Einar Solberg of LEPROUS)