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Music / Ihsahn

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Ihsahn (real name Vegard Sverre Tveitan, born 10 October 1975) is a Norwegian musician. He is best known as the leader, main songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, bassist and keyboardist of the Black Metal band Emperor. He has also done other musical projects (some close to black metal, some much less so; projects he has been involved in include Peccatum, Thou Shalt Suffer, Zyklon-B, Hardingrock, and Embryonic), including a number of solo albums simply under the name "Ihsahn". He is also a columnist in Guitar World Magazine.

Solo discography

  • The Adversary (2006)
  • angL (2008)
  • After (2010)
  • Eremita (2012)
  • Das Seelenbrechen (2013)
  • Arktis. (2016)
  • Ámr (2018)
  • Telemark (EP) (2020)

Tropes exhibited by or common in Ihsahn's work include:

  • As the Good Book Says...: As mentioned below under Gratuitous Greek, "Astera ton proinon" quotes Isaiah 14:12-14.
  • Audio Adaptation: Strangely, he is the third Norwegian metal musician to record a song based on Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Alone". It's almost become a Running Gag at this point. The other two, in chronological order, were Arcturus and Green Carnation.
  • Black Metal: Though much more so in his work with Emperor than in his post-Emperor work. Nonetheless, there is still some black metal influence on much of Ihsahn's solo work.
  • Boléro Effect: A few of his songs do this.
    • "The Pain Is Still Mine" crescendos four times, though only the opening and the ending keep the same melodic motif throughout the crescendo; the two crescendi in the middle of the song keep changing melodies, in what effectively serves as the song's bridge (though it's overall too complicated to qualify for verse-chorus-bridge format).
    • "Undercurrent" is a weird Zig-Zagged variant, because (to oversimplify the song's structure slightly) it starts out with a metallic version of one of its motifs, transitions into a clean version of a second motif without drums, then introduces the drums, then transitions to a third motif (which is much more metallic), reprises the opening motif, goes back to the third motif, explores some other melodic elements, and then reprises the second motif in a metallic fashion before finally recapitulating the opening theme - so the song as a whole is an example of the Bolero Effect, but the material arguably wanders too much for any individual passage to qualify as a straight example.
    • The most dramatic example in his discography to date may be the Arktis. bonus track "Til tor ulven (søppelsolen)", which manages to make the same theme sound quite placid on piano at first; then much more discordant merely by increasing the tempo and adding some accompaniment; and finally, extremely dissonant with distorted guitars (at a slower pace again).
  • Bread and Circuses: As mentioned below, one of his song titles is the trope title in Latin.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Some of his songs provide examples; roughly the first 2:10 of "The Pain Is Still Mine", for example, are instrumental.
  • Epic Rocking: The longer songs span around 8 to 10 minutes. His longest solo songs are "The Pain Is Still Mine" (10:20), "Undercurrent" (10:00), "On the Shores" (10:13), and "Alone" (11:12).
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Elevator" into "Threnody", "Catharsis" into "Something Out There", and "Grief" into "The Grave".
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: The title for Das Seelenbrechen comes from his works, and Eremita is named in his honour. He's one of Ihsahn's favourite writers overall.
  • Gratuitous German: Das Seelenbrechen roughly translates as "The Breaking of Souls" or "Breaking Souls", though it's not a real German word (Nietzsche more or less invented it out of whole cloth; he uses the term in a passage of Human, All Too Human to describe "the art of the ugly soul").
  • Gratuitous Greek: "Astera ton proinon" (or, in the Greek alphabet, "Αστέρα των πρωινών") means "Star of the Morning". Traditionally, this was a name for the planet Venus, and in fact this is one meaning of the Latin word lucifer (literally, "light-carrying" or "light-bringing", from the words lūx, or light, and ferō, meaning carry), which, of course, is now much more associated with another meaning. (The phrase "morning star" also appears in the lyrics, as do the verses of Isaiah 14:12-14, which, as explained on That Other Wiki, are the source of the association of the name Lucifer with Satan, particularly Satan before the fall. In Latin, however, the word lucifer was not associated exclusively with Satan; in fact, it was also used at times to describe Jesus. The word lucifer in turn was הֵילֵל [Hêlêl, pronounced roughly HAY-lale] in the original Hebrew, literally meaning "shining one" or "light-bearer".)
  • Gratuitous Latin: The Latin word Eremita means "Hermit" and "Panem et circenses" means Bread and Circuses.
  • Improv: This was a major part of the songwriting process for Das Seelenbrechen, and it's one factor to which Ihsahn attributes the album's weirdness.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than his work with Emperor, arguably.
  • Progressive Metal: His primary style as a solo artist, and a major influence on the last Emperor album.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Some of his songs have this as a lyrical theme, though his lyrics tend to be a more philosophical take on the trope than is found in some other Black Metal bands (and, at the same time, a less misanthropic take than, say, Deathspell Omega's).
  • Special Guest:
    • Devin Townsend has made a guest appearance on Eremita, returning the favour for Ihsahn's guest appearance on Deconstruction's song "Juular".
    • Mikael Akerfeldt makes an appearance on angL on the song "Unhealer".
    • Jørgen Munkeby of Norwegian Progressive Metal band Shining makes appearances on several tracks playing the saxophone.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: The Adversary is a downplayed or Zig-Zagged example, as Ihsahn used vintage equipment from the '70s and earlier to record the album and avoided overdubbing any guitar parts, but it's still extremely complicated music that is heavily influenced by Progressive Rock and New Wave of British Heavy Metal, particularly Judas Priest. Ihsahn said he was attempting to recapture the feeling and emotion of classic rock and metal songs without necessarily duplicating them.
  • Uncommon Time: He's a progressive metal artist; what else did you expect? "Called by the Fire" has some examples in its instrumental breaks; large portions of the song are in 7/8. Other examples get more complicated.