Eremita starts with the aptly-named “Arrival,” released as a single earlier this year. The track serves as an introduction perfectly; it boosts the momentum right away while providing an overview of the style of the album. The song is split into sections while throughout a fast-paced guitar riff furiously fills in the background. The result is sinister and energetic while reminding the listener that even though this is a progressive album, it’s still an extreme metal album.
The production on the album is perfect. All of the instruments are mixed to the perfect levels for the desired effect. A good example is near the end of the second track “The Paranoid,” in which Jørgen Munkeby’s saxophone fills in the background with a war march-like quality. In the following track, “Introspection,” multiple guitars are layered masterfully. Ihsahn has proven himself in previous offerings as a capable producer as well as performer, and his skill has come to a head here.
Aside from Ihsahn, Munkeby, and drummer Tobias Ørnes Anderson, Eremita has its share of guest musicians. Devin Townsend sings along with Ihsahn on “Introspection.” Jeff Loomis, previously of Nevermore and now working on a solo career of his own, provides lead guitar on “The Eagle And The Snake.” Ihsahn also recruited former Emperor live musician Einar Solberg to sing on “Arrival.” Finally, Ihsahn’s wife, credited this time with her real name Heidi S. Tveitan, sang on the last track, “Departure.”
Yet with all of these guests the album is very much Ihsahn’s own. It feels both powerful and intimate. It feels very much a continuation of Ihahn’s solo discography while maintaining its own identity. My only real complaint of his previous album, After, was that it felt like it got above itself at times. There’s none of that this time out. It’s grand in places, to be sure, but in a way that Ihsahn has been the master at (see the last albums by Emperor or Peccatum). Where pretentiousness could have gotten the better of him, he kept control. There’s plenty of variety on the album to keep it interesting without jumping all over the place musically. Even with all of the masterful songwriting and production, at its heart Eremita is an extreme metal album.
At this point I give my “horns up” rating on the album I’m reviewing. I knew going into this that the horns would be up to some degree, considering who made the album. I wasn’t aware of just how high the horns will go. So, at the risk of sounding too much like a fan-boy, I give Eremita horns as high as they can reach.