Album review: Ámr by Ihsahn

Ihsahn’s latest album, Ámr, is characteristically Ihsahn—progressive without getting too fancy, catchy without getting too clever (usually), all the while treating the restrictions of what makes metal metal not as something which confines but to be toyed with. That is not to say that this is one of his more experimental albums, such as 2013’s Das Seelenbrechen* or Peccatum’s early work.

This can lend to a sense of repetition at times, such as when a good riff can outstay its welcome in a song, such as in “Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia” and “Arcana Imperii.” This feels a minor complaint, however, when one considers that none of the songs are very long, with the longest just going over the five minute mark. Ihashn also varies the sound of the music throughout the album through different vocal styles as well as a heavy use of synthesizers interchanging with guitar parts (as opposed to filling out the sound with ambient effects or “orchestral” voices). A perfect example of these variances are in the song “Twin Black Angels,” which starts off with a mild synth part and clean vocals, progressing to a soaring bridge accentuated by Ihsahn’s distinctive blackened death metal vocals.

If Ámr is your first Ihsahn album, then it’s a good place to start as it’s the culmination of the best elements of his work so far. However, if you’ve been listening to his work from the beginning, even just as a solo artist, then you may find it a bit lacking as it sounds like yet another Ihsahn album but not his best work overall. Still, it’s certainly worth a listen or two in its own right. In fact, Ámr comes across as one of Ihsahn’s more accessible albums since his sophomore release Angl. Ihsahn has matured as a songwriter and producer, applying what he learns throughout his carreer towards each successive release and Ámr is not exception to that rule.

 


*Which I still argue is his most successful solo album artistically, if not commercially.

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New Year’s Resolutions.

2018 - 2

  1. Write for this blog on a regular basis again. This one is self-explanatory.
  2. Cut down on drinking. If that fails, cut it out completely. Alcohol has been getting the better of me the past year or so. I have a hard time limiting the number of drinks in one sitting and I’m getting sick much sooner instead of feeling the positive feelings of getting drunk. However, for anybody who has seen me in public this past weekend I’m not counting those activities. My birthday was Friday, which I celebrated at the Goth/Industrial night at a nightclub in Portland. I had booked a hotel room in order to stay up late and drink. Then on Saturday family and friends went bar hopping. I purposely was not the one driving. And last night I went to a New Year’s Eve party in Westbrook, and the hosts were kind enough to let me crash there. I admit that the beer got the better of me that time but I still have no regrets. However, this past weekend was supposed to be my last hurrah with alcohol. I now need to limit my drinking to weekends only (barring unusual events throughout the week) and stop at no more than two beers. If I fail this, I will quit drinking again.
  3. Whenever possible, when going out in public adopt as Gothic a look as possible. When this is not possible, such as at work, a quick errand or I just need to do a load of laundry, at least dress up a little. As I was getting ready to go to the party yesterday I contemplated wearing an old t-shirt promoting the album “Morbid Tales” by Celtic Frost. The party had an eighties theme and this was the closest I had to something that would fit. However, it just didn’t look right on me anymore. I don’t feel right going out in band tees. Dress shirts are going to be my new “normal” look while I am going to attempt to look outrageous whenever I can. I’m even contemplating growing my hair out after all despite the male-pattern baldness and seeing if I can’t still do something Gothic with it. After all, to be a Goth is to be morbid, losing hair is a sign of aging, which in turn is a sign of decay and ultimately death. That, and I want to try something different.
  4. Resume routines of exercise and meditation. I can start meditating again right away. Unfortunately, however, I can’t go out jogging this time of year considering how icy the roads are and how cold it is in the Northeast. I may have to join a gym. Even then, though, I won’t be able to until after February when I get my hours back at work. I would probably want to wait until after the RPM Challenge as well, which leads into my next resolution.
  5. Resume work on music with the intent on increasing output from before, but recognize it as more of a hobby than a career aspiration. Aside from my usual participation in the RPM Challenge, Mike and I were discussing new work for Popkin-Salvador. I want to also go back and re-record (and in some cases, rewrite) some older Shadows of Immurement songs.
  6. Pay off credit card debt. I know that I’ve whined about this before, but I am in a much better financial situation now at work than I have ever been. Paying off the debt should be achievable this year. I also had an incentive a few months ago to do so. I was looking at a house but I was denied the mortgage as I had too much credit card debt (fortunately I still have a good credit rating). I had already changed my mind on the house anyway by the time I found out about the mortgage but I will still run into the same problem if I don’t get my affairs in order.
  7. Start being more social. I’ve been going to the same nightclub for most of the Friday nights throughout the year. That’s great, but I still tend to be quiet.* I’m fine when other people start conversations but I have a hard time starting them myself. I’m getting better at it and have even introduced myself to people but I’m still getting the hang of this whole social-interaction thing. I should try to meet one new person every time I go out—not just to there but other locations as well, if anything for the practice.
  8. At the same time, reduce the amount of times going out. I don’t mean that I won’t go out to a nice restaurant for dinner if I feel like it. It does mean that I won’t go driving around all over the place to comparison shop for a pair of work pants at every retailer in the area only to decide to not get anything. I’ve also wasted too much gas using my car a a stereo on wheels. I have a friend who has a coffee shop two towns over and I like to support her business—but I can’t drive out there just for a cup of coffee with the excuse of “running errands while I’m out.” So, I will try to socialize more when I go out, but going out has to become more meaningful. Besides, staying at home will help with my next resolution.
  9. Catch up on my reading. The main reason that I stopped writing book reviews for a while was because of the tall stacks of books on my coffee table that I bought recently. I need to get through those because a.to get back to reviewing new-ish releases and b.I just want to.
  10. Finally: write, write, write. I didn’t just take an unintentional half a year hiatus from writing for this blog. I slacked off completely on any writing. I feel the need to try to start a fresh project (yes, again) just so I can get back into it but at the same time I must take a crack at the drafting process for my other work. This might not be the normal, “right” way of doing things but I can’t dwell on that anymore. I spend too much time worrying about how I’m doing things wrong instead of doing anything about it. This the biggest problem that I have with writing, which I want to make the biggest part of my life.

I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I hate the formality and commercialization of bettering one’s self that has developed this time of year. But I usually have these sort of thoughts after indulging over my birthday, which is only a few days earlier. On top of that, knowing that this weekend was going to be essentially one long party I felt that it was a good time to refresh myself. It all started with the resolution to drink less (or not at all) after the weekend. Everything else went from there. I remembered that when I quit drinking the last time I was more creative and motivated to become healthier, both physically and mentally. Why not try all of this again?


*Originally I had written that I still tend to be a wallflower at the club. I started dancing pretty regularly when a good song comes on so I wasn’t sure if I could correctly use the term. I’m still not making conversation while dancing—one could even make the argument that dancing allows me to not have to. Does that still count under the “wallflower” category?

Is it okay to offer a song to somebody else?

What do I do with song ideas that don’t fit into anything else that I do? I have a song that I wrote years ago—just the music, I haven’t fit words to it completely—that I rather like but I haven’t done anything with it, neither for Shadows of Immurement nor Popkin-Salvador. Mike (my band-mate in P-S) and I are planning on a new album that I’m going to start writing for soon. But this time around we’re going with a concept album and I don’t know if I can just shoehorn in an existing song. Still, this doesn’t address the fact that stylistically, the song doesn’t fit any style that I’ve worked with so far.

For a while now I considered giving the song to somebody else. But I don’t know how well this would go over. I have a musician friend whose style would likely work with the song, but I would feel awkward offering it to him. For one thing, we’re not exactly close. That’s not to say that we don’t get along well, but at best we run into each other at events and chat for a few minutes. Another problem is that I’m not exactly known for my music, even within my circle of musician friends as I don’t play live and Shadows of Immurement doesn’t fit in stylistically with anything that they do. I also don’t feel like I’m at their level, so to speak, but that could just be confidence.

Nonetheless, isn’t that a weird thing to offer to somebody? “Hey, I wrote this song, I think you’d like to play it.” Especially as they’re already doing their own thing that means something to them. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I certainly wouldn’t hurt the friendship. I would need to make a recording of the music, though, so I could have something to offer quickly.

By the time I got to writing this point I realized that I could have recorded said song and put a snippet on here. Then you would have a better idea of what the thing sounds like. I’ll put it online later. I recently recorded a shit load of all of my old tapes onto my computer, so I wanted to put some samples of those on here as well. That should be a laugh. Perhaps I could throw it all together into one blog post.

Book reviews will be on hold for a little while; consumerism versus creativity.

Officially starting today I changed positions at my job. I am no longer what is called the “operations supervisor.” Instead I have a new or rare position in the company called something like “Freight Area Supervisor.” In other words, I oversee the freight flow process for the store, working with the early morning stock crew as well as coordinating with management and maintaining the receiving area blah blah blah let’s be honest I took the job because it’s a lot more money. And from my understanding the vice president of the company invented the position because of how good I am in working the back room. At least, that’s the story I heard. In any case, it’s a rare position and management wanted me back there because I’m damn good at it.

What does that have to do with book reviews? I’m still getting used to the position. Even though it officially started today I began work trying to clean up the back room this past Thursday, ultimately working a 14 hour shift. I got sore in muscles that I forgot I had. I ended up only going for three hours the next day. I had got a book to read this past weekend but I spent more time vegging in front of my computer watching Babylon 5 while I tried to recover. Then, of course chores around the apartment started backing up and I had a ton of stuff to do. Even as I write this, I have several dirty dishes piled up in my kitchen that need addressing.

On top of it all I’m scheduled to go into work earlier than I have been, and in fact scheduled ten hours overtime for the week. We’ll see how that pans out, but the main point is that I’m getting used to my new job. I want to go back to book reviews, but I don’t want to make promises as to when.

Besides, I have other things that I want to do, or rather, get back into doing outside of work. Yesterday, when I was feeling a little better, I drove out to a beach near me and walked out to one of my favorite spots when I need to clean my head, a specific rock down by the water away from the beach itself. I went there with the intent to think through a dilemma I had built for myself. I won’t bother detailing that or my conclusions on it here as they aren’t relevant but another, important thought occurred to me. I knew that I’ve been slacking off for a long time now. As you can see I haven’t been blogging much over the past several months aside from book reviews and the occasional, boring thought. I haven’t done any serious writing in a while. Other habits have gone by the wayside such as jogging or practicing guitar.

I have tried to better myself through podcasts covering current events, science and culture, reading more “intellectual” material and watching more “artistic” and culturally relevant movies.But was I really becoming a better person as a result? I thought back to a YouTube video that I watched recently by The Count of the Belfry Network and the Goth talk podcast Cemetery Confessions. During his discussion on “What is Goth?” he brought up the point of how we have become a consumer culture, where we consume more than we create. Being aware of the world is all well and good, but what is the point of consuming knowledge without doing anything with it?

I felt that I was at a crossroads—yes, I know, cliché and melodramatic, but that’s how I felt nonetheless. Was I going to give in and give up on writing and to a lesser degree, music, and just become a consumer? Would I become the type of person who would come home from work, crack open a beer, and watch television until bedtime? Or would I be come a creator? Would I return to writing and this time, in full force? Would I eschew some of my pastimes in favor of more disciplined work, despite the extra work I’m taking on at my full-time job?

I’m not placing a value judgement on either choice. I know that the latter option sounds more “respectable” but I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with going either way. What it boils down to is which type of person am I? The endless consumer or the desperate creator?

I would like to think that by this point, over seven hundred words into this blog post, the answer has become obvious. I don’t feel guilty over “slacking” off over the past year. It may have just been something that I needed. And sure, I may need to relax sometimes. But I need to create.

Although, first, I really need to do those dishes. There’s little insects crawling around on my kitchen counter.

[Delayed post] In town for “Metal Night.”

Portland, ME 5/12/17 4:43 PM

I’m in Portland on a Friday yet again to head to the weekly Goth/Industrial night at a nightclub in town. I skipped last week but I had to make this one out of curiosity. Once in a while they have a sort of theme night (as if the usual dark music wasn’t enough). Tonight is “Metal Night.” I find this to be a bizarre one. I spent the better part of a decade identifying as a metalhead—some longtime readers may remember that once upon a time I was a frequent concert-goer and would post concert and album reviews. In recent years, however, I have been transitioning from a metalhead to a Goth, or at least I’ve been embracing my Gothic side more. I haven’t quite made it to the point in which I feel comfortable applying the term to myself. Anyway, tonight feels like a sort of nostalgic bridge for me.

The other curious aspect of tonight’s theme is that the theme is happening in the first place. When you already put together an evening once a week dedicated to one type of music, why would you take one week to play something else? Granted, the promoter of Plague doesn’t promote it so much “Goth/industrial” as much as “dark alternative dance.” Still, it seems weird to cater to a crossover crowd. The night sounds fun, but wouldn’t it only appeal to a limited crowd?

Clearly I’m one of those people. I’m also taking advantage of the fact that I can come to Portland right after work in a band t-shirt and my work jeans instead of stopping at home to clean up, change my clothes and put on make-up. Plus, it’s a nice day and it will be nice to wander around downtown for a while. Aside from bars and restaurants, most places around here close after seven. Plague doesn’t start until nine. The art museum is free on Fridays between five and eight. maybe I’ll stop in there. of course, on the other nights that I get here after they close I’m more appropriately dressed for it.

The new album is now available.

The new Shadows of Immurement album, All The Fathomless Places is now available on Bandcamp. You can get the album either by going here or the player below.

This is the album that I recorded for the 2017 RPM Challenge. I’ve already received good feedback on the song, “Walls,” that I’ve shared online elsewhere. I also intend on uploading older Shadows of Immurement material. Unfortunately, I can’t find the sound files of the songs of last year’s album. I think they’re on a CD-R somewhere but I have to go hunting for it. The first two albums are accessible, but they’re not as good. I was thinking of throwing them up there as a “collected demos” kind of thing. But I want to wait until I get Dream Of Nowhere uploaded first.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy All The Fathomless Places.

New Shadows of Immurement song

Last night I handed in the physical copy of the new Shadows of Immurement album, All The Fathomless Places, to the people running the 2017 RPM Challenge. I’m going to put the album up on Bandcamp this weekend, but in the meantime here’s the song I’m listing as my “preferred track”—meaning, the song they’re playing at the listening party at some point in coming weeks.

I will resume my normal blogging habits tomorrow.