EP REVIEW: Fascination Street Sessions – Ihsahn

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From EMPEROR to his solo career, it seems like IHSAHN’s switch from black metal pioneer to prog maestro was almost effortless. The last two decades have seen the multi-instrumentalist build an impressive body of work under his own name that, while often still making nods to his extreme roots, has found a healthy balance between the melodic and the experimental. With it being nearly five years since his last studio album, IHSAHN returns in a typically idiosyncratic guise with his latest EP. Developed as a proof-of-concept collaboration for a music production course IHSAHN is involved with, Fascination Street Sessions is a short and relatively varied EP and, at points, slightly more off-the-beaten path than you’d expect of its creator.

Opening track The Observer is perhaps the most typical of the bunch, continuing the sonic route forged by IHSAHN’s last few albums. Bursting open with twisting and sharply distorted guitar riffs, it doesn’t take long for the song to start dancing between light and shade. Clean but slightly rough guitars are accompanied by the warm mellow lilt of Øystein Aadland’s vocals, before giving way to electric riffs and the blackened roars of IHSAHN himself. The Observer sways hauntingly between these two modes as synth textures begin to build, unfold and overlay one another, filling out the sound and adding to the overall oppressive atmosphere. With its mid-paced droning and dramatic tonal shifting, this track wouldn’t feel out of place on Arktis or Ámr.

Follow up track Contorted Moments provides a welcome injection of urgency in the form of energetic, fast riffing reminiscent of Sorceress-era OPETH. Again, IHSAHN showcases his great penchant for blowing both hot and cold winds in the space of one track, with spacey sections providing a mellow punctuation between the punchier riffs. A short and sharp guitar solo sees IHSAHN channel his inner hard rock guitar god for some tastefully flashy noodling before the track wraps up.

Perhaps the biggest outlier on Fascination Street Sessions is its closer Dom Andra. A cover of Swedish band KENT, IHSAHN enlists the help of KATATONIA’s Jonas Renske on lead vocals. In its original form, the song itself is a morose alt rock number – in IHSAHN’s hands, it’s reinterpreted with plentiful subtle guitar harmonies and several extra layers of gothic moodiness. While weightier and fuller than the original version, Dom Andra is still a far more restrained and, dare we say it, “mainstream” number than you might expect of metal pioneers – not the least, thanks to its Winds Of Change-esque whistling and hooky melodies. However, IHSAHN and company do the track and themselves justice, making the number their own.

In Fascination Street Sessions, we see IHSAHN mostly continue with perfecting the overall sound and vibe he has honed over his last few solo albums – as well as having a little inventive fun with it too. While it’s a joy to hear IHSAHN doing what he does best, Fascination Street Sessions is over almost as quickly as it begins. Hopefully this is just a tantalising appetiser of more moody prog metal to come.

Rating: 8/10

Fascination Street Sessions - Ihsahn

Fascination Street Sessions is set for release on March 24th via Candlelight Records.

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The post EP REVIEW: Fascination Street Sessions – Ihsahn appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.

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