Well known for his former work with legendary black metal band Emperor, Norwegian native Vegard Sverre Tveitan, more commonly known as Ihsahn, has since formed his own solo project, the eponymous 'Ihsahn', claiming his artistic independence and thus proving to be a powerful musical force in his own right. A well-received seven albums later and Tveitan still continues to write and record, and now presents the first of two five track EPs, entitled 'Telemark'.
For readers not familiar with Scandinavian geography, Telemark is a region of southwestern Norway where Tveitan was raised and is still resident. A heterogeneous landscape with rolling hills and valleys, deep fjords and towering peaks, and a region known for its stubborn persistence in holding on to the ways of the old Norse pagan beliefs, Telemark provides rich inspiration for Ihsahn, from both Tveitan's upbringing and the character and history of the region itself.
Opener 'Stridig' is a melodic yet powerful salve of hard nordic rock, rumbling, bubbling and tumbling along like a river making its way down a steep hillside, showing both Ihsahn's eclectic songwriting and his black metal roots all in one.
'Nord' is a folky, black metal infused track topped with the raspy, black metal style vocals Tveitan was known for in his former role.
Titular track 'Telemark' feels like the centrepiece of the EP, a real homage to Tveitan's homeland and heritage, woven with a real Norwegian feel in its melodies and lyrics written in his native tongue. A mix of explosive black metal and progressive elements, Telemark is this EP's standout track.
Telemark is rounded out with two cover tracks, 'Rock and Roll is Dead' by Lenny Kravitz and 'Wrathchild' by Iron Maiden. Perhaps somewhat surprising additions to Ihsahn's repertoire, these tracks reveal some of Ihsahn's diverse influences beyond black metal and provide interesting final moments for the EP.
Ihsahn's solo career continues to go from strength to strength, and with Telemark it's clear that he is unafraid to show not just his more obvious musical influences but some more unexpected ones too. Not one to live under Emperor's long shadow, Ihsahn is a free and independent spirit that is not chained to any one musical style yet still knows where he comes from. Telemark is a diverse and interesting record well worth a listen.