Black metal trailblazer Ihsahn likes his self-titled solo album so much that he recorded it twice. Ihsahn is available in both metal and orchestral versions, two styles that the Norwegian composer and multi-instrumentalist has been combining since the early ’90s with black metal pioneers Emperor. “To me, black metal is an abstract feeling, an atmosphere,” he tells Apple Music. “It doesn’t rely on any specific sound. Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Omen can sound as black metal as Bathory.” The metal and orchestral versions of Ihsahn, his eighth solo outing, operate as two parts of a concept album with overlapping storylines. “I wrote them side by side as one piece,” he explains. “The orchestral version is really just a condensed instrumental version of the metal album. To put it bluntly, I tried to write a simulated soundtrack within the context of the full metal arrangement. So, to me, the orchestral version is just a different version of the same music, but it follows a slightly different story with a similar story arc. It’s all very interconnected.” As for the storylines themselves? They’re based on the classic hero’s journey found in traditional mythology, but beyond that, Ihsahn would rather not say. “I'm always trying to not give away my story, because it's not that interesting for people to have me superimpose my thoughts on them,” he explains. “People can read the lyrics and kind of piece it together for themselves. I think that is a better value for everybody.” Below, he discusses each track. “Cervus Venator” “This is a purely orchestral piece, like an introduction, and the title roughly translates to ‘Deer Hunter.’ And, of course, you see the antlers in the artwork and the videos, so this is kind of a hint to the secondary story that follows the narrative of the orchestral album. In that respect it's the real beginning of our protagonist's trajectory, a dreamlike state before the first track kicks in.” “The Promethean Spark” “We are at the start of the story, and the Promethean thing of course hints to Greek mythology. There’s a lot of Greek references with Dionysus and Apollo throughout the album. The story of Prometheus is something akin to the story of Lucifer or the outsider element that gives you a new perspective. It opens your eyes to something more. This is the starting point for the protagonist of this story.” “Pilgrimage to Oblivion” “I'd say this is the most intense and hard song on the album. It’s full of hubris and determination. As the title implies, this is where our protagonist is very decisively starting his journey. It’s a very conscious decision to get out there and challenge yourself, so we’ve got a kind of a violent, challenging approach to this song.” “Twice Born” “Musically, ‘Twice Born’ is also on the harder side. With all the runs and everything, it’s kind of a revolt. There’s a sense of chaos involved in the lyrics. There’s a hint in the title again, this idea of being born again in the sense of discovering yourself anew when exposed to more things in your perceived existence. Like all traditional stories, there’s the potential reward of the journey, but also the danger and pitfalls of such a journey.” “A Taste of the Ambrosia” “This is the first reflective piece, and for the most part a much slower approach given the perspective. As the title implies, this is when you’ve had a taste of something more. It’s the realization that you can’t go back to where you started. It’s a loss of innocence, in a way, but also an experience of value. It’s like with nice cognac or wine, or coffee, for that matter—it’s hard to go back when one has had the good stuff.” “Anima Extraneae” “This is an interlude that also hints at the secondary story. It bleeds in with the orchestral side of things. As you see, the intro and outro and this interlude are all Latin titles, hence separating them from the main storyline. But, of course, the two stories bleed into each other. ‘Anima Extraneae’ translates to something like ‘a strange soul.’ The interlude follows the reflection of the last song. You’ve walked away from something and become estranged from what you were and the life you had prior to this. Musically, there’s a romantic sense of peace about it.” “Blood Trails to Love” “Again, there's a small hint in the title. You are exposed to danger; you're exposed to the unpredictable, and suddenly along the way in a typical story like this—and hopefully in our separate lives in general—we experience love. For someone in our protagonist’s position, are they capable of being loved? Have they come too far? Are they too estranged to be loved or even to be connected? There are some dilemmas there.” “Hubris and Blue Devils” “This song is of a more rebellious nature. ‘Blue Devils’ is referenced almost like a hangover, with all the hints of Dionysus and intoxication. There’s this feeling of hubris, like, ‘Fuck it. I’ll go all in, whatever the stakes.’ It reflects also to ‘Twice Born’ in the lyrics, so it’s something like giving up or giving in. There’s this sense of reigniting the same kind of willpower and determination as in ‘Pilgrimage to Oblivion’ in terms of accepting that this is the journey and the path you took.” “The Distance Between Us” “We’re getting into more of a reflective perspective again here. It's like the entire album, both in musical form and the lyrics, has this duality between balance and chaos; the safe, conformed, predictable existence versus the less predictable and more adventurous. ‘The Distance Between Us’ is the more reflective part of creating that distance in this kind of journey. Of course, this is not necessarily a physical journey. You are perhaps distancing yourself from things and people that you would not like to distance yourself from. Every journey has reward and sacrifice.” “At the Heart of All Things Broken” “This is the end of the journey. In my head, this is looking back on having returned and reflecting on the rewards and sacrifices made along the way. The lyrics are in present tense, in contrast to the rest of the record. I am very pleased with the title because it also has this kind of ambiguity to it. There’s ambition and tragedy and hope and loss and love in all of our lives. In the end, you will have to reflect on if you find your existence meaningful. None of us are spared tragedy, I think, but there are really no steps you could have skipped on your journey.” “Sonata Profana” “The title is a direct hint to the actual story that goes into the orchestral piece. Musically, it doesn’t imply a specifically happy ending.”

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