Rock and Roll Is Dead
After releasing seven solo albums of experimental and progressive metal, Emperor guitarist/vocalist Ihsahn returns to his black metal roots on Telemark. Named after the region in Norway where he was born and still resides, this EP marks the first time Ihsahn has sung in his native tongue on his own material, which is bolstered by two English-sung covers in the form of Lenny Kravitz’s “Rock and Roll Is Dead” and Iron Maiden’s early classic “Wrathchild.” According to Ihsahn, it’s the first of two EPs reflecting opposite sides of his musical personality. “Telemark is like my musical roots, my cultural roots, and my geographical roots distilled into one,” he tells Apple Music. “It focuses on the extreme elements of what I do, whereas the second EP will focus on the more mellow, experimental aspects of what I do. They’re like the two extreme outer edges of my musical output.” Here he goes through each of the five songs on the EP.
“The title means ‘strident’ in Norwegian, and being strident is a very typical aspect of Norwegians—perhaps even more so with people from Telemark. There are certain things that socially we will not accept—like sneaky, fake personalities. If you try to be too slick around Telemark people, I think you will evoke a very strident nature. In the mid-1600s, some cartographers from the Netherlands came to Norway and made these beautiful maps, detailed with fjords and forests and mountains. Where Telemark was supposed to be, it was just a circular forest with a lake in the middle. Basically they were told that if you entered the realm of the Telemark people, you would probably never get out again.”
“This song deals with similar subjects that I have touched upon before on an album I did called Arktis., where the conceptual ideas were put in metaphor in this Northern icy landscape. I have a song on there called ‘My Heart Is of the North,’ which deals with this sense of belonging and a calling back to this place. It sounds very grand and pompous, but it’s a deep feeling I get—in particular from traveling more and more in the capacity of my work. I become more aware of this sense of belonging. Of course I miss my family when I’m traveling, which is a big part of it, but it’s also this place, the smell of the air, and this sense of belonging. As I get older, it becomes more obvious to me.”
“The riffs on this song were inspired by the Hardanger fiddle, a traditional Norse instrument. Of course this would be a music that most people have not heard before, but I think they can probably recognize the kind of folkish tone elements. [Lyrically], it’s an ode to my home and kind of sums up both of the previous songs in a way. It deals with the peculiar nature of Telemark and refers to some of the folklore, but it’s also quite descriptive of the [natural landscape]. Normally I would not use such a strong kind of musical color on an album, but for this particular project it made total sense to combine these things, especially in the middle part and the very pure black metal expression.”
Rock and Roll Is Dead
“With the concept of the EP being that I’m going back to my roots, I wanted the sonic expression to be very much a rock band in the room. Those were the production values—I deliberately wanted drums, bass, two guitars, and screaming vocals. No bells and whistles. With Lenny Kravitz, you can pick almost anything from his catalog and it will have that kind of aesthetic, but in particular I love this song—and, again, it’s connecting the dots to early black metal, which is kind of anti-rock ’n’ roll. The lyrics of this song criticize the superficial, commercial aspects of the music industry—kind of evaluating the heart and core of rock ’n’ roll. I think in essence there’s something very black metal about it.”
“I was somehow surprised that the first time I do an Iron Maiden cover, it’s from the early Paul Di’Anno era, as I’d been going on record for years stating that Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which is obviously late ’80s and Bruce Dickinson era, is probably the album that has had the biggest influence on me. But again, I was going for that bare-bones, band-in-the-room kind of attitude. And of course ‘Wrathchild’ deals with very recognizable emotions for the style of music I do. I also wanted to pick a song where—and this goes for both cover songs—the melodic elements of the guitar riffs follow the vocals, or vice versa, but with the vocals in an extreme voice. If you did a late-’80s Iron Maiden song in black metal vocals, you’d basically end up with three chords and screaming on top. Which would make no sense—you’d kind of lose the composition. But this was a lot of fun—it’s been a long time since I had so much fun making a recording.”