Ihsahn – Pharos – EP Review

Artist: Ihsahn

Album Title: Pharos EP

Label: Candlelight Records

Date of Release: 11 September 2020

‘Pharos’ is the second of two EPs released during 2020 by the incredible talent that is Ihsahn. The EPs are apparently intertwined but, as the press release so rightly states, there are some sharp contrasts between the two offerings. Mind you, given the obvious talents and ability of the main protagonist, it will come as no surprise to most of us that once again, the musical offering on ‘Pharos’ explores yet more new and intriguing avenues.

Whereas ‘Telemark’ represented the more confrontational, heavy, and metallic side of Ihsahn, ‘Pharos’ is a much more restrained, quieter, introspective affair. And, if I’m being entirely honest, I think I prefer ‘Pharos’ overall. I wasn’t expecting that to be the case at all, but it’s the reality with which I am faced. And it’s all down to the talents of the artist, both in terms of song writing and performance.

Straight off the bat, we are presented with ‘Losing Altitude’, and it is a gorgeous song from beginning to end. From the opening melodious yet slightly dark guitar notes, the song just draws you in, and holds you captivated throughout. I’d happily state on record that the clean vocals that litter this track are easily some of Ihsahn’s best, full of warmth and a quiet pensive quality; they seem to be delivered effortlessly, but it’s clear that this is merely an illusion; it is Ihsahn’s raw ability that makes things seem so easy and smooth. Delicate piano notes permeate and I really enjoy the way that the song builds in intensity until a wonderfully heavy riff nods towards the latent extreme metal credentials that are never too far away. But it’s the strength of the melodies that make the biggest mark on me, both powerful and nuanced. The end result is a mesmerising track that burrows its claws deep, refusing to let go.

‘Spectre At The Feast’ has a much more progressive feel to it, as well as injecting some rich classical orchestration and a sense of ‘fun’ too. It is a brighter, breezier composition with some cheeky embellishments, but it has a sense of eclecticism that takes a while to get used to. But when all the seemingly disparate elements click into place, it’s a very rewarding feeling.

The title track begins in a much broodier and darker vein, taking a long time to open up into something appreciably lighter and airier. But the key to this song is the choral vocals and heavier, pounding sections that add palpable drama to the composition in a way that is different to any of the other music on this EP. It might be my least favourite of the three original compositions, but only marginally and only because I enjoy the other two so much.

In keeping with ‘Telemark’, the final two songs are covers, namely ‘Roads’ by Portishead and A-ha’s ‘Manhattan Skyline’. I’m not really a fan of either band, but these two covers are actually really cool, especially the latter. Featuring the unique vocals of Leprous’ Einar Solberg, it has a spine-tingling quality to it, that makes me want to reassess my indifference to the Norwegian synth-pop outfit from the 80s. I have listened to this song countless times and it just gets better with every spin; the melodies, the guitar tones, the strong synth sounds, and the guitar solo in the latter stages – they all combine to great effect, making a huge impact in the process.

To be honest, it may only feature five songs, but this entire endeavour makes a huge impact. And, whilst it is somewhat removed stylistically from ‘Telemark’, they both make a lot of sense when listened to together, one after the other. You can hear Ihsahn’s influences throughout, and the mark he has made on the music, both the originals and the cover songs. ‘Pharos’ may explore Ihsahn’s softer side, but it is no less intense and enjoyable. I’d even argue that ‘Pharos’ contains some of his very best work to date. Another no-brainer for you to explore and enjoy.

The Score of Much Metal: 93%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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