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Fascination Street


EP Review: IHSAHN Fascination Street Sessions

10 Reviewer

Ihsahn, of famed black metal masters Emperor, continues to evolve and grow as a musician and artist. I was positively floored by his 2020 EP, Telemark, which had the jaw-dropping "Stridig" as the opening track. A horn section mixed with jazz crossed with Norwegian black metal? How he came up the concept for that song, I can only imagine. But whatever dark magic he worked in was an epic success.

With "Stridig," Ihsahn also created a chillingly brilliant video at the direction of Troll Tofenes that just left you breathless and contemplative long after you ended your viewing of it. And that's part of the appeal of Ihsahn's work. It sticks with you and it changes your disposition. That's his calling card and, perhaps, the key to his longevity.

On the heels of both 2020's Telemark and his slightly lighter release from the same year, Pharos (which contained an A-Ha cover of all things!), my expectations were extremely high for the next chapter of Telemark's most favorite son. I'm happy to report, without any doubt, my lofty expectations were actually exceeded.

The Fascination Street Sessions features three songs – two original and one cover. He joins forces with producer/engineer Jens Bogren who has worked in the past with Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, Arch Enemy and Powerwolf among others. Also along for the ride are regular Ihsahn drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen and keyboardist Øystein Aadland.

The first single off the EP is "Contorted Monuments." It's a riff ripe rocker with both a dash of northern chill and a gentle, breezy break that gives it just the correct amount of diversion. If you listen carefully you can hear the vintage Hammond and Wurlitzer. In fact, Ihsahn used a variety of different instruments and analog pedals to perfect the sounds throughout the EP.

The Kent cover, "Dom Andra" features Jonas Renske of Katatonia on guest vocals. Kent is popular Swedish rock/synthpop band that's had a lot of success overseas but isn't too well known here in North America. "Dom Andra" won Sweden's Song of the Year in 2002 and, in Swedish, is about a lonely women looking for a uniquely special man and a charmed life. She ultimately realizes that she'll only be disappointed, will simply live an ordinary existence like everyone else. An interesting song choice for Ihsahn given that he is so very far removed from ordinary. He remains discerningly unique, even in the all-too-crowded world of Norwegian black metal. Whatever the lyrics appear to mean, Ihsahn and company make the track uniquely their own and elevate it as you expect they would.

"The Observer" is all about contrast. It's the gentle interplay between the guitars – sometimes angrily distorted and sometimes cleanly acoustic. There's also the juxtaposition of Øystein's placid vocals with Ihsahn's signature growls. All of this is enveloped by a lavishly rich and progressive rhythm section peppered with the just the right amount of added texture from Aadland's lush infusion on the keys. It's this type of musicianship and songwriting that perks everyone up every time these guys drop a new track.

Ihsahn and the rest of the band brought in cameras to record these sessions with the belief that they would be producing something timeless and significant. Good call on them because the result is exactly that. These three songs are absolutely flawless. They are appropriately layered and abiding as well as majestic. These are songs to cherish and treasure, and are some of Ihsahn's very best endeavors in a masterfully storied body of work. This is an essential record.

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