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Interviews : “I wanted to not limit myself to but kind of have a special focus” – An Interview With Ihsahn

By on March 7, 2018

Vegard Tveitan is better known by his pseudonym Ihsahn, the band leader and frontman of critically acclaimed Norweigan black metal icons, Emperor.

Emperor may still be an occasional feature on the live circuit, particularly European open-air festival’s, however Ihsahn’s considerable talents have been focused on his solo career since at least 2006. Seven albums, a slew of guest appearances and numerous tours, 2018 is the annos singulos for the new album, Ámr.

“This new album… as the cover (art), the production and the lyrics suggest it’s all very much happening ‘inside’. It’s very closed off. I know this is very abstract and I would say that it posed similar ideas to what I did on Arktis (’16) where I wanted to explore more traditional pop/ rock songwriting.”

That final point piqued my interest given Ihsahn’s traditional association with all things musically nefarious…

“I wanted to not limit myself to but kind of have a special focus, go with analogue synthesisers and do more using a synthesizer base. I have different inspirations. We recorded the whole album with these analogue synthesizers in mind. We actually recorded the whole album on an acrylic drum kit as well, really down tuned and with all stacked symbols that you have no ringing symbols at all. So, it’s all the very tight percussive sounds.”

Sounds like Ihsahn is throwing caution to wind and taking a risk.

So let’s pause on the topic of identifiably ‘metal’ artists or bands taking a risk and producing sounds not traditionally associated with an assumed musical narrative. Megadeth have their own Risk (’99), Metallica collaborated with Lou Reed to produce the fascinatingly awful Lulu (’11), not to mention the sonically challenging St. Anger (’03). Seasoned readers will recall Helloween’s interesting Pink Bubbles Go Ape (’91) and Manowar’s evolution into >80% classical instrumentation on albums by the time The Lord of Steel (’07) had been issued.

Having been one of the few indie journalists to sample Ámr and to be afforded the opportunity to provide both Ihsahn and the readership feedback, I can assure all that Ámr is black metal in spirit, progressive in composition and absolutely a metal album by any and all measures. It is a collection of songs that feel… and sound like Emperor v3.0.

“I get this all the time, will there be another Emperor album because that is very nostalgic. I was thinking are people actually aware of what they are asking because what kind of Emperor album would they like to have?”

For the loyal black metal fans that want a new album released under the Emperor moniker, Ihsahn offers an honest assessment of the chances.

“This (referring to Ámr) is how I write metal in 2018. If it was up to me (regardless) if it had the Emperor logo on it or my recent logo, in my ideal world this is what it would sound like. Obviously had we continued Emperor, Samoth (guitars) and Trym (drums/ percussion) would probably never agree to do Emperor with eight-string guitars and include free form saxophone. No disrespect to them, (Emperor) was a compromise of who was in the band… for me doing an Emperor album now, a metal album with Emperor would be a limitation to where I want to kind of push my music.”

Rounding out his comments, Ihsahn alludes to frequent reformation efforts by bands that aim to re-create the past.

“We could easily make an Emperor album that sounds something like the early stuff. We could probably do something that sounded like a mix of Ihsahn and The Wretched End which is Samoth’s thing, but would that be genuine? Would anyone have any band (that) reformed after almost 20 years and actually make an album that was like, “Yes, fuck this is amazing”, it doesn’t happen. If people ask for another Emperor album, I think it’s really the desire to kind of recreate and relearn some kind of nostalgic moment.”

Ihsahn is an artist providing authentic sounds for the cultivated ear. Ámr will appeal to a wide range of music fans, not just the metal aficionado. Even if you have a passing interest in the man and the bands he has performed in, ensure to catch Ihsahn on his Australian tour in May.

Ihsahn releases his new album Àmr on May 4th via Spinefarm/Candlelight.  Catch Ihsahn on tour in Australia this May. Full tour dates below. Tickets on sale now via

May 4th – Brisbane, Crowbar
May 5th – Sydney, Max Watts (Direct Underground Fest)
May 6th – Melbourne, Max Watts (Direct Underground Fest)
May 7th – Melbourne, Max Watts (SOLD OUT)
May 8th- Perth, Amplifier Bar


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith