Ihsahn has continued his ever-evolving musical journey with ‘Pharos’, the second part and accompanying release to this year’s earlier EP, ‘Telemark’.
In comparison to the aforementioned counterpart, ‘Pharos’ is far more introspective and mellow musically, but not without plenty of depth.
‘Losing Altitude’ helps to set the scene with a grand opening, with a synth-driven backdrop amidst some string arrangements letting us know what we’re in for. Having already re-connected with his black metal roots on ‘Telemark’, it’s clear that Ihsahn is going for a less intense approach. That being said, this song certainly builds up into an invigorating and weighty-enough progressive rock number.
‘Spectre At The Feast’ isn’t that far from Ghost‘s latter-day offerings musically and has more reliance on strings, but still manages to be moving and succeeds greatly at the harmonically rich and grandiose elements it goes for.
With the title-track, there’s even more power with this song. It builds up from a modest opening, and whilst it veers towards the more polished end of progressive rock at times, there’s certainly a lot to take on board. You can find yourself getting lost in the atmospheric sections, and the choir vocals in the foreground certainly give it that bit more power.
With Ihsashn reaching for less metal influences in general, we have two fitting covers to play us out. Portishead‘s ‘Roads’ is covered, and while it’s hard to replicate the stark vulnerability of Beth Gibbons‘ original vocal, Ihsahn‘s falsetto certainly works over the enveloping ambience.
But we have a real treat to close things out. The vocal talents of Einar Solberg (Leprous) are on hand here to deliver a rendition of the greatest stadium rock song of the 1980s, that just happened to be written by a pop band: A-ha‘s ‘Manhattan Skyline’. With the personnel involved, it’s impossible to really go wrong. There’s not much of a deviation from the original, of course, but the rich instrumentation and Solberg‘s own distinctive vocal makes for a firing-on-all-cylinders closer.
‘Pharos’ is another intriguing cornerstone in the musical journey of Ihsahn, and fans who’ve followed his three-decade long career will undoubtedly welcome this with open arms.