Ever since his origins as the young driving force of black metal titans Emperor, Ihsahn has been a musician who keeps his live excursions to a minimum. Even in 2018, it took the legendary Norwegian six months to embark on the tour supporting his latest solo album, Ámr – which only consists of one, fortnightlong European trek. Furthermore, his recent Emperor Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk anniversary shows have reserved themselves solely for summer festival slots. Thus, the anticipation in Paris’ legendary La Machine du Moulin Rouge tonight is tangible.
The excitement is only amplified by the exhilarating Ne Obliviscaris. The Australians add so many progressive and unique flairs to the metal genre that they quickly soar to success. Through such lengthy tracks as Devour Me, Colossus, the key ingredient to their brilliance shines through: gorgeous trade-offs between seemingly incompatible dynamics.
Frontmen Xenoyr and Tim Charles constantly bounce growls and operatic clean vocals back and forth, while Charles’ violin exchanges jaw-dropping solos with Benjamin Baret’s lead guitar. All the while, a thrashing rhythm section is still able to construct an incessantly quick foundation, which neatly sews every aural deviation and diversion together.
Thereafter, Ihsahn is progressive in a wholly different manner. Whereas Ne Obliviscaris radiate through the many impressive layers they added to straightshooting metal, the headliner opts to throw the genre rulebook out of the window entirely. This is obvious from the beginning, as Ihsahn commences with the electronic-cum-symphonic crawl of Lend Me The Eyes Of Millennia, segueing into the melodic bang of Arcana Imperii and then the hard rock ballad Sámr.
Despite the underlying melancholy of his music, the man himself is in high spirits, juxtaposing dark tunes with regular smiles, and clapping and proclaming how happy he is to be playing in Paris. This vibrant sheen then infects the setlist with Until I Too Dissolve – his self-professed love letter to 80s metal. Its peppy riff may reek of Judas Priest, but the song’s sombre theme of winter and a screeching refrain are both clearly Ihsahn’s own.
The performance nears its conclusion as the epic Celestial Violence stakes its claim at being tonight’s runaway highlight. Like rapidly shifting tides, keyboard- and clean vocal-driven verses beautifully give way to vicious choruses. Finally, Frozen Lakes On Mars makes for a sweltering encore. Its fingerdistorting shredding, discordant wails, avant-garde breakdowns and anthemic apexes all epitomise the greatest aspects of Ihsahn’s solo output, perfectly capping off a show that his Parisian followers have been demanding for a long time.