Prog - - Take A Bow - MATT MILLS

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.

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