Look onto a surface long enough and you’ll likely find texture. Ihsahn’s Eremita, the fourth solo album from the former frontman of the highly influential black metal band Emperor, reveals a varied subtext of musical structures buried underneath much of its aggression even in spite of its overt technical proficiency. With the aid of Leprous drummer Tobias Ornes Andersen, former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis and saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby of Shining, Ihsahn cultivates a language both passionately uttered and skillfully articulated, a loud combination of heavy melodies and blast beats finding almost a symphonic clarity which is enabled by progressive academia and generous experimentations with jazz fusion and free jazz. The verses are guttural, its choruses melodic and harmonized, vocally helped by Devin Townsend, Einar Solberg and Heidi S. Tveitan.

Produced by Jens Bogren (who appropriately enough has produced albums for Opeth), Ihsahn is careful to maintain his signature level of musical strength. An almost immediate rush of riff and rhythm introduces Eremita with “Arrival,” Ihsahn’s throat coaxing out words, dragging them out with a reddening array of shrieks and howls. “The Paranoid” follows: blast beats in play giving way to latter day Opeth-inspired transitions and some beautifully arranged acoustic layering. Drop-d tuned sludge ensues and the song even carries what sounds like a fleet of brass at its end, theatrical and invigorating.

“The Eagle and the Snake,” provides the album its opus, a high concentration of riffs, saxophone blasts and a lush hook. The song’s primary concept note wise is introduced quickly and later manipulated through tempo, re-appropriating it into a harmonized and off-kilter series of prolonged fret work that anchors the song’s first bridge long enough for squealing sax honks and double kick thuds. It’s really well performed: the type of thing you listen to again and again just to make sure you heard everything.

The opening of “Catharsis” could possibly owe something to “Meeting of the Spirits” by Mahavishnu Orchestra, its slowly developed guitar sounds gaining traction beneath jazz elements. Piano notes arrive for the chorus, Munkeby and Ihsahn sort of dueling instrumentally at points.

“Introspection” sounds relatively tame (and rock n’ roll) next to some of the other combinations of sounds and progressions Eremita boasts, though it takes some unexpected turns rhythmically. “Something Out There” is orchestral black metal, a synthesized ensemble heightening the song’s sophistication. Following is an instrumental called “Grief,” which perpetuates the feel of synthesized orchestra, though it seems to function as an interlude. “The Grave,” a rather severe and trudging doom track, breaks into Frank Zappa sized percussion arrangements, Andersen smacking an array of tinny objects and tom drums while Munkeby exhales a series of improv’d solos. The song departs in a duel-kick march, “He Hammers!” the song’s battle cry.

The album closes, appropriately, with “Departure,” which launches into a shrieking frenzy with thrash riffs. Deviating from the noise bit momentarily, “Departure” goes into a gentler section of light jamming before transitioning back into its louder self. Brass lightly sounds for Heidi S. Tveitan’s vocal contribution, a crescendo ensuing and leading the song back to its aggression, ending abruptly and leaving the listener adrenalized amidst the silence.