Confession time. I was never much into Emperor. I realize how they changed music and appreciate them for what they accomplished, but that era of black metal has never quite been my bag. So, a while back when I heard Ihsahn was doing solo stuff that was just really weird, I didn't bite, even after hearing Frozen Lakes on Mars and raising an eyebrow. I couldn't be bothered because like many people my age, new music isn't something I chase after. I know, weird for someone who occasionally pokes his head up once a year or so to review a few records, but that's kinda how I am now. I'm officially a "you kids and your boom boom music get off my lawn" kinda guy.

After hearing Arktis, though... I realized that I missed out on something. Ihsahn is a craftsman and an innovator, and he really lets it fly on this album. He probably has on his past albums too, but I was just too busy being an old man to notice. That's an oversight I intend to correct as soon as I can.

The other quandary I find myself in is, how do I describe this to someone who has never heard it before and how do I do a review justice for those who know his music well? Chances are they're into many artists like this and the only bands I can hear a slight similarity to are Opeth and Xanthochroid. He really is in a universe that doesn't have many other inhabitants.

Arktis is an album full of surprises and experimentation, brilliant production, and daring songwriting. Genres get mashed into meaninglessness. There are moments of blatant metal here and there but for the most part, nothing is pure, every expression seems played through the filter of something else. If an indie rock band tried to do a progressive metal album it would kind of approach what's going on here. My favorite song is Until I Too Dissolve, which begins with a riff reminiscent of Jake E. Lee era Ozzy Osbourne or old Van Halen, but is underlied with a very skillful use of detuned guitars that gives it a very dark and brooding aura. Or Crooked Red Line, which begins with an R&B saxophone solo that makes me think of Careless Whisper. You have to love how Ihsahn doesn't even consult the rulebook. Anything and everything is on the table.

Sure, there are still some vestigial tropes of that freezing Nordic metal that creep in, but it's more like frosting on the cake of what is truly an inventive work of music. It serves as an enhancement to what would otherwise not typically be metal, and it proves that you don't have to fit into a mold or follow the paths of others, or even your own musical past. If this review was vague, I apologize. It was hard to find the words to describe that I heard here, but I do know that there's so much to Artkis and I will be listening to this quite a lot.