After AfterIhsahn’s After was easily the best progressive metal album of 2010 for most of that year—until Enslaved showed up right at the time that everyone began putting together their end-of-year lists. Still, the Norwegian metal veteran had a strong showing on many of those lists. I personally didn’t spend a lot of time with that album; while I recognized its excellence, there were simply other things that occupied my attention. Yet whenever I do put it on, it digs its tendrils a little deeper into my skull.
Eremita continues the progressive, saxophone-infused extreme prog of the last album, not straying too far from the formula. It differs in a few respects, however.
The most obvious difference is that Eremita is far more immediate. There are catchy, melodically-sung choruses on nearly every song. It’s also got a bit more doom in the blend (see especially “The Grave”). It would also seem that Ihsahn himself spent some time listening to the album that tended to overshadow his own, as there is certainly a lot of resemblance to Enslaved (see “The Paranoid” or the combination of “Something Out There” and “Grief”).
On the other hand, Eremita is not as cohesive as After. Perhaps that has something to do with the numerous guest musicians. While I enjoy Devin Townsend’s contribution, for instance, it does seem a bit out of place. And the track featuring Townsend sounds like a weak Townsend song, in many ways. It doesn’t fit. Similarly, Jeff Loomis’s solos on “The Eagle and the Snake,” while excellent, also seem out of place. These two tracks seem forced, end up being two of the weakest on the record. Still, there are some very good songs, like the aforementioned Enslaved sound-alikes, opener “Arrival,” and closer “Departure.”
Less inspired than its predecessor, but more immediate, Eremita will probably disappoint those who lost their bowel control on After. By no means is it a throwaway, however. With expectations in check, you can find plenty to enjoy.
The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars