Heavy Song of the Week: Ihsahn’s “Pilgrimage to Oblivion” Is Symphonic Black Metal at Its Finest

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The post Heavy Song of the Week: Ihsahn’s “Pilgrimage to Oblivion” Is Symphonic Black Metal at Its Finest appeared first on Consequence.

Heavy Song of the Week is a feature on Heavy Consequence breaking down the top metal and hard rock tracks you need to hear every Friday. This week, the top spot goes to “Pilgrimage to Oblivion” by Ihsahn.

Heavy metal has long been associated with symphonic music. There’s the neoclassical shred of Yngwie Malmsteen, the ambitious orchestral pieces on Celtic Frost’s eternal Into the Pandemonium, and Metallica’s legendary S&M concerts — to name a few. More recently, underground harshers Portrayal of Guilt released their new album Devil Music with an entirely orchestral interpretation as a companion piece.

Norwegian black metal pioneer Ihsahn has taken a similar approach with his upcoming self-titled record, releasing the tracks in both “metal” and “symphonic” form. The first single “Pilgrimage to Oblivion” arrived in these parallel formats, and it’s the metal version that we’ve chosen for our Heavy Song of the Week, as it illustrates the vast, genre-spanning creativity of the Emperor founder.

The music on the new album all originated as solo piano compositions, and in the case of “Pilgrimage to Oblivion,” the final rendering is a bombastic black metal track with prog and classical underpinnings. We get Ihsahn’s howls and the densely arranged black metal that has been the trademark of his latter solo material, plus the orchestral backing (which is offered in a more skeletal form on the companion track).

As Ihsahn himself explained: “At the heart of what I do is black metal, extreme distorted guitars and screaming, but since the earliest Emperor recordings you’ll hear the keyboard parts influenced by classic soundtracks by the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Bernard Herrmann, John Carpenter and so on.”

In some ways, those remarks give context to why this particular album only bears his name. It is definitively Ihsahn, in all of his musical incarnations.

Honorable Mentions:

Better Lovers – “Two Alive Amongst the Dead”

Better Lovers are on the shortlist for our Heavy Song of the Year for the incredible “30 Under 13,” but the supergroup is still dropping bangers in 2023. One-off single “Two Alive Amongst the Dead” arrived this week, and it’s perhaps the fastest and thrashiest track from the band so far. Vocalist Greg Puciato’s performance is unhinged and manic, matching the barrage of dissonant guitar chords and frequent tempo changes that make up this three minute sprint.

The Body and Dis Fig – “Holy Lance”

There’s a tangible symbiosis at work on “Holy Lance,” the debut track from the collaboration between The Body and electronic artist Dis Fig, aka Felicia Chen. The former provide a doomy industrial backdrop for Chen’s voice, which rises and falls before eventually soaring through a climactic finale. It’s quite structured by The Body’s standards, though it’s nice to hear the group’s unwieldy, cathartic noise delivered in such rhythmic blasts. The drops in the latter half of the track are crushing.

Sadus – “First Blood”

Sadus just released their first album in 17 years, The Shadow Inside, and it’s a great place to start for those unfamiliar with these thrash/death vets. Opening track “First Blood” is pinnacle Sadus with its combo of speed-metal tenacity and technical riffing. It’s everything you’d want out of the first song on a comeback album and sounds like it could have been recorded during the band’s heyday. In other words, despite the hiatus, these guys still got it.

Heavy Song of the Week: Ihsahn’s “Pilgrimage to Oblivion” Is Symphonic Black Metal at Its Finest
Jon Hadusek

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