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Ihsahn had always been an innovator to the music scene. First came the renowned Emperor, the dark fathers of symphonic black metal, then came Peccatum, the seed of avant garde black metal (along with Solefald). Now Ihsahn continues his legacy with solo act, further pushing the limits of progressive extreme metal. The Moribund People, Peccatum’s final EP and release before splitting up, serves as the bridge between Ihsahn’s solo career and the ground breaking Peccatum album Lost In Reverie. While early Peccatum was based more on a thrashy black metal style, late Peccatum explored the depths of more classical and industrial styles. Along with his wife Ihriel, Ihsahn created some of the most melodic and electronic music of his career on this EP.
The self-titled track and ‘A Penny’s Worth Of Heart’ include some very electro industrial elements in the percussion and synths. Both songs are very mellow for the most part, with ‘A Penny’s Worth Of Heart’ containing more dynamic electric guitar work and harsh vocals. The composition of the music is very unique and catchy in it’s own way, but does not flow as well as Lost In Reverie’s songs. The lyrics are beautifully written as well as beautifully sung, with ‘The Moribund People’ being much more operatic and upbeat. The clean guitar work has a very shoegaze-esque vibe to it and the bass is prominent. The orchestral arrangements are easily the most dynamic elements in the music.
Once again Ihsahn shows his love for one of the original pioneers of the black metal genre, Bathory, with a cover of the song ‘For All Those Who Died’ off the landmark album Blood Fire Death (he had previously covered the song ‘A Fine Day To Die’ for the rerelease of Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse). Unlike the original, Peccatum's version begins with slow electronic beats and soft piano work. Ihriel’s voice is beautiful for the beginning of the song. After two and a half minutes of the soft and mellow atmospheres of Ihriel’s singing and the classical piano, the guitars kick in and the familiar Bathory sound is brought to the table. Ihsahn was spot on with the vocals and guitars, keeping the blistering screams and catchy swing of the guitar work. The bass on the track is rather obscure, though it doesn’t take away too much out of the song.
Peccatum soon disbanded after the release of this EP, with Ihriel focusing on her solo project called Star Of Ash and Ihsahn on his self-titled solo project. The only thing that keeps me from saying The Moribund People was the perfect parting gift is the fact that it leaves more to be desired. At only fifteen minutes in length with three terrific songs, you wish for more. I still recommend this and Peccatum’s previous album Lost In Reverie to anyone looking for something dark and unique to add to their metal collection.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic.com)
At and around the time period just before the conception of IX Equilibrium, Emperor frontman Ihsahn found experimental escape through his then new side project, Peccatum. However, upon the release of IX Equilibrium, it was more than apparent that Emperor too were wading in exploratory waters. With absolute authority, Ihsahn furthered his new vision of the band with the innovative Promethius: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise. With an assortment of progressive and black metal passages, this album has been revered as the finest Emperor material ever recorded (depending on who you ask of course).
Emperor has since disbanded and Peccatum has become Ihsahn’s fulltime and only gig. On the band’s latest mini-disc The Moribund People, Ihsahn proves his genius with bleak compositions that are not necessarily flashy, but certainly epic in their own right. Pushing the limits a few notches further, these three arrangements transcend even the most experimental of Emperor creations. The Moribund People is a dark opus that offers a highly orchestrated and eclectic mix of emotional ambiance and desolate black metal. Layer upon layer of eerie atmospheres and soundscapes transform from mellow to maniacal in an unexpected instance, making for timeless songs that can be played over and over and over.
While Ihriel’s (who is also Ihsahn’s wife) beautiful melancholic voice seems to be the most relevant characteristic of Peccatum, the musical arrangements are equally breathtaking. With an array of styles incorporated into each composition, each is its own and has its own persona. The three tracks are undoubtedly individual fragments of a larger enigmatic picture that all fit together in perfect cohesion. Another standout trait of The Moribund People is the fashion in which the EP was produced. During the more tranquil segments, the recording is beyond pristine, but once a blackened phrase chimes in, the sound quality downgrades significantly to capture that rawness that encompasses the genre. This stylistic approach is the first I’ve heard of the kind and really racks up points as far as I’m concerned.
If you have never heard Peccatum, the first thing I must insist is that you forget everything you ever knew about Emperor – THIS IS NOT THEM! If you come into this with preset expectations, you are only bound for disappointment. An open mind is essential to grasp the brilliance that surrounds The Moribund People, and a patient mind may also prove helpful. Fans of Aesma Daeva and Dead Can Dance will definitely benefit looking into this release.