Few artists in modern heavy music have created such an extraordinary and unique body of work as Ihsahn. Having refined and redefined black metal with the now legendary Emperor, Norway’s foremost musical extremist has spent the last decade establishing himself as a fearless and wildly idiosyncratic solo artist, but even by his own remarkable standards, Ihsahn’s fifth solo album Das Seelenbrechen is a bold and mind-blowing step into the unknown. In contrast to the adventurous progressive shades and saxophone augmentations of his last two albums – After (2009) and Eremita (2011) – this latest masterpiece exists in an entirely unfamiliar sonic world, as Ihsahn draws upon his most esoteric influences, embraces the spirit of the avant-garde and creates a sonic tapestry like no other. Comprising ten vivid but disparate explorations in sound that range from bittersweet electronica to deranged and feral improvisation, Das Seelenbrechen is every bit as dark and destructive as the artist’s previous work, but this is a far more disorientating and disturbing creation than anything he has attempted in the past. From the obtuse structures and mutant riffing of opener Hiber and the staccato grooves of NaCl through to the brooding electro balladry of Pulse, the churning, amorphous dissonance of Tacit 2 and the simply terrifying sonic sprawl of the closing See, this is the sound of a ferocious talent plunging into ominous new waters with nothing but the unerring pursuit of creative purity in mind. Recorded at his own studio in Norway in collaboration with drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen (also of prog crew Leprous), Das Seelenbrechen eschews traditional metal instrumentation in favour of a limitless textural landscape that evokes the freewheeling spirit of artists like Diamanda Galas and Scott Walker, while remaining firmly rooted in the pitch-black well of inspiration that first informed Ihsahn’s work back in the Emperor days. There is nothing quite like this album and there is no one quite like Ihsahn. Listen without prejudice and expect to be taken on a bewildering journey through the outer limits of heaviness.