Vegard Sverre Tveitan may be known as Ihsahn to the world at large, but on his fourth solo album, Eremita, the co-creator of EMPEROR reveals himself in the type of genuine ways that have you thinking it's time to address him once again as Vegard instead of the chosen pseudonym he lives behind. Eremita is at once a continuation of the extreme prog-metal Ihsahn has written and executed since 2006's The Adversary, but it also revels in tones and moods suitable for an intense chat about life and its complexities, one that doesn't centre around Norway's winter of discontent '92 or whether adhering to true/kult norms makes you an individual or just another conformist, despite the anti-fashion black metal is so quick to proclaim allegiance to. Eremita is still an extreme metal album no doubt, but its emphasis on creativity and expansion into different realms is to be commended, and it seems that Vegard is entirely intent on expressing the scopes and landscapes that exist in his mind and his mind only (which reminds one of VOIVOD's Piggy, who did much the same thing). That said, the saxophone that is so prominent on Eremita is an intense distraction, the instrument either getting in the way of Eremita's inherent statement of purpose or, simply, sounding entirely out of place, sort of like you've got two radio stations fighting for the same dial when you've driven too far out of the city limits (though I realise that experience will soon be an obsolete one, given the digital world we find ourselves within). And, speaking of sounding out of place, Eremita's insistence on injecting flairs of DREAM THEATER circa Images and Words is a downfall as well, that particular record not having aged well and, worse, having inspired a legion who still, in 2012, worship at the altar of Portnoy and Petrucci when writing what are supposed to be their own records. That said, Eremita highlight 'The Paranoid' might be the best thing Vegard has written since the Emperor catalogue, and its interesting juxtaposition of black metal and pure pop chorus is a feat that one can admire as the apex of Vegard's (and Ihsahn's) vision for this solo work. In that vein, 'Arrival' is also impressive, as its multifaceted nature displays Eremita's ambition, while 'Something Out There''s emphasis on the black metal of old is a guilty pleasure for those who still fondly recall their first exposure to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk's 'With Strength I Burn'. Eremita in its totality is an interesting but flawed record and that might be exactly the point: if Vegard is showing us he's human after all, what is more human than to be flawed?