Ihsahn – After

It’s a crime that the dictionary definition of “musically talented” isn’t “Ihsahn”. Vegard Sverre Tveitan, widely known as Ihsahn of Emperor, Peccatum, Hardingrock and many other projects (which are too numerous to be mentioned here), has released his 3rd solo album this year, named After. After presents a new form of the music from his previous two releases, The Adversary and angL, containing all the elements from these two records, but strictly rounded inside, with even more experimentation and originality.

Ihsahn’s experimentation, which began with Emperor’s Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise, is expanded upon greatly in this album. Who would imagine the appearance of saxes in the music of a former Emperor member? Well, it happens, and happens to work out very well. Jørgen Munkeby, a fellow Norwegian and member of Shining, does some sax work on this record and with of Asgeir Mickelson (Borknagar, Spiral Architect) on drums and the addition of Lars Norberg on bass, the tradition of having guest musicians on Ihsahn’s  albums has continued.

When I say The Barren Lands is one of the weakest songs on the album, I mean that in the best way possible. This track is amazing, but the rest of the tracks are even more amazing. I just think they have more to give. A Grave Inversed is probably the only song on the album which is pleasing for strict black metal fans, but I guess that tons of other bands can be a substitute for that. Other than that, After gives us a clear understanding of the term “progressive”. It is most evident in his guitar playing, which is incredibly complex. Undercurrent is the first of two lengthy songs and it’s one of the pillars of this album, the other one being On the Shores. Characterized by a calmer opening with Ihsahn’s clean vocals, it soon becomes a real rocking hit, with blastbeats, dark keyboards and strong guitars. I find second half of the album to be more interesting than the first four songs and the absolute best is left for the very end. The last two pieces, Heavens Black Sea and On the Shores are my favorites. I must, however, praise the very nice proggy keyboard solo in Austere which reminds me a bit of Per Wiberg’s playing in Opeth. Heavens Black Sea is an interesting piece because of its rhythm changes and great guitar solo. Jorgen’s saxes without doubt fit best on this and the following track, which is the aforementioned On the Shores. This song is definitely the climax of the album. At least, I like to think so. It features all of the good elements this album carries. Well done sax parts, guitar playing and vocals with a remarkable bass section.

No matter of how much this album IS interesting, I can’t say it’s my favorite, simply because I find that it doesn’t top the first one. If nothing else, this album shows us very good, well balanced song structure that consists of calm to furious parts fly all over the record.

After all, this album needs to be listened and you will simply like or dislike it. No other options. One is sure, Ihsahn has not disappointed with this record. Still, we have to see what comes after After. (Ed – I apologize for that terrible pun Nick made)

Tracklist:

1. The Barren Lands (5:12)
2. A Grave Inversed (4:25)
3. After (4:47)
4. Frozen Lakes on Mars (5:54)
5. Undercurrent (10:00)
6. Austere (6:16)
7. Heavens Black Sea (6:15)
8. On the Shores (10:12)

Line-up:

* Ihsahn – vocals, guitars, keyboards
* Asgeir Mickelson – drums
* Lars Koppang Norberg – bass
* Jørgen Munkeby – saxophone

Links:

Ihsahn’s official website

Ihsahn @ MySpace

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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