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Ihsahn
After
February 2010
Released: 2010, Candelight Records
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert Williams

Norway's prodigal son has returned with another ambitious and progressive effort on his third full length solo album AFTER. As was the case on his previous album angL Ihsahn is joined by Spiral Architect's Asgeir Mickelson and Lars Nordberg on drums and bass respectively. Also of note is Shining saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby who joins Ihsahn and company on four of the album's eight tracks. Myself admittedly not being accustomed to jazz sax meeting extreme metal; this threw me for a loop the first few times I heard the odd pairing and makes for an interesting "wine and cheese meets severed pigs heads on stakes" gathering.



"A Grave Inversed" features off the wall manic riffing, the aforementioned transient saxophone noodling and as many time changes as we have come to expect from this former emperor. The title track on AFTER is ballad-like. Ihsahn trying his hand at a more calm and serene sounding clean vocals...of course this does not last that long though before progressing into more extreme progressive territory. (Seriously. What did you expect?) "Frozen Lakes On Mars" is the real ass kicker on AFTER; reminding us that Ihsahn is still capable of more aggressive and loathsome musical territories; whereas "Undercurrent" pulls yet again in a softer more soothing sounding direction. Confused yet? AFTER is full of twists and turns; even going in as a listener expecting the unexpected you might find yourself amazed in how this album progresses from one extreme to the next. "Heaven's Black Sea" has some powerful vocal choruses and blazing lead work amongst its pulsing backbeat. "On The Shores" closes AFTER and is a gloomy farewell, almost what you might expect a Louisiana funeral procession to sound like. Cue tempo change. Cue sax noodling. Cue aggro vocals. Ad infinitum.



AFTER everything is said and done; AFTER in a nutshell is a pretty weird record. This will probably serve as an acquired taste for most listeners, that is, unless your favorite artists are in fact Spiral Architect and later Emperor. I can certainly appreciate Ihsahn having the muster to stir things up a bit rather than stagnate and that in itself is a good thing.
Track Listing

1. The Barren Lands
2. A Grave Inversed
3. After
4. Frozen Lakes On Mars
5. Undercurrent
6. Austere
7. Heaven's Black Sea
8. On The Shores

Lineup

Ihsahn - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Asgeir Mickelson - Drums
Lars Koppang Norberg - Bass
Jorgen Munkeby - Saxophone

Other reviews

» Angl
by The Crimson King

» After
by Robert Williams

» After
by Hanntu

» Das Seelenbrechen
by Peter Atkinson

» Das Seelenbrechen
by Metal-Rules.com UK Team


Next review: » Ihsahn - After
Previous review: » Ignivomous - Contragenesis

Ihsahn
After
February 2010
Released: 2010, Candlelight
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Hanntu

As far as I can see, the criticism of Ihsahn’s solo material seems to fall broadly into:

1. It’s not Emperor

2. It’s not black metal

3. It’s wanky pretentious shit

4. It’s gay/boring/annoying

5. It’s objectively poor metal for musical reasons

6. It’s subjectively poor metal for musical reasons

If you hold any of those opinions (except for #6), press Ctrl+F4 (or Cmd+F4 if you’re a Mac man like me) right this instant. It’s pointless for you to read any further. You’re not going to change your mind, and nothing I say will change it for you, and AFTER is not the album that will change your mind for you. Read on if you enjoyed THE ADVERSARY and angL, or if you’re interested to see what Ihsahn’s got up to this time.

I can see many Ihsahn bashers having a fine time with AFTER. The singing in THE ADVERSARY was widely bashed – some people could not handle the blatant King Diamond worship, but I enjoyed it. It gave Ihsahn’s first solo effort a freshness, a spontaneity – and it also implicitly celebrated the freedom Ihsahn finally had from the expectations and confines of the mighty Emperor. The falsettos almost completely vanished in angL, and on AFTER, there are two predominant styles: clean singing, and some truly awful harsh vocals. The clean singing is bearable but there is wayyyy too much of it. Ihsahn crooning for a couple of minutes to add different textures and dynamics to the song – fine. Ihsahn pouring his lovelorn heart out for damn near half the album – not good. But the harsh vocals are impossibly bad. He seems caught between a constricted throaty rasp and a constipated ticklish cough. This is one area which I wish he had kept from his Emperor days. Where is that ferocious snarl and roar from one of black metal’s most compelling (ex-) frontman? At this rate, he’s way behind Chucky in the evil-ness stakes, and better be looking over his shoulder at Barney the purple dinosaur gaining fast on him.

The much-vaunted switch to 8-string guitars has had a noticeable effect on the songwriting – the opening song ‘The Barren Lands’ is a proper stinker with chug-chug stop-start riffing that equals the best of Korn and that other silly band with 9 members in stupid masks. Thankfully the rest of the album doesn’t follow the opener’s lead. But I get the impression that Ihsahn is no longer pushing himself in terms of riff-writing – I have always maintained that he is one of the most underrated and talented guitarists in extreme metal, and he doesn’t showcase that too much on AFTER, which, to me is quite a pity. However, there is a lot of bottom end chunkiness, as you would expect, with more than its fair share of wonderfully picked clean passages and flashy open chords, and surprisingly some ultra-technical death metal flourishes in there that would not be out of place on a Spiral Architect or Atheist album. Lead-wise, there is nothing to shout about, and it certainly seemed to me that the previous two albums seemed more rewarding for the lead guitar aficionado.

I have been saying it for ages, but metal needs more saxophone. Any instrument that is capable of sounding both sultry, melodic, heart-rending etc., and yet also sound like a deranged banshee – example, cello – should immediately be welcomed by the metal world, and I nominate the saxophone. Sigh, the Japanese symphonic black metal band, has a full-time saxophonist as a band member in Dr Mikannibal. Carpathian Forest and Amorphis are the only two other bands that I’ve heard use sax…and of course funk-doom on Cathedral’s ‘The Devil’s Summit’. Use more sax, metal people, goddammit!

The use of saxophone on AFTER is frankly stunning. It adds a dimension so very welcome in your average guitar-drum-bass-voice rock band dynamic. There are various instances where saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby (of Norwegian blackjazz band Shining, NOT the infamous Shining from Sweden) goes absolutely berserk, such as towards the end of ‘A Grave Inversed’, but there are also some parts where the sax simply tones down and does what it does best: mournful, wistful, ‘Mr Jazzman, play me a song. Bartender, whisky, now.’, wailing in a smoky bar. The album’s finest moment is the closer ‘On The Shores’, a 10 minute long, doom-drenched dirge featuring the most orgasmic interplay between 8-string guitar and saxophone I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. Get this album for this opus, if for nothing else – this track alone makes AFTER worth it.

It’s a mixed bag, this album, and it’s one of those albums where:

1. Everyone will have a different opinion of it

2. You need more than a few spins to really get into it.

I like it in parts, having spun it about 10 times already. Perhaps I will hate it in a year’s time, perhaps I will love what I don’t like about it now in another 15-20 listens. I would advise everyone (except the people mentioned in paragraph 1) to give it a try at least.
Track Listing

1. The Barren Lands
2. A Grave Inversed
3. After
4. Frozen Lakes on Mars
5. Undercurrent
6. Austere
7. Heaven's Black Sea
8. On The Shores

Lineup

Ihsahn - guitars, vocals, keyboards
Lars Norberg - bass
Asgeir Mickelson - drums
Jorgen Munkeby - saxophone

Other reviews

» Angl
by The Crimson King

» After
by Robert Williams

» After
by Hanntu

» Das Seelenbrechen
by Peter Atkinson

» Das Seelenbrechen
by Metal-Rules.com UK Team


Next review: » Ihsahn - Angl
Previous review: » Ignivomous - Contragenesis





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