After review by Ihsahn

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  • Released: Jan 26, 2010
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.5 (29 votes)
Ihsahn: After
2

Sound — 10
Did you know that Ihsahn is 34 years old? You'd think he would be getting settled into his 40's next to David Vincent and Tom G Warrior considering his elder statesman' status in extreme metal, but no! The man continues to grow and explore, many years after he and his bandmates in Emperor made the album that some would use to define him In The Nightside Eclipse'. By any degree of logic, a solo project is going to be a more accurate representation of the self than any band's output, but Ihsahn's first two solo albums did seem distant, like the real personality was being a bit shy but putting on a brave face nonetheless. On After', though, he's the god-damn life of the party.

Oh man, eight string guitars! Saxophones! Yes, yes. You can picture the internet briefly taking Traced In Air' out of its anus to see what Ihsahn's up to there, but those particular quirks are only contributing to a far grander overhaul. Despite the addition of a low Z string, the guitars are no longer mechanical or callous, they're warm and creamy; a fantastic, prominent bass sound is brought to life by Spiral Architect's Lars K. Norberg and then there's that saxophone, but frankly, there's not that much to say about it. It's simply a natural extension of the album's atmosphere, another equally expressive voice when the man himself isn't singing.

Well and truly distanced from any black metal conventions, After' is a prog rock album that's been written using its creator's musical vocabulary, and woven together with that contextual extremity. Exploring different avenues is the key here; Undercurrent' is Frippian songwriting with its Sunday best on, while A Grave Inversed' is like a gigantic, overexcited puppy - perfectly capable of tearing you limb from limb, but more than content to just sit and lick your face.

Lyrics — 9
angL's uninspiring song titles hardly invited listeners to really get into the lyrics, so it's nice to see this album's mystery and psychedelia doing that job quickly. Thoughtful and well-written as the lyrics are, the real success here is in every word matching the mood of the music in which it appears. Intensity fluctuates in the music and the lyrics move accordingly - Austere' constructs still life while On The Shores' makes it move. High-pitched, almost-melodic wails have been left at the wayside after mixed results in the past, but his clean voice has seldom felt more at home than it does on the title track. The only other thing that's really gone unchanged, actually, is Ihsahn's charred, bitter rasp, which suits his who's your daddy' promo shots quite nicely despite its raw, visceral bite.

Overall Impression — 10
Every year, a previously solid artist will put out an album that's such a step up that you begin to wonder what's been missing before. I've spent the course of this review elaborating on this concept, but After' truly represents metal lodging its sword into the untarnished ground of this decade and declaring itself present, ready to move on. In 2010, Gorgoroth and Immortal will be reaping the rewards of rebirth, Darkthrone will be putting out another reason to prefer the 90's and one Mr. Vikernes will try to reclaim his legacy, but Ihsahn is only now revealing what mastery he is truly capable of. Let's hope the world listens, cause if it does, it's gonna be an interesting year.

34 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Linkerman
    I picked up "angL" because of the collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth, and really liked it. I might give this one a try. Nice review.
    oxymorcide
    Wow, this sounds awesome... I havent listened to any of his previous albums, so must check this out immediately.
    GRiMM94
    Cianyx wrote: Ihsahn looks badass
    That's all you need But really, After is already a contender for best album of the year, in my eyes. Amazing
    eklundh85
    I've been listening to this album non stop since it was released, It is superb, ihsahn is defiantly the master of black metal, one of my favourite albums of this years so far.
    metallifreak77
    I rather enjoyed this review, good work. The album is musical mastery, a must for any real music fan, let alone us metalheads. Great work Ihsahn!
    mtllica
    Excellent, excellent, excellent. I was iffy when I heard about saxophone on some tracks, but everything is absolutely great. 9/10
    Echoplex
    Linkerman wrote: I picked up "angL" because of the collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth, and really liked it. I might give this one a try. Nice review.
    Yeah, "Unhealer" was one of Akerfeldt's best harsh-vocal songs ever.
    ATSbass
    Ihsahn (mostly his Emperor work) is one of my biggest inspirations, right along with Akerfeldt and Alex Webster, yet I feel like an ass because I had no idea he had a new album out! How embarrassing haha! I'm sure it's some fantastic prog metal madness with a little dash of black metal. I'll be sure to pick this up!
    Raven_Flight
    I read this and I listened to it right away. Nice album, very nice album, but I not as good as I imagined with all the things I read here. As you said, the saxophone is a great addition, but I could have been used in a better way. Also, I never liked Ihsahn's black metal vocals, I think he should use them just for Emperor. Anyway, amazing album, amazing guitar work, and amazing clean vocals and harmonies
    RDSElite
    It sounds like a very solid record, but I have to get in to it.. I probably wouldn't buy it though.
    mr_metal121
    been listening to the album non stop for the past few days....I'd never thought saxophone's would sound cool outside of Jazz and maybe "another day" by Dream Theater, but this is amazing, great songwriting, it just all fits, everything from the dark pounding riffs to the brief melodic passages, it just works so well definitely a strong contender for album of the year
    Mahoru
    Ihsahn never ceases to amaze me. His work with both Thou Shalt Suffer and Emperor is great, but his solo work is on a league of its own. The Adversary was great, AngL was even better, but After has simply blown me away. IMO, his best work ever, and one of the best albums I've ever heard. For now, definitely the album of the year for me.
    EpiExplorer
    Gradyogle wrote: I listened to this album yesterday. It's pretty good. But Opeth is supposed to release a new album this year. So, no, it won't be hard for a band to beat this album.
    The hell did you hear that news..? o.o
    Gradyogle
    I listened to this album yesterday. It's pretty good. But Opeth is supposed to release a new album this year. So, no, it won't be hard for a band to beat this album.
    EpiExplorer
    Title track is beautiful.. thats what I love about good prog, the melodies are fugging sublime..
    Shread_6009
    best album of 2010 so far, and probably best of the year. ever since i got anthems to the welkin at dusk, i've loved his music. and he's only 34!
    duncang
    gcahill27 wrote: Symphonic Black metal (even just typing that is embarrasing) is well...
    Lucky for you that this isn't a symphonic black metal album, then.
    Dakkstar
    As far as Ihsahn's solo work has gone, The Adversary was amazing, AngL fell short and After is phenomenal, I was blown away by this album. I can't see any metal band coming out with anything better this year unless it's Mastodon and they would have to make another album on par with Crack The Skye to beat Ihsahn's new work. I am excited and so glad he is still progressing as a musician... Plus his clean vocals are so damn good.
    gcahill27
    Traced in Air was never up my anus, but (opinions aside) it is a ground breaking clever album executed to perfection. Symphonic Black metal (even just typing that is embarrasing) is well... lets just say that 8 string guitars with saxophones can never ever sound cool. @Shredy_Mc_shred yes he really does look like George Micheal
    Taylorm6707
    Amazing record. I know it's only January but it's gonna be very difficult for another band to top this release this year. Just amazing.
    Ekofu
    Linkerman wrote: I picked up "angL" because of the collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth, and really liked it. I might give this one a try. Nice review.
    That song got me hooked on Ihsahn's solo stuff. angL didn't leave my stereo for months. Gotta pick this one up
    Hildesheimer
    A living legend. Never dissapointed with Emperor and continues to produce incredible music as an solo artists. Fantastic record.