Released: Jan 26, 2010
Genre: Progressive Metal, Black Metal
Label: Candlelight Records
Number Of Tracks: 8
"After" truly represents metal lodging its sword into the untarnished ground of this decade and declaring itself present, ready to move on.
AfterFeatured review by: UG Team, on january 27, 2010 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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'sLars 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. // 10
Lyrics: 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. // 9
Overall Impression: 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. // 10
optisailor2002, on june 10, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Ihsahn's latest effort, After is a make or break affair for the long term die hard fan. While this album has gotten heavier with lots of heavy palm muting and crushing tone, it has gotten more experiemntal as well, with lots of saxophone playing included in the songs. Ihsahn introduces the utilisation of an 8-string guitar for the recording of this album, making the overall sound of the album even heavier than before. // 9
Lyrics: The opener, The Barren Lands start off with what sounds like a riff taken off the previous albums, reminding listeners where Ihsahn left off in the first 2 instalments of this trilogy, also showcasing his influences. There are even Dream Theater moments in the song between the 2 and 3 minute mark!. A Grave Inversed is a good example of Ihsahn showing his ecleptic side of his musical ingenuity. Mixing heavy guitarring with erratic saxophones playing in the background, coupled with the furious drumming, it can either make a listener be attracted or be perplexed by the weird contrasting sounds. Note the last few minutes where the saxophone commands the listener's attention with lots of saxophone (shall I say, riffing?) parts. Weird? This is but the beginning.
The title track gives the listener a break at the beginning of the song, with the signature sound that Ihsahn has created for himself in previous albums, Adversary and angL, with a heavy atmosphere which gives way to the heaviness that is so prominent on this album halfway through the song. The soothing chorus with Ihsahn's clean vocals with the keyboards towards the end of the song then slows to an acoustic ending to a track that displays what Ihsahn's music is all about. Frozen Lake on Mars is perhaps one of the more straightforward and heavier numbers, all the while keeping the erratic time signature.
Undercurrent, the 2nd longest track on the album clocking in at 10 minutes. Starting off with an acoustic passage with clean vocals and a nice bass line in the background, it displays Ihsahn's appreciation for progressive rock and his influences. At around the 3:00 mark, a foreboding riff in the background breaks the calm that has been set by the introduction before breaking into a full-fledged saxophone solo at the 4:15 mark, which heightens the tension in the music before breaking into the next track, Austere. Just as you think that Austere is going to be a filler track with its soft melodies, soft instrumentation and clean vocals, Ihsahn once again throws listeners a curveball by again including a 70s prog influenced/Per Wiberg-sounding (don't ask me why him, it just sounds like something that he does!) keyboard solo in the middle of the track followed some clean guitar playing, an apt introduction to the next track indeed. The technical show-off continues throughout the next track, Heaven's Black Sea, with extended guitar and saxophone solos.
The final track, which is the other epic on this album, starts off with a riff taken from the previous opus on the album, Undercurrent. The saxophone really shines on this track, more often than not taking the role of the lead instrument all the way to the end of the track. The track ends with the same riff that started off the track, only slower and more melancholic, marking the end of a trilogy that started with 2006's Adversary. // 9
Overall Impression: Fans of Ihsahn's work in Emperor and black metal be prepared to be disappointed. This album is a heavily progressive metal influenced work and there is barely, if any, black metal influences present besides Ihsahn's trademark shrieking. This album shows Ihsahn's ability to mix his various influences into one big melting pot and come up with something that showcases his influences yet not be a clone of them. My only gripes are the shortage of guitar solos on the album, and at times the buildup to the climax can take too long, which could get slightly boring. // 8