angL is the second solo album from former Emperor singer/guitarist Ihsahn, following the artistic success of The Adversary from a few years back. Though many references to the classic Emperor sound abound throughout angL, don't expect a pummeling black metal affair here, instead Ihsahn masterfully weaves together plenty of styles and textures that utilize elements of thrash, gothic metal, death & black metal, progressive metal, and classic 80's metal. Consistently melodic yet heavier than the debut, angL also sees the rhythm section of former Spiral Architect members Asgeir Mickelson (drums, also current Borknagar member) and Lars Norberg (bass) playing alongside Ihsahn, who handles guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals.
The opening stab "Misanthrope" is one of the few Emperor-ish pieces on the CD, a symphonic black metal number with tons of keys and ripping guitars, Ihsahn's garbled wail leading the charge through five minutes of metal bliss. Superstar guest Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth lends lead vocals on the awesome "Unhealer", a rumbling melodic death metal number with some of Akerfeldt's trademark growls and clean singing that makes this track one of the CD's highlights. Gothic metal fans will love "Emancipation", while "Malediction" is another piece that will please fans of Emperor and Dimmu Borgir, Mickelson's raging blast beats fueling the barrage of sinewy lead guitar lines and orchestral keyboards. Ihsahn lays down plenty of intricate guitar melodies on the dark and gothic "Alchemist", and on "Elevator" the band creates a surging, almost doomy black metal vibe, led by crunchy riffs, lots of atmosphere, and Ihsahn's tortured vocals. The killer finale "Monolith" is a throwback to Prometheus and IX Equilibrium era Emperor, complete with pummeling rhythms, surging guitar work, loads of keys, and Ihsahn's demonic vocal attack, yet extremely melodic and progressive. If you like plenty of variety in your metal, this song has it all- the middle section featuring lilting guitar lines and clean vocals, is just gorgeous.
Better produced and more dynamic than the strong The Adversary, this latest from Ihsahn is nothing short of a triumph on all levels. While many loyal Emperor fans I'm sure have spent plenty of time lamenting the fact that the legendary black metal band might forever be gone and buried, Ihsahn is no doubt carrying the torch at this point. Let's hope he takes his rhythm team, adds a keyboard player and perhaps second guitarist, and takes this act on the road so we can all hear these powerhouse songs in a live setting.
Total Playtime: 47:22