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Ihsahn: The Adversary

The Adversary is the new and long awaited solo album from Ihsahn, the former vocalist/lead guitarist for seminal black metal legends Emperor. All the music and lyrics have been written by Ihsahn, who also played all the instruments except drums, which were handled by Asgeir Mickelson (Borknagar, Spiral Architect). The Adversary is a surprisingly symphonic and at times classical/progressive album, but fret not, there's plenty of aggressive black metal to be found here as well. Overall the scope is pretty epic in nature, the production excellent, and the music intoxicating.

"Invocation" kicks things off in grand fashion, a song that relies just as much on symphonic black metal as it does 70's inspired prog rock. Clean and black vocals soar through the mix, as do keyboards, fluid guitar leads and pounding riffs, and Mickelson's gymnastic drum attack. The melodic and orchestral "Called by the Fire" follows, a catchy rocker that recalls 80's Metallica and Mercyful Fate, with astounding lead vocal styles from Ihsahn and crashing blast beats from Mickelson. Fans of fluid and intricate lead guitar work will love the axe- masters stuff on this one, as well as the complex "Citizen", a blistering mix of caustic guitar riffs, blast beats, keyboards, and growling vocals, a song very much in line with classic Emperor or current Dimmu Borgir.

Dreamy prog rock can be heard on "Homecoming", a real moody piece with plenty of crazy time changes and unison guitar/keyboard solos. This segues into the haunting and creepy "Astera Ton Proinon", a song that is kind of like a combination of early ELO and Mercyful Fate, which is then followed by the intense & symphonic "Panem Et Circenses". Ihsahn pulls out all the prog-metal stops on this one, with blazing arrangements of keyboards and guitar, as well as Asgeir's relentless drum work. Of note on this one are the intricate guitar melodies and soaring keyboards, giving the song a perfect balance of prog metal riffery and black metal atmosphere. The next two tracks, "And He Shall Walk In Empty Places" and "Will You Will Love Me Now?" are fast paced symphonic black metal numbers, with blazing tremelo picked guitar riffs, manic drums, orchestral keyboards, and Ihsahn's menacing growls. Fans of Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar, Old Man's Child, Children of Bodom, and Dragonlord will love these tunes, and Emperor fans will rejoice! The final number, the epic "The Pain is Still Mine", is a majestic mix of prog-rock and symphonic black metal, with the keyboards taking the lead alongside pained clean vocals and emotional guitar melodies. Check out the many classically inspired arrangements and solos on this one, which are truly breathtaking.

Candlelight Records has not one but two superb metal releases coming out around the same time, Enslaved's RUUD and Ihsahn's The Adversary. Both are incredible masterpieces of symphonic and progressive black metal that are sure to stand the test of time. While many long time Emperor fans are getting set to catch the band on their farewell tour, fear not, Ihsahn will carry on, and carry on triumphantly, if The Adversary is any indication.

Track Listing
1. Invocation
2. Called by the Fire
3. Citizen
4. Homecoming
5. Astera Ton Proinon
6. Panem Et Circenses
7. And He Shall Walk In Empty Places
8. Will You Will Love Me Now?
9. The Pain is Still Mine

Added: September 21st 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: More Information
Hits: 5310
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ihsahn: The Adversary
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-21 15:26:30
My Score:

A solo album in the truest sense of the word, The Adversary has Ihsahn playing all instruments except the drums and doing all kinds of vocals from his harrowing deep growls to incredibly grim screams and fantastic clean vocals. Unlike the earlier Emperor material such as In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, Ihsahn's vocals are upfront on The Adversary as with Peccatum. Not to say the guitar work is subdued here, but the vocals are certainly not behind the guitars as on his early works. Though all Emperor material is more violent and wicked than this disc, The Adversary is by far his most progressive work. Never before did he explore more creative rhyhmic tangents, blending a multitude of vocal and musical styles, and providing such intense vocal harmonies.

It is impossible not to mention Emperor when reviewing The Adversary. After all, the songwriter of both this band and solo record is the same musical soul. Those who are disappointed with this album are the ones who were expecting him to break new ground and re-invent the wheel. I doubt that was Ihsahn's goal upon writing these songs to begin with. The material presented here borrows from all of his musical phases. There are clear nods to his earlier Emperor material where crushing guitars blend with hypnotic keyboards and maniacal screams on "Invocation", a great album opener. The tremelo picking on this piece is nothing short of stellar, especially during the part they disappear under a soaring synth motif. Complete with enchanting acoustic passages and also Ihsahn's expressive clean voice, this is easily one of the album's best songs.

Besides the heavy and punishing material, there are also references to his past with Peccatum and Prometheus meets IX Equilibrium period Emperor as well as his main influences from way back. All of this is kept within a wide spectrum of avant-garde style progressive signature; thus calling the album merely "black metal" wouldn't do it justice. There is simply more to it. Remarkable diversity is achieved on the unexpectedly melodic "Called by the Fire", a song that sees Ihsahn paying a little tribute to the great King Diamond using his unique falsettos atop spattering cymbals and energetic guitar rhythms. This is arguably Ihsahn's most melodic vocal performance in his career, where each line becomes instantly memorable, as he alternates between layered clean harmonies and effective shrieks. There is a fantastic guitar solo in the climax of the piece as well. "Citizen" recalls Arcturus, for its use of non-standard metal ideas. Following fast, tremelo guitars and powerful blast beats from Asgeir Mickelson, Ihsahn delves into a beautiful piano solo before ripping screams are filtered through chunky guitar harmonies.

The guitar tone on the album is amazing. Though a bit dry from a production standpoint, it serves its purpose perfectly. On "Homecoming", sung by Ulver's Garm with his incredible mellow voice, the clean guitar riffs are indelible. The tone is thick and intense, surrounded by ominous keyboards and sporadic bass lines. This song is written to perfection and far more progressive than anything Ihsahn has written before. "Astera Ton Proinon" and the final track "Pain Is Still Mine" both boast classical explorations that recall the heavier parts of Peccatum, with the former being formulated by soothing acoustic guitars, choir effects, and vocals that change from calm, clean vocals to tortured screams. "Pain Is Still Mine", on the other hand, contains more elaborate piano work, with harrowing whispers and cinematic elements lending it a theatrical vibe, much like Arcturus' Sideshow Symphonies.

Spiral Architect's Asgeir Mickelson proves once again that he is Norway's best drummer. His fills on the Emperor-like "And He Shall Walk in Empty Places" add to the song's intensity, particularly because of Ihsahn's unusually brutal growls and screams. "Panem et Circenses" also offsets corrosive, blackened thrash parts a la Mercyful Fate, juxtaposing blazing classical synths and pulverizing fretwork. Both tracks are masterfully arranged and recorded.

One of the most creative and important names of 90's black metal, Emperor's Ihsahn, has released a more than satisfying first solo album, which, in many ways, is a testimony to his greatness. I am absolutely in awe with this disc. Most, if not all, Emperor fans should love this disc.

» Reader Comments:

Ihsahn: The Adversary
Posted by on 2008-03-10 13:38:10
My Score:

you misspelled "Ruun"

Ihsahn: The Adversary
Posted by Hugh Dark on 2007-05-14 15:24:18
My Score:

This cd is one of the best of last year. The songwriting and structure are impeccable. My only gripe is with the production. The guitar tone is not good. It is thin, dry and suffocated. It needs to be bigger and allowed to roam. The drum sound is not very good either. In fact, it sounds rather wooden, but the playing is extremely tasteful. He is still experimenting with a pseudo queen sound and he needs to let that go as far as production. As for the music, he should just keep pushing as far outward as he can go; which would be miles and miles of terrain. This is a guy with serious depth and he does not really belong in metal, but the genre is lucky to still have his contributions. Buy this one!

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