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Ihsahn: After

Continuing the exploratory tradition set forth on his first two solo albums The Adversary and angL, ex-Emperor frontman Ihsahn has delivered his most diverse offering to date with his latest opus entitled After. While he certainly hasn't forgone his symphonic black metal roots as there are still plenty of examples of pure, unbridled aggression, this album feels like more of a breakthrough as he continues to evolve further and put just a bit more distance between himself and the past.

Utterly compelling from first icy, sounding guitar stabs of "The Barren Lands" the track quickly surges forward into a gloriously heavy and melodic epic full of his trademark crisp soaring leads, coupled with the trade off snarling and clean vocal approach. No sooner does this sterling opening number reach its conclusion before the listener is launched headlong into the swirling, densely layered, chaotic maelstrom of "A Grave Inversed", the first track to take advantage of the squonking sax work of Jorgen Munkeby from the Norweigian jazz / metal outfit Shining. While Munkeby's almost free jazz method of playing is used sparingly throughout the album he waves his tapestry of sound flawlessly, and in such a way that it brilliantly compliments the crushingly heavy guitar riffs on "Heaven's Black Sea" as well as adding to the distinctly melancholic aura set forth on the two epics compositions "Undercurrent" and the slamming final anthem "On The Shores".

The stellar contributions of bassist Lars Norberg and drummer Asgeir Mickelson should also be noted as they once again provide the requisite muscular bottom end and deep rhythmic grooves to drive these anthems forward. As for the man himself, well he's taken both his music and performances to a completely new level on After. Vocally he deftly slides back and forth between his harsh, demonic and tortured delivery, with a forlorn clean style on the inward musings of the title track, and the post-black metal feel of "Austere", which highlights a heaping dose of swelling, psychedelic sounding organ playing amid Norberg's, meaty, fretless bass work and the delicate acoustic guitar passages. He also puts the organ to work on "Frozen Lakes On Mars", another track which is chock full of rapidly shifting tempos, soaring leads and complex guitar melodies.

After is nothing short of a masterpiece from beginning to end and it cannot be viewed as anything less than one of the first, if not the first 'must have' metal albums of 2010. The gauntlet has been thrown down and the bar has been set pretty damned high; it will be interesting to see if anyone else is up for the challenge of putting together a collection of music that is as convincing and diverse as this within the metal genre.

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

Added: February 6th 2010
Reviewer: Ryan Sparks
Related Link: Candlelight Records
Hits: 4237
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ihsahn: After
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-02-06 09:19:36
My Score:

Seems that anything Ihsahn touches results in somewhat of a masterpiece. Take a look at his work with the legendary black metal act Emperor-most, if not all their albums are considered classics of the genre, and his material with Peccatum is also held in very high esteem by fans. Since the demise of Emperor, Ihsahn has started a solo career that has resulted in three albums so far; The Adversary, angL, and the new release After. The bonus DVD that comes with After includes an interview with Ihsahn, where he explains how these three albums were intended as a trilogy, and After is the conclusion of that trilogy. Well, as you make your way through this latest solo release, it's clearly evident that After is the strongest and most adventurous of the three. Though there are still plenty of black metal moments here, Ihsahn has injected some free jazz, avant-garde, and prog flavors throughout After. Bringing sax player Jorgen Monkeby on board was a stroke of genius, as his searing jazz lines add an interesting twist amidst all the progressive metal arrangements. Back again are drummer Asgier Mickelson & bassist Lars K. Norberg, and coupled with Monkeby's squonking sax and Ihsahn's formidable guitar and keyboard talents, this is one super line-up.

"A Grave Inversed" is perhaps the one song to point out first that really encompasses all that is great about After. Complete with furious rhythms, intricate guitar patterns, lethal vocal growls, and squealing sax lines, this is extreme metal taken to a new direction. The melodic & atmospheric title track is simply gorgeous, Ihsahn's alluring clean vocals building an intoxicating setting as the song builds and builds to a dramatic climax. Prog fans will love the epic "Undercurrent", a tune with many textures and colors, and Ihsahn's mix of black metal rasps and soaring melodic vocals permeate the aggressive "Heavens Black Sea". Free jazz meets black metal with a dose of prog on the closing number "On the Shores", a real feast for the senses that shows what a visionary Ihsahn truly is.

After is remarkable on many fronts, but the fact that in an era where music, film, and most art forms tend to rely on rehashing old ideas and themes, Ihsahn has come up with a release that truly moves forward and shows progression into some unchartered waters. This is a landmark album that can and should be enjoyed by not just metal fans, but music lovers of all styles and genres. Be sure to check out the deluxe edition of After, which includes a bonus DVD featuring an interview with Ihsahn, behind the scenes recording of the album, and a 40 minute live in concert clip from Norway in early 2009. Though the footage is a one camera shoot and pretty grainy, the sound is good and the band (with Leprous backing up Ihsahn) is on fire.

» Reader Comments:

Ihsahn: After
Posted by ??? on 2010-05-20 11:48:41
My Score:

I must reiterate that the dvd in the bonus edition is PAL encoded and Paula Hogan who manages Candlelight is not honoring the exchange. They claim it is in the mail and never shows. The label will drop you and your requests like a ton of stones after your initial contacts. This should be a lesson to people. The labels and people who run them have become much more transparent now that they do not have so much success hiding who they are. Please, do not throw the 20 dollars towards these people. Your enjoyment is not their concern; only your wallet.

Ihsahn: After
Posted by ??? on 2010-04-12 15:53:02
My Score:

Buyer be aware that the deluxe version with the DVD were shipped to the US with Pal encoded DVD's. Due to their higher FPS, they will not play in most conventional DVD players. It probably will work in your computer, however.

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