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Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Norway

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Ihsahn biography
Ihsahn (real name Vegard Sverre Tveitan) was born in 1975 in Notodden, Norway. He is a talented Norwegian composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, infamous for his work with the definitive Black Metal/Extreme Symponic group EMPEROR and the Avant-Garde project PECCATUM, and a solo artist since 2006.

Vegard took up the piano when he was seven, and started playing the guitar at the age of ten. Having met an adherent in Tomas Haugen, better known as Samoth, Ihsahn formed a Death Metal group Thou Shalt Suffer, where they recorded two demos. Ihsahn would later come back to the project in 2000 in order to record a neo-classical/ambient album "Somnium" under its name. Ihsahn's most commercially successful work remains with EMPEROR, with which he defined the sound of the second wave of Black Metal in such classics as "In the Nightside Eclipse" and "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk". EMPEROR's latest releases, particularly the swan song "Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise", lean towards a more progressive direction (the songwriting for the last album was entirely done by Ihsahn). EMPEROR ceased to exist in 2001 when the members decided to break up and concentrate on other projects. This allowed Ihsahn to explore his experimental tendencies more freely in the Avant-Garde group PECCATUM, which he formed with his wife Heidi Tveitan (known as Ihriel). Together the two have recorded three full-length albums and two EPs, "Lost in Reverie" being their most critically acclaimed effort.

As PECCATUM split up in March, 2006, Ihsahn started to work on his first solo album "The Adversary", the release of which was initially mentioned not long after EMPEROR dissolved. All of the instruments were masterfully played by the man himself, aside from drums, for which purpose Ihsahn hired the virtuoso Asgeir Mickelson (BORKNAGAR, SPIRAL ARCHITECT). In addition, the vocals on the track "Homecoming" are done by by Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg known for his work with ARCTURUS and ULVER.

"The Adversary" combines influences from progressive rock, classical and heavy metal, as well as Tveitan's rich experience in the Black Metal field, and is a all-around mature effort. The album is recommended to all fans of Extreme Progressive Metal. Ihsahn currently considers writing a follow-up to the album, as well as finding musicians to reproduce the songs in a live setting.

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After [2 LP][Transparent]After [2 LP][Transparent]
Spinefarm 2017
$33.87 (used)
Spinefarm 2016
Audio CD$10.83
$11.17 (used)
Eremita [2 LP][ White]Eremita [2 LP][ White]
Spinefarm 2017
$33.87 (used)
The Adversary [LP][Transparent Red]The Adversary [LP][Transparent Red]
Spinefarm 2017
$26.19 (used)
Spinefarm 2017
Audio CD$9.16
$9.44 (used)
Audio CD$11.67
$5.39 (used)
Das SeelenbrechenDas Seelenbrechen
Spinefarm 2017
Audio CD$9.23
$9.44 (used)
Das Seelenbrechen by Ihsahn (2013-11-04)Das Seelenbrechen by Ihsahn (2013-11-04)
Audio CD$38.52
Angl by Ihsahn (2008-05-27)Angl by Ihsahn (2008-05-27)
Audio CD$28.19
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IHSAHN discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

IHSAHN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.10 | 91 ratings
The Adversary
3.80 | 76 ratings
3.98 | 192 ratings
3.72 | 65 ratings
4.00 | 30 ratings
Das Seelenbrechen
3.88 | 79 ratings

IHSAHN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

IHSAHN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

5.00 | 1 ratings

IHSAHN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

IHSAHN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.25 | 5 ratings
4.13 | 5 ratings
4.33 | 3 ratings
4.50 | 2 ratings

IHSAHN Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Arktis by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.88 | 79 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Arktis." is the 6th full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive extreme metal artist Ihsahn. The album was released through Candlelight Records in March 2016. Itīs the successor to "Das Seelenbrechen" from 2013. Ihsahn is of course known for his time with groundbreaking Norwegian black metal act Emperor, but his solo career is by now also quite prolific. On "Arktis." Ihsahn handles vocals, bass, guitars, and keyboards, while the drums are played by session drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen (Shining). Andersenīs bandmate from Shining, Jørgen Munkeby, also makes a guest appearance on saxophone on the track "Crooked Red Line". Matt Heafy (Trivium) and Einar Solberg (Leprous) make a couple of guest vocal appearances. This is still predominantly a solo effort by Ihsahn though, but thatīs how itīs been since day one of his solo career.

The material on "Arktis." can overall be described as progressive extreme metal, but itīs always hard to give an adequate description of Ihsahnīs music, because he is so eclectic. The music features loads of progressive rock influences, but also thrash, death, black, and traditional heavy metal influences, as well as some nods toward avant garde and electronic music. It may sound like it could be a messy style mishmash, but Ihsahn is a more skilled composer and performer than most, and he is able to combine his many influences into a well sounding whole.

The material on the 10 track, 48:07 minutes long album are diverse in style and if you think you know what youīre in for after listening to the two opening tracks "Disassembled" and "Mass Darkness", youīre in for a surprise. Ihsahn continues to twist and turn conventions throughout the album, but no track seems out of place or disrupts the flow of the album, and thatīs regardless of tracks like "Until I Too Dissolve", "Crooked Red Line", and "Celestial Violence", sticking out quite a bit. The latter is a brilliant and incredibly beautiful epic track, which closes the album, while the saxophone on "Crooked Red Line" makes that track stand out. "Until I Too Dissolve" stands out too as it features a a strong traditional heavy metal riff, which brings Van Halen to mind.

"Arktis." is very well produced. The sound production is clear, powerful, and detailed. Itīs a production which brings out the best in the layered and and intricate musical compositions. The musicianship is as always on an incredibly high level. Ihsahn is not only a strong vocalist who can sing both extreme metal vocals and clean vocals with conviction and passion, but also a skilled instrumentalist, who handles all instruments with seamless ease. The guest musicians also bring a lot to the album, to further enhance the listening experience.

Upon conclusion "Arktis." is another high quality release by Ihsahn, where he once more shows the world his musical genius. Fans of progressive extreme metal featuring strong melodic choruses, epic atmospheres, a restrained experimental approach (in other words not overtly avant garde in nature, although still occasionally experimental) and a generally adventurous and diverse approach to songwriting should find a lot to enjoy here. I always recommend fans of Opeth to listen to Ihsahn if they donīt already known him, but in truth Opeth is only a reference because they have a similar progressive songwriting approach and a similar extreme metal meets strong melodic sensibilities way of creating music, because Ihsahnīs music is generally quite an unique listen. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

 Arktis by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.88 | 79 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Blackwater Floyd

5 stars Great riffs, dark and beautiful melodies, eerie atmosphere, what more is there to ask? I've had Ihsahn on my radar for quite some time, even back in 2006 when I was just getting into metal (via DT), but knowing he came from that infamous Norwegian early 90's black metal scene, his music didn't call to me, so I never got around to listen to any of his solo work.

Recently, having acquired some more "extreme metal" tastes (such as Opeth, Meshuggah, Death, Mastodon, Cynic, Leprous), I decided to give his music a little go. First I listened to his early solo work, but those few songs I heard where just enough for me; so I moved to Das Seelenbrechen and was pleasantly surprised by the complexity and the emotion of his songs. Didn't listen to the whole thing though, in fear that black metal style tunes would come up and "ruin it" for me. Einar Solberg's presence on this record and Ihsahn's collaborations with Leprous is what ultimately brought me to "Arktis".

I never really liked black metal per se, but some of it's elements present in other genres of metal (little blast beats here and there in prog metal for instance; growls) seem to be appealing. That's what makes Arktis such a good album, it doesn't rely on some formula to work on so many levels; each song is unique. There's brilliant musicianship throughout the eleven tracks, but the thing that got me was, the context. This "unsettling" feeling I got when I finished listening to it, brought me the sensation of actually being in the north, aimlessly walking on the ice and snow. The bitter cold, the whiteness... Progressive doesn't mean technical, and though "Arktis" is no stranger to technical prowess, it certainly does not need it to be as compelling as it is.

2016 is getting a lot better now! This is a solid five star album, any prog fan should give it a go.

 Das Seelenbrechen by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.00 | 30 ratings

Das Seelenbrechen
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Das Seelenbrechen" is the 5th full-length studio album by Norwegian extreme progressive metal artist Ihsahn (Real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan). The album was released through Candlelight Records in October 2013. Ihsahn is best known as the frontman/guitarist in Emperor, but has since the split-up of that band busied himself, first with Peccatum (with his wife Ihriel (real name Heidi S. Tveitan)), and then with his solo act Ihsahn.

The music on "Das Seelenbrechen" is best described as extreme progressive metal, even though it features elements from both noise/drone, avant garde, ambient, black metal and other musical genres too. Ihsahn creates quite a unique sound although I do hear nods toward artists like Opeth and Devin Townsend here and there. Especially the clean vocal sections on the album lead my thoughts toward the former mentioned, while the occasional layered "wall of sound" leads my thoughts toward the latter mentioned.

"Das Seelenbrechen" is a pretty varied release with both beautiful melodic material like "Pulse" and "NaCl" (which also features an irresistably charming hard rocking riff), progressive extreme metal tracks like "Regen" (which is an absolutely fantastic track) and "Hiber", a Pink Floyd influenced track in "M", and more experimental material like "Tacit 2" and "See". If you are not ready for the eclectic songwriting approach, I can see a few listeners getting dissappointed somewhere along the way. The first four tracks on "Das Seelenbrechen" are probably the most easily digestable material on the album, while the latter half of the album is more in experimental mode.

The sound production is clear, powerful and professional sounding and the musicianship is outstanding. Ihsahn plays and sings everything on the album except for the drums which are played by Tobias Ornes Andersen. Ihriel provides some choir vocals. Itīs not surprising that "Das Seelenbrechen" is of a very high standard on all parameters, because Ihsahn has always been an incredibly talented musician and composer. His eclectic musical style might not be to every listenerīs liking, but itīs apparent that he does exactly what he feels for and you gotta respect that. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

 After by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.98 | 192 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ihsahn's post-Emperor projects have never quite gained the prominence of the mighty Emperor, but albums like After might be worth a reappraisal if you happen to like the more progressive direction his work has taken. As with much of his post-Emperor work, it's a mixture of progressive metal and black metal influences, and I'd say it's more on the prog metal side of the equation than black metal (blackened prog metal rather than progressive black metal), with really only the vocals steering towards a more black metal direction a lot of the time. Jørgen Munkeby of Shining's saxophone is an unexpected addition - for better or worse, the mighty sax hasn't had much of a presence in metal - but a welcome one. Still, I can't help but think that as far as experimental progressive metal with a black metal aesthetic goes, both Shining and Ihsahn's unleashed apprentices in Leprous kind of outshine this.
 Eremita by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.72 | 65 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by EatThatPhonebook
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 6/10

Ihsahn's Most Progressive Effort Yet.

"Eremita" is Ihsahn's fourth full length studio album, the follow-up to "After". Ihsahn is most known for being the vocalist and guitarist of legendary Norwegian Black Metal band Emperor; his major characteristic is his "pig squeal" shriek, one of the most distinct, unique and rare type of vocals in Black Metal. They make him stand out from all other vocalists of the genre. But after Emperor, Ihsahn on his own had started a decent solo career, in which he got more and more Progressive in his compositions. "Eremita" represents his most Progressive point, although there still is a great chunk of Black Metal influences.

Once again, Ihsahn surrounds his music with an incredible production, much cleaner and polished than some of his previous works, and with incredible musicians: he himself does a terrific job in every track, with both the shrieks and the clean vocals. But in general, letting the songs flow one by one, it's noticeable that something is missing in "Eremita". The songs are a bit too cold, too calculated in their Progressiveness, and most importantly, not that catchy or memorable, with a few great exceptions like the second track, "The Paranoid", or the sixth one, "Something Out There". Other songs are simply appreciable for their intelligence and structure, like "the Eagle and The Snake", "The Grave" and "Departure".

In Ihsahn's work, the most noticeable trademark (other than the voice) is the frequent use of saxophone, usually there to give a touch of madness, or some genuine cacophony. On "Eremita" this instrument is extremely well-used and placed, and gives that nice feeling of diversity. Ihsahn also surrounds himself with a few, precious guest musicians: Eidar Soldberg from Norwegian band Leprous gives a great performance on the opening track, and Devin Townsend puts in the song "Introspection" so much of his character, and Jeff Loomis does some great guitar playing and solos on "The Eagle and The Snake". But when Ihsahn plays by himself, it's evident that everything is toned down quality-wise: as if Ihsahn had the need to have a special guest's support, because without anyone he would wander almost shapelessly across the album. It would explain why he himself is so present as a guest musician in so many other albums.

Although the songs are Prog-oriented, and a certain level of maturity can be felt, Ihsahn doesn't seem to have put the heart in some of these compositions, and it is frequent that they simply pass by without lingering in the listener's head. Maybe, Ihsahn is more of a perfect guest star character, than a full-time songwriter.

 Eremita by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.72 | 65 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Puppies On Acid

4 stars Yet another great release from Ihsahn, in my opinion. This is Progressive metal at one of its finest moments. The first couple tracks pretty much hit you at full throttle, but there is much variety to be found throughout the album. Plus guest spots from Einer Solberg of Leprous, Devin Townsend, and even Jeff Loomis. The only thing I can really say against it, like all Ihsahn albums, is Ihsahn's vocals can get a little annoying at times. Having said all that, I don't think it is quite as good as the previous album, but it comes pretty damn close.
 Eremita by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.72 | 65 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Eremita' - Ihsahn (6/10)

Regardless of where Ihsahn goes with his music, it's doubtful subsequent albums will escape comparisons with his flagship work in the legendary Emperor.Although most musicians who choose to go to 'solo' route end up dwarfed by their younger selves, Ihsahn has continued evolving his sound, inching towards prog rock with each album. Many don't share my enthusiasm with Ihsahn's solo material, but his album trilogy of "The Adversary", "Angl", and "After" make up some of the fiercest progressive metal to come out in the past decade. In other words, I had big expectations for "Eremita"; an album I hoped would follow up on the streak of excellence. While the musicianship and scale of the previous albums is still here, "Eremita" does not strike me the same way his earlier work did, even after many devoted listens. The sound of Ihsahn is here in full, but there's something missing that keeps it from truly taking flight.

Anyone who heard 2010's "After" will not be surprised to hear that Ihsahn has more or less tossed out the black metal aesthetic in his music. Although his trademark rasp is still here, progressive metal is the lifeforce on "Eremita". Technical guitar riffs and symphonic overtones are paired with an even greater presence of soft clean vocals. At no time before has Ihsahn so visibly aligned himself with prog. Whether it's time signature-bending organ licks or a five minute-plus saxophone solo, there's the sense that Ihsahn is becoming more liberated with trying new things in his music. Even so, the dark atmosphere has not been forgotten entirely. The ultra-gloomy "The Grave" takes its time to paint a grizzly picture befitting its title.

My first experience with Ihsahn was his Mikael Akerfeldt collaboration on the song "Unhealer" (from his second record "Angl"), so it's pretty cool to hear him bringing other guests into the fold. Among these, Einar Solberg- the lead vocalist for Ihsahn's touring band Leprous, not to mention one of my favourite singers- delivers his trademark belt on the opener "Arrival". Nevermore guitar hero Jeff Loomis throws in a guitar solo, and- last, but not least, Devin Townsend pays Ihsahn back for his cameo on "Deconstruction" and offers some of his unique charm to the spacey "Introspection". Although Loomis' solo does not really stand out in the midst of Ihsahn's brilliant guitar work, the vocal performances are excellent. Ihsahn's vocals here are on a general par with what he has done over the past few albums, although there's certainly an impression that he isn't straining to push himself further than he's already gone before. This is an impression I get with most aspects of "Eremita".

"Eremita" is certainly not bad, but for the first time, I find myself feeling decidedly underwhelmed by what Ihsahn has done here. Looking back on his trilogy, each of those albums had a unique feel to it. "The Adversary" was very symphonic, "Angl" was fierce and to-the-point, and "After" was the leap into full fledged prog metal. With "Eremita", there's certainly a shift in an increasingly progressive direction, but I cannot help but feel that this album is a sequel to the themes explored on "After", rather than something truly fresh. I might even go as far as to say that "Eremita" feels like a collection of b-sides that didn't make it onto "After". The production and performance are all up to par, but "Eremita" seems to lack a personal identity of its own. By the end of "Departure" and period of silence after the album's over, there's a sense of disappointment, and it only seemed to grow with each listen.

Besides its lack of unique identity, I cannot truly pinpoint where "Eremita" is undercut. As I've said, it's got some fantastic musicianship and a sense of real intelligence to it. Almost as if Ihsahn's genius has brickwalled, "Eremita" comes out feeling like a decaffeinated version of what he has done in the past. It's a tightly-knit, enjoyable record, but I think I will remember this album as one that didn't quite meet the expectations I had for it.

 Eremita by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.72 | 65 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by colorofmoney91
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On Eremita, Ihsahn basically improves all of the qualities that made After such a great progressive metal record.

In the vast realm of progressive metal, very few are as interesting as Ihsahn who's been constantly progressing his compositional style since he debuted with the infamous Emperor, and it's been great watching him get better and better. All of those years of tinkering with composition has led to his fourth album, Eremita.

Ihsahn's trademark high-pitched raspy vocals and warm clean singing, and his recently employed 8-string guitar work, are all present here as they were on After, but the improvement lies in each song's structure (which has overall become more progressive) and infectious, emotional, melancholic melodies. Also, where the previous album slowed down considerably and become more relaxed at around the middle portion onward, leaving the heavier tracks at the beginning, Eremita balances the fast and heavy with the slow and beautiful quite well, constantly shifting and not staying stagnant in one particular feel while still remaining coherent.

Like with After, Norwegian composer, sax-innovator Jorgen Munkeby is featured periodically on this album with either smooth, beautiful sax melodies or harsh avant-jazz noodling, both of which work as well as they did before. In addition, eclectic metal mastermind Devin Townsend makes a vocal appearance as does the amazing Leprous vocalist Einar Soldberg, while guitarist Jeff Loomis lends his talent to lead guitar on one song. Though these guest appearances are few and far between, they do have an interesting impact on the music and ultimately makes for a slightly more diverse album than would be otherwise.

Each song has at least one standout melody, multiple interesting riffs, and eclectic composition style overall. "The Paranoid" is one of the more consistently heavy songs and has a slightly cheesy chorus ("the shame feeds the anger feeds the shame feeds the anger feeds the shame"?) but after the initial kitschiness wears off, it becomes quite infectious and will be repeating itself in your head all day. "The Eagle and the Snake" is a nine-minute epic that constantly shifts from being slow and rhythmic to emotional to fast and heavy, and is really a chore to dissect mentally but is well worth the effort. "Catharsis", a personal favorite, is just one constant eclectic and atmospheric crescendo that builds up to an amazing soft vocal melody. The second epic, "The Grave", is absolutely crushingly heavy and slow funeral dirge, featuring constant avant sax improvisations by Jorgen Munkeby, and there really isn't anything more to say about it other than it is really damn heavy, bordering on doom metal.

If you've been a fan of Ihsahn up to this point, you'll most likely enjoy Emerita quite a bit as well. I'd personally consider this album to be After 2.0, because of the increased progressive elements and overall stylistic intuition. If you've not checked out anything by this artist but enjoy eclectic progressive metal with a thick trace of blackness, you'd best do yourself a favor and pick up Eremita, because it has "Best of 2011" potential written all over it.

 The Adversary by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.10 | 91 ratings

The Adversary
Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 'The Adversary' - Ihsahn (9/10)

After an illustrious and now-legendary tenure with symphonic black metal pioneers Emperor, former frontman Ihsahn was thirsting for something different. For quite some time now, Emperor had virtually been an Ihsahn solo project in itself, but he wanted to do something other than the black metal that he had become so well-known for. Using his own pseudonym as the title for his new project, the new face of Ihsahn's music is an extreme progressive metal symphony. 'The Adversary' is not so far from the music of Emperor before they split up, but it has certainly been refined; refined to a point where some black metal fans may declare that Ihsahn has gone soft on them, but also opens up the man to an entirely new realm of possibilities. Now with a successful solo career established, it is clear that this was a good decision for Ihsahn. 'The Adversary' is a masterful display of edgy symphonic heavy metal, as well as a brilliant reinvention of one of metal's most enduring figures.

Mr. Tveitan (Ihsahn) has branched out from black metal, but there are still clear signs of his heritage within that genre. Tremolo picking, blastbeats, and his ever-distinctive vocal rasp are in full play here. That is only an aspect of the sound on 'The Adversary', however; the best way to describe what Ihsahn has done here is 'extreme progressive metal', or even 'symphonic metal'. The first thing that someone is bound to notice here is the technicality of the guitar playing; Ihsahn's tight songwriting is driven by plenty of gorgeous leads, solos, and riffs that would leave most black metal musicians either scratching their heads, or asking for lessons. The only other musician on the record is drummer Asgeir Mickelson, who invites a welcome dose of double-kick into the sound. Possibly the most surprising aspect of 'The Adversary' however are the symphonic, classical elements. On top of the guitars, he also plays a soft piano, and arranges some authentic-sounding orchestrations to run overtop the metal. The result is something that balances perfectly the gentle and heavy.

Ihsahn's vocals are quite strong, on both a clean and harsh front. Much like Opeth frontman Mikael Akerfeldt- who would later perform on Ihsahn's second album 'Angl'- Ihsahn is able to capture the best of both worlds. What particularly impressed me were the vocal harmonies he performs here; Ihsahn is able to overdub his voice to make the performance that much more beautiful, or epic. Ulver and Arcturus vocalist Garm (Krystoffer Rygg) also does a very nice vocal performance on the fourth track, 'Homecoming'; the songwriting is graciously arranged to allow him to explore the range of his voice. Ihsahn also has his moments of vocal glory; 'Astera Ton Proinon' lets him go from gentle vocals, to screams, to choral chanting, all within the space of three or four minutes. The trophy for brilliant songwriting goes to the final track however, 'The Pain Is Still Mine.' It very much encapsulates everything that succeeds with 'The Adversary'; lush orchestrations, vicious riffs, and above all, the perfect balance between black, and progressive metal.

 After by IHSAHN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.98 | 192 ratings

Ihsahn Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Surprisingly Textured, Progressive and Rocking Album

While preparing my 2010 year-end best of list, I scanned through alot of youtube clips from albums that I hadn't heard and wasn't all that interested in. Black metal has never been my cup of tea, and what little I'd heard of Ihsahn had been a bit bland to my ear. But the tracks I heard from AFTER were quite promising, and I found myself actually listening to the album 3 times through using this unwieldly format. I finally got the album, and after continuous listening I have to concur that it was one of the best of 2010. I've collected a bit more progressive black metal since then, and I think I finally have some perspective in order to review properly.

As has been noted by other reviewers, AFTER is not black metal with progressive tendencies. It is decidedly progressive metal that just happens to use some black elements. In fact, some of Ihsahn's choice are truly unique, or at least within this genre. Most obvious is the use of saxophone so prominently, and in varied settings. While the meloncholic wail of the sax during "On the Shores" reminds me of Queensryche's "Promised Land" the chaotic whirling lines on "A Grave Inversed" represent one of the few true musical surprises I'd heard in a long time. The sax doesn't sound like misplaced jazz styling or blues, it fits the music and is, well, metal.

Similarly, Ihsahn's 7-string (and 8 I believe) guitar tones are wonderfully rich and aggressive. Screaming harmonics abound, and the combination of growl and bite makes for one of the best modern tones I've heard. Ihsahn also writes good riffs. In a day where virtually every riff in metal can be traced to previous work, the guitar here not only is intellectually interesting, but emotionally evocative. The opening track's behind the beat grind makes my spine want to twist, while "A Grave Inversed" (my favorite track on the album) sports a frentic sixteenth note riff that is simply brilliant. Vocally, Ihsahn's cleans are better than most metal singers with the refrain of "After" being particularly good. He actually has a sense of melody and AFTER features several singable choruses. His black harsh vocals sound crazed while keeping the lyrics comprehendible, but are a bit thin at times. The lyrics are typically gloomy and violent, but are appropriate to the music. He's no Mikael, but uses what he has quite effectively.

Bottom line: Great riffs, great instrument sounds, mature and effective songwriting. A few new twists and new recombinations of familiar aspects of metal. Excellent but not masterpiece.

Thanks to Trickster F. for the artist addition.

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