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Ihsahn - After CD (album) cover

AFTER

Ihsahn

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.06 | 166 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

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.

Negoba | 4/5 |

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