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Ihsahn - The Adversary CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.10 | 94 ratings

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Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A work of art.

The Adversary is the long awaited debut solo album by the Norwegian mastermind Vegard Sverre Tveitan, much better known as simply Ihsahn. The effort is the culmination of the man's career, showing his talent as a composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, as well as his past experiences in such groups as Emperor and Peccatum. Although it may seem that Ihsahn is one of the many groups with various musicians handling their own instrument, this is not the case here, as the genius takes care of every instrument on the album besides drums and vocals on one single track, thus making it a solo album in the literary sense of the word.

Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise was the last Emperor release before the group disbanded and is still considered to be the first Ihsahn's solo album, as he was entirely responsible for its songwriting and lyrics and additionally played most of the instruments. In any case, it can be safely claimed that it is relevant to regard The Adversary as Prometheus's successor. Many similar elements are present and associations with that album are bound to spring, however, the five years since the album's release are noticeable, as we see a completely different Ihsahn. The Adversary sees the man approach Heavy Metal, which he has been playing since a young age, from a progressive, complex perspective. Owing to that, the release will be especially interesting to fans of modern Progressive Music, even those who generally are not enthusiastic about the idea of Extreme Progressive Metal. Yes, it is 'extreme' enough, there are riffs reminiscent of Black Metal and harsh vocals. Speaking of the latter, there are less of those than on any Emperor release in relation to clean vocals, and the vocals also lean towards a softer, more accessible side (if you have been following his output with Peccatum, it is that style he uses on their last recordings). Not only does it manage not to sound over the top and redundant, which not everyone enjoys, but all of the lyrics are audible and that is a refreshing change. More importantly, while one can say that his clean singing, which has clearly evolved and is now as enjoyable to listen to as never, is derivative of other singers (Garm, King Diamond), his shriek remains classy and unparalleled.

As it has been already mentioned, Ihsahn shows confidence in his skills by handling all of the instruments, except drums (which are handled by the guest drummer Asgeir Mickelson), supremely. His songwriting relies heavily on duelling guitars that guide the album in its direction, and his technique, while surpassed by many, proves to be absolutely satisfactory in terms of precision, emotion and originality. There are many great and memorable riffs, leads and solos to be found. Keyboards lack the cheesiness that early Emperor was guilty of and are usually played in the background rather than for masterful soloing purposes. The orchestrations he has written for this creation are just as brilliant, whereas the bass work is adequate and more audible during the quite parts. Asgeir's performance behind the kit is flawless, as you would expect from a musician from Spiral Architect. Furthermore, his contribution is different to that of Trym on late Emperor efforts, as he is significantly more versatile and diverse, when compared to Trym, who relied too heavily on blastbeats (which, let's be honest, were appropriate for that kind of music). Of special note is Garm's (who is the favourite singer for many listeners and an influence on Ihsahn) appearance on the fourth track, which is more mellow than the surrounding songs and features a Dream Theater-esque tech riff. The album consists of nine compositions, all of which aside from the magnificent epic "The Pain Is Still Mine" are between four and six minutes in length, yet manage to be captivating and substantial. The quality of the songwriting can be discovered by giving the record repeated listens, which reveal things and layers you haven't noticed before. The last song should be given a particular emphasis, being just over ten minutes long and having more significant progressive, classical and opera influences than the other tracks in the album. "The Pain Is Still Mine" is the record's most dramatic and grand number and the culmination of the album.

In the end, Ihsahn manages to create another masterpiece in The Adversary and prove that he has still a lot of creativity left in him for more fascinating work. The effort is vital for any person who already appreciates the man's talent, and is a perfect starting point for those who find Emperor's output to be too extreme and on the noisy side of things.

Trickster F. | 4/5 |


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