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Ihsahn - After CD (album) cover

AFTER

Ihsahn

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.98 | 215 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'After' - Ihsahn (8/10)

Best known as the frontman for the legendary black metal band Emperor, Ihsahn's solo work takes quite a different approach than anything we might have heard from his former flagship band. As can be readily heard on his third studio album 'After', the man now takes equal sound from progressive music as he does with black metal, and the end result is an inventive brand of black metal that far outweighs his earlier work in terms of complexity and diversity, but equal in feeling and atmosphere. While not holding as much of a personal significance as his second solo album 'Angl' does, 'After' shows the man developing his progressive metal sound to incorporate more experimental and unpredictable elements, resulting in an excellent album altogether.

With 'Angl', I was greeted with intelligent performance, some technical riffs and proggy elements, but the focus was always around the songwriting and the thought put into it. With 'After' now, the songwriting is fleshed out into a more epic scope, allowing for such longer compositions as 'Undercurrent' and the closer 'On The Shores' to take their place on the album. With greater room for experimentation, Ihsahn lets the songs build on their own time, and the end result is usually very effective musically. However, it does feel as if the songwriting has taken a bit of a toll here when compared to 'Angl'. Despite added complexity to the arrangements and more involved pieces of music, it does make me miss the to-the- point and tight experience the second album had to offer. That being said however, 'After' features some points that could easily surpass almost anything 'Angl' had to offer.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference here when compared to Ihsahn's earlier work is the incorporation of heavy jazz elements, primarily the common use of a tenor saxophone, played brilliantly by Jorgen Munkeby. Although this is certainly a progressive black metal record by and large, it is the saxophone that drives the music quite often, becoming most noticeable with the most frenetic song 'A Grave Inversed', and on a solemn theme that is repeated throughout much of the latter half of the album. On top of the overt jazz influence in the use of saxophone, there is also a fretless bass used that gives Ihsahn's sound an added depth of class to it, proving that he is not an artist that is simply talented in, or limited to the genre of metal.

The production and performance here are both the best Ihsahn has ever done, which only adds to the intensity of the music. Were it not for a few still great, but less interesting moments on the album such as 'Frozen Lakes On Mars' or the greater part of 'Heaven's Black Sea', Ihsahn would have a real masterpiece on his hands.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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