Artist: Ihsahn (http://www.ihsahn.com)
Album: The Adversary
Release Date: April 18th, 2006
Recommended Tracks: Invocation, Citizen, And He Shall Walk In Empty Places, Will You Love Me Now?
It's been five years since the mighty Emperor abdicated their throne as the undisputed kings of Norwegian black metal, though there has definitely been no shortage of activity from Ihsahn, Samoth, and Trym in that time. While Samoth and Trym went on to feed their cyber-death metal jones as two of the founding members of Zyklon, Ihsahn inexplicably let his harpy-shrieking wife and brother-in-law somehow talk him into forming the god-awful art metal trio Peccatum over rocking out with his former bandmates. With the impending Emperor reunion shows looming over the horizon though, it seems that the scattered ashes of Emperial wrath have been stirred once more in Ihsahn's soul, as he has come out with a solo album that shows he's still a force to be reckoned with in the black metal universe.
Let's get the inevitable comparison to Emperor out of the way first - this is not an Emperor album by any means, but it compares very favorably to the Prometheus album. That should make perfect sense to the astute Emperor fan though, as Ihsahn wrote all the lyrics and musical arrangements on Prometheus as well as on Adversary. Ihsahn performs all the guitar and vocal work here, while Borknagar drummer Asgeir Mickelson handles the skin bashing for this album. Ihsahn's voice is in top form as it has always been, as he seamlessly shifts from his signature raspy howl to falsettos so high and screeching they would even make King Diamond sit up and take notice. His wife could use a lesson or two from her man about how to keep her dying-cat-in-heat howling under control on a studio album, but then again she should probably remain in the kitchen where she belongs instead of getting near a recording studio ever, ever again.
The actual music on Adversary plays out as sort of a mix between what Prometheus-era outtakes/B-sides probably sounded like and spacey black metal along the lines of Arcturus and latter-day Borknagar. Most songs feature a driving guitar tone that sounds like the deathy crunch used in Prometheus with an occasional standard black metal keyboard/acoustic interlude thrown in for good measure. The drumming is much more subdued than the furious maelstrom of blastbeats Trym unleashed for Emperor and Zyklon, but it fits the mood very well with a lot of mid tempo double bass and an occasional blast or two scattered throughout most songs. In particular, the recommended tracks listed above wouldn't sound out of place if they had been included on the Prometheus album. Some of the other tracks are a bit weak though, and Ihsahn slips into a bit of a Peccatum haze on the last track with its 10-minute track length and overused keyboards, but overall the album is well worth your time if you are a fan of Emperor or of black/death metal in general. In particular, if Prometheus is your favorite Emperor album then this album is a near necessity for your collection.
Frankly I was expecting this to suck after reading the somewhat cheesy song titles and being burned twice by Ihsahn's wife's henpecking him into letting her banshee-scream her way through about 100 minutes of the pure horseshit that was the two Peccatum albums. The bottom line is that though it strays from Ihsahn's strengths from time to time, this is a rock-solid death/black metal album that just happens to feature perhaps the most famous living frontman in black metal history. This is a fine addition to the Emperor family tree, and hopefully is the sign of two things: 1) that Peccatum is hanging from this tree by a noose for good, and 2) the fact that Ihsahn still has plenty of vitriol ready for another go-round with black metal and possibly a full-time Emperor reunion. For those of you lucky enough to be catching one of the four Emperor shows in the U.S. this summer, this album will be a nice distraction for you while waiting for June to roll around. The rest of us will just have to console ourselves with the fact that Ihsahn has erased any doubt if he's still got it or not.
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Artist: Ihsahn (http://www.ihsahn.com)