Ihsahn - The Adversary
As the frontman for one of the world's most successful and respected black metal bands, former Emperor singer/guitarist/songwriter Ihsahn was confined to a specific style. Of course, he flourished within it, and showed off some unique attributes such as his vocals and sharp, technically and melodically sound guitarwork. However, he has showed since that he has and continues to have more to offer. The Adversary was his debut solo effort back in 2006, a project in the works for quite some time prior.
Attempting to label The Adversary is difficult, as it cuts a wide path across multiple styles of metal, rock and even some neo-classical touches as well. Nothing quite kicks up the dust like Emperor, but the overall tone of the album lends itself to Ihsahn's past metal masterpieces. Opener "Invocation" is a quality example of this, with Ihsahn's trademark throat-piercing vocals accompany an up-tempo, percussive assault with bright symphonic overlays that all bring to mind latter-era Emperor. It's on the following , "Called By The Fire" and it's strangely clean and pop-centric chorus that you know you're in for something very much different than Ihsahn's usual work. His clean vocals are a touch unsettling at first, but fit the softer, more atmospheric moments of The Adversary very well and show another side to an already heavily gifted musician. The rest of the album is an ambiguous foray into the extremely aggressive, the extremely calm and placid, and just about every imaginable point in between, usually all taking place within the confines of each individual song. Of course some work a bit more than others, but it's been hard to identify the best and the rest. I love the abrupt shift from thrashy metal to piano interlude, and the eventual climb into a mind-blowing crescendo contained on "Citizen". Also the experiment with power metal, "Homecoming", showcases some quality guitar work and songwriting. "And He Shall Walk In Empty Places" is particularly well-written and constructed, one of the album's most accessible and easily remembered tracks. The same goes for "Will You Love Me Now?". The album closes on the 10-minute "The Pain Is Still Mine", which basically encompasses the scale of musical ideas and curiousities Ihsahn managed to bring together over the previous tracks.
While incredibly impressive, I find that The Adversary is a grower of an album more than an immediately impacting one. Although it's been years since I first heard it, I can't shake the connection between Ihsahn and Emperor. This won't be the case for everyone, of course, but will more likely occur in similar cases as my own; people who consider themselves big fans of Emperor. But, given enough time and an open mind, and it's not hard to enjoy The Adversary and the countless creative influences and talents Ihsahn has to offer.
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