Ihsahn - After
Over the course of my journey with Ihsahn's solo projects (which is a build-up to his most recent release, Eremita), I've been left with distinct impressions from album to album. For The Adversary, the word was "experimentation". For angL, it was, for lack of a better term, "epic". For the final disc in the planned trilogy, After, my initial and most likely lasting impression is and will be..."holy saxophone".
I may be selling the album far short right out of the gate, but the decision to bring in Jorgen Munkeby (Shining) and his sax adds an entirely different feel to After in comparison to Ihsahn's prior efforts. Also amongst the distinctly different aspects of the album, the decision to utilize 8-stringed guitars. This adds a deeper, more rich layer of instrumentation that shines especially in the leads and solos. Opener "The Barren Lands" is very straightforward and somewhat misleading, as it's free of the aforementioned saxophone element. The twisted, spiraling "A Grave Inversed" is our first introduction to Jorgen's sax, and the mix of frentic metal and spastic sax is...distressing. There are fantastic examples of Jorgen's addition paying great dividends across the album (such as the sparse usage on the epic "Undercurrent", and the beautiful twists of "On The Shores"), but it all takes a particularly open mind to appreciate. And, even then, it can at times feel out of place or simply overwhelming to the overall scope of things. Still, After is a superbly crafted album with or without the space left for Jorgen's work. "Frozen Lakes On Mars" and the haunting harmonies of "Austere" leave lasting impressions in particular.
Of Ihsahn's trilogy of albums, After left me wanting a bit more than the others, ultimately not satisfying me as I had hoped for after previous accomplishments. Still, there is no doubt the record is expertly crafted, with top-notch musicianship and some truly memorable moments. They simply come too few and too slow to match the higher grade of the albums that led up to this. Satisfactory, but somewhat disappointing at the same time.
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