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Ihsahn – After(2010)

  • Review by: Ankit Baraskar
I had promised this review in Jan, right after the album came out, but circumstances had hitherto prevented me from listening to it continuously at one go, and I’d just listened to individual songs, but an album is those songs in a certain order that the artist wants them to be heard in. So I finally got around to doing that today, and wrote this (ironically)song by song review.

1. The Barren Lands – A nice, haunting melody that recurs throughout the song, with some slow, heavy riffs following it. A nice, peaceful start, though very misleading, since it gives no indication of what follows next. 😀
2. A Grave Inversed – Starts of with a riff and vocals that reminds one of early Emperor. Till the sax kicks in. Insane stuff, experimental enough to be labelled avante-garde in parts. And it’s not just a sax, it’s a sax playing jazz solos…this incorporates a new level of insanity into Ihsahn’s already progressive brand of black metal. The guitar more or less is standard black metal riffs.
3. After – Title song…very well done, the acoustic parts fit in perfectly, brilliantly executed clean vocals, and one can feel the 8 string effect in this song, a lot more “depth” so as to say.
4. Frozen Lakes On Mars – A very melodic start. Heavy riffage follows. And for the first time, a guitar solo, not exceptional,
but “just fits in” while being slightly dissonant at the same time. Well done. The drumming sounds much better than the previous albums, especially on this song.
5. Undercurrent – The start is a bit typical and predictable, listening to the first four…which is a bit of a letdown..but as you get deeper into this “ballad” it gets more and more interesting…and one is bound to eargasm at the part where the saxophone seems to be harmonized with itself/with vocals. The way this song progresses, it does seem to be the “undercurrent” of the album, almost like a ballad in places, but incorporating all the progressive/black metal elements.
6. Austere – The song itself is suggestive of the mood, and the way the bluesy sax solo kicks in and fades out with such ease…amazingly done. The acoustic parts accentuate the mood. With the bass being a bit dissonant yet supportive of the guitars. Towards the end it gets heavy, with the bluesy stuff still on in the background, and suddenly everything converges and fits together neatly. Eargasm.
7. This is a much more up tempo song, with crazy runs and shred guitar…and the sax going crazy every now and then. The sudden mood change during the last minute is amazingly done, using the 8 string riffage to great effect.
8. It starts off with a melancholy sax intro, supported by crashing guitar chords in the background. The sax guy really steals the thunder on this one. Riffage starts soon, and it all moves forward till around the 6 minute mark, where it suddenly goes silent, except the guitar playing three notes, (with good sustain on..imparts a nice, eerie feel to it.) The saxophone, 8 strings and the drums join in, with the solo saxophone nicely guiding it to it’s conclusion. Masterfully done.
There was much hype surrounding this album, especially since Ihsahn had announced that he would be using 8 string guitars on this one, and all the “djent” fans were anxious as to how an ex(?) black metaller would use them. Surprisingly the 8 string tone isn’t Meshuggah or Periphery or Tesseract. It perfectly goes with the prog black and melancholic feel of the album. Spiral Architect bassist Lars K Norberg provided just the right bass for this, and the saxophonist is none other than Shining frontman Jorgen Munkeby(their album “Blackjazz” is beyond my reviewing abilities, but do check out their cover of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schitzoid Man on youtube). The drums sounded much better than Adversary(and Angl), and seems like drummer Asgeir Mickelson(Spiral Architect, Borknagar, Vintersorg) has finally got the right blend for Ihsahn.
All in all, a brilliant start to 2010, along with the Meshuggah DVD. Go get it.