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Ihsahn - angL (8/10) - Norway - 2008

Genre: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Candlelight Records
Playing time: 47:19
Band homepage: Ihsahn

Tracklist:

  1. Misanthrope
  2. Scarab
  3. Unhealer
  4. Emancipation
  5. Malediction
  6. Alchemist
  7. Elevator
  8. Threnody
  9. Monolith
Ihsahn - angL

For the first time in his career, IHSAHN may be, in fact, comfortable with the music he is creating. Since the release of EMPEROR’s seminal "In the Nightside Eclipse", each successive album in the “main canon” of IHSAHN (the aforementioned EMPEROR, PECCATUM, and his solo efforts) have contained numerous integrations of new sounds and new musical ideas. It was as if IHSAHN was constantly agitated and unsatisfied with the music he was making, no matter how excellent it happened to be, and continued to strive to do something new on the next album. This is what made him one of the most exciting artists in Metal, even if it left some of his longtime fans frequently baffled.  

 

One his second solo effort, "angL" (one of the most unfortunate titles for anything in the history of titles), the Black Metal auteur seems to have lost this vital sense of agitation and traded it for something familiar, which is both a blessing and a curse. "angL" marks one of the first times IHSAHN has created an album that is sonically similar to its predecessor, and, as a result, it is much less exciting since much of the musical territory covered on "The Adversary" is re-worked here. The frontman continues to develop skillful and technical, but not mind-boggling, guitar parts and solos in much the same style as before and there is a similar proportion of melody and heaviness. There’s even a Scandinavian Metal Superstar providing melodic guest vocals on one track, only this time it’s OPETH’s Mikael Åkerfeldt instead of ULVER’s Garm. However, IHSAHN doesn’t wear his influences on his sleeve as blatantly as he did on his debut, with its frequent KING DIAMOND/MERCYFUL FATE worship (not that there’s anything wrong with that). "angL" is purely IHSAHN’s show, being more of a synthesis of his influences and playing styles rather than a collection of separate exhibitions of them. 

 

As a vocalist, IHSAHN continues to expand his range, creating sounds with his throat that are able to surprise the listener even after more than a decade and a half of making music. This is perhaps best illustrated on "angL’s" most soft-spoken song, “Threnody,” where the frontman’s clean vocals are majestic, emotional, and expressive; he is able to convey a wide range of meanings with merely the tone of his voice and it is a joy to listen to. Although his harsher deliveries can occasionally stray close to monotony, at his best, IHSAHN can make listeners feel that he is digging into the core of their souls with his bare hands. One listen to the imposingly malevolent “Misanthrope” is proof enough of that. In fact, each successive song is proof that, even if "angL" is not among the unqualified triumphs of IHSAHN’s career, it is still a resounding success. Plus, it’s just fun to listen to.

(Online June 25, 2008)

John Arminio



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