As an often outspoken critic of Black Metal, I was taken aback to discover IHSAHNís music for the first time -- I actually appreciated it. I love and have explored his extensive back catalogue and thoroughly enjoyed his last solo effort, "angL". Having a duet with Mikael Ňkerfeldt on "angLís" "Unhealer" sure didnít hurt his chances of pleasing me musically. As soon as I heard that "After" was in production, I built up impossible-to-reach expectations in my mind. Iím happy to say that IHSAHNís "After" went above and beyond them.
The disc starts off with typical IHSAHN fare -- fuzzy, distorted guitars segue into one of his signature riffs. Itís quite a compliment to IHSAHN that "The Barren Lands" could ever be considered an average song; although itís an awesome song on its own, it is not a shining star on "After;" the Norwegian has several tricks up his sleeve for the listener this time around. "A Grave Inversed" is appropriately named, because everything from this point on is completely flipped upside down. Easily my favorite track on the album, this songís killer riff isnít performed on the guitar -- itís on the saxophone! Take a pinch of ZAPPA, a dash of "Flight Of The Bumblebee," and copious amounts of pure chaos and you have closely approximated "A Grave Inversed." The sax is relentless and maniacal; you should buy the CD for this track alone. I appreciate how balanced the album is; rather than using the saxophone as a gimmick, it serves multiple unique rŰles over the span of an hour. For instance, "On The Shores" features a brooding, dark, jazzy sax sound that oozes over IHSAHNís tortured vocals. The saxophone sounded as if it were a part of the music and not an overbearing distraction. The sax even seems to be whimpering in quieter sections.
The traditional elements present here will be sure to please the saner metalheads. The song we had been teased with for months, "Frozen Lakes on Mars," is a fairly straightforward Progressive Black Metal killer -- complete with a blackened/clean vocal mix and a mind-bending riff. Of course, the disc delves back into the realm of the insane shortly afterwards; the following slices of mayhem (or songs, if you prefer to call them that) feature jazzy bass, a Middle Eastern sounding riff on "Undercurrent," and everything in between. To say anything more is to ruin the surprises that await you!
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(Online March 23, 2010)