Company: Candlelight records
Reviewer: Raising Iron
Absolutely engaging in its authenticity
Tough to know where to begin a review when delving into a record such as Ihsahn's third and latest offering, After, a tour-de-force of a tortured soul bearing its true blackened beguilings. Like certain other offerings by such bands as Volbeat, Mnemic, or Diablo Swing Orchestra, it's impossible to pigeonhole the style, and although avant-garde is the catch-all term/genre for such peripheral metal dwellers, Ihsahn's solo project is a bit more accessible than those listed above.
First off, although its relatively noticeable the man wishes to distance himself from his former black metal beast Emperor, whatever the style you wish to label this as being, its definitely blackened. "A Grave Inversed" throbs with all the hi-fi anxiety of the Norwegian metal movement, but it's only a small portion of a broader landscape, criss-crossed often via *gasp* saxophone, and otherworldly, introspective, keyboard flourishes. It's exactly what the man is going for; bearing to light the myriad emotions of a human being's deepest, darkest, inner personage, resulting in whatever the result may be. Hence, much like modern Enslaved or Opeth, the music traverses huge swells and decays, all the while remaining remarkably cohesive (even more so than on his previous two efforts), highly organic, and absolutely engaging in its authenticity.
One listen to the epic and sprawling "Undercurrent" will divulge everything you need to know about this release, and there are seven more songs of similar interest. The standout track would have to be "Austere"; again Opeth comparatives can certainly be made here, but the haunt is decidedly unique unto itself, the Pink Floydian touches toward midpoint exacerbating any attempt to compartmentalize or predict what comes next.
For progressive and extreme metal fans, this is a no-brainer, for those who don't necessarily like black metal or Ihsahn's ties to the scene, don't let that stop you; this is highly original, and sure to be one of the most honestly written albums to be released in the metal world in this coming year.