Ihsahn - _The Adversary_
(Candlelight Records, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (
Mention the name Ihsahn in just about any extreme music circle these days and you're likely to see grown men moisten their underpants in excitement. Much of this fervour, we know, stems from the current Emperor reunion and the faint glimmer of hope that the world could still one day be treated to a follow up to _Prometheus_. In the past few months there's been another name on a many people's lips as well: _The Adversary_. With good reason too, though it is somewhat ironic that this solo album would be more highly anticipated than Ihsahn's former colleague Zamoth's forthcoming Zyklon opus, especially considering the amount of praise heaped upon the latter over the albums that Ihsahn released under the Peccatum banner. Stripped of the tall talk from Candlelight's PR however, _The Adversary_ is a very difficult record for a variety of reasons.What the album doesn't lack at all, is ideas. The man formerly known as Vegard Sverre Tveitan was by his own admission always going to use this effort as a vehicle to explore the breadth of his musical influences both past and present, and this is exactly what he does. "Invocation" opens the album and sounds like the younger, less muscular brother of "Curse You All Men!". "Called by the Fire" drops the pace and heads for traditional fare that recalls early Mercyful Fate, while "Citizen" is a blistering, precise slab of post-modern black metal.Yet despite a wealth of potential, the feeling that something is missing never quite dissipates. It may be due in part to the album's frustratingly amateurish production (I've heard demos that sound much better than this), but that's not the half of it. For however many good ideas are flaunted over the course of the record, their execution is often flawed and staggeringly self-conscious. Ihsahn's progressive leanings -- now with a platform to be indulged without any limitations -- often appear too clever for their own good, with the final two tracks closing proceedings on an especially limp note.Whether this makes a case for Ihsahn's need to have a writing partner that will bring a sense of balance to his creativity is open for debate. There would certainly be no shame in that, given the number of incomparable musical partnerships that stretch as far back as Lennon / McCartney and beyond. I'm also not trying to imply that without Emperor, Ihsahn is just another eccentric Norwegian with a taste for loud guitars. _The Adversary_ does yield rewards, particularly after a number of listens, but unfortunately those rewards are far less accentuated than, quite frankly, Ihsahn needed them to be this time around.
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