Ihsahn - _angL_
(Candlelight Records, 2008)
by: Jackie Smit (
Rarely have I been on the receiving end of such a vitriolic deluge as the spate of hate-mail that came angrily my way following the review I did of Ihsahn's debut album back in 2006. It was akin to the level of loathing I'd expect to be meted out by Republican fundamentalists had I somehow been able stick a fake moustache on the Statue of Liberty. On a more serious note however, one can probably understand where all the bile came from. After all, Ihsahn's work in Emperor is held in the highest regard, even by those for whom shifting more than five hundred units of an album is anathema. Still, I'm sticking to my guns. Listening to _The Adversary_ two years on, it remains a distinctly uneven album; ambitious certainly, but delivered with such self-conscious restraint as to sound almost insipid on more occasions than a man of Ihsahn's talent should be allowed to get away with.Thankfully, _angL_ marks a noticeable refining on all fronts. The opening lick of "Misanthrope" bears more than a subtle tang of _IX Equilibrium_'s gloriously unhinged onslaught -- the markedly beefier production helping Ihsahn's emulous ideas hit home with greater dexterity than they've been able to do for yonks. Not content to let his creativity remain passive, he changes creative gears frequently; "Unhealer" could easily have been the finest moment on _Ghost Reveries_, had Mikael Akerfeldt not decided to sully Opeth's good name with the aforementioned record. The progressive elements so prevalent on _The Adversary_ are frequently brought to the fore too, with "Threnady" and "Emancipation" proving particularly capricious, only this time ideas flow together more seamlessly, and with greater impact than at any point previously.Whether this step up in quality is down to experience or a boost in confidence is up for debate. Certainly Ihsahn sounds far more comfortable on his own than he did last time round. What boggles the mind is that magnificent album or no, _angL_ could well still be the sound of him finding his stride.
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