Ihsahn - _After_
(Candlelight Records, 2010)
by: Jackie Smit (
"Abstract" -- an ironic word, which the Emperor frontman himself has used to describe his third solo outing in recent interviews. And indeed, if ever there was an antithesis to his previous full-length, 2008's sublime _angL_, then this would be it. Where that record was the epitome of focus, and near-flawless execution of a plethora of disparate ideas, this latest platter cries out for its creator's boundless creativity to be reined in, or at the very least sense-checked by a capable partner-in-crime.Here, sans the perfectly compatible intensity of his former cohort Samoth, Ihsahn very quickly becomes recklessly self-indulgent, gorging himself on particularly his oft-betrayed obsession with progressive rock. Not content to exhibit this through the album's many lengthy and often bloated guitar flutters, a saxophone is introduced on what feels like over half the cuts. Its inclusion neither embellishes nor enriches, instead coming off as a repeatedly failed and, more gratingly, pompous experiment.Still, Ihsahn's legacy as one of black metal's keystone songwriters wasn't borne of a lack of talent, and _After_ isn't without its share of solid moments. "The Barren Lands" and "Frozen Lakes on Mars" in particular shows the Norseman at his best, as he seamlessly weaves together a myriad of moods and textures into a perfectly combustible package. His flair for musical exploration is a very far cry from the swampy doldrums of Devin Townsend's _Addicted_, but for someone of his godlike talent, the inconsistency that plagues _After_ is cause for disappointment.
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