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The Adversary

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(17 Reviews)

Ihsahn Biography - Ihsahn Discography - All Heavy Metal Bands

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Release postponed in the U.S.! 2007 release from the German Death-Core band, unleashed ten years after the band originally formed. They have been a major influence on bands like Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, etc. and continue to break new ground with each release. 12 tracks including ’I Will Never Let You Down’, ’I’ll Show No Fear’ and ’Let Go’. Roadrunner.

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  • A solo album in the truest sense of the word, The Adversary has Ihsahn playing all instruments except the drums and doing all kinds of vocals from his harrowing deep growls to incredibly grim screams and fantastic clean vocals. Unlike the earlier Emperor material such as In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, Ihsahn’s vocals are upfront on The Adversary as with Peccatum. Not to say the guitar work is subdued here, but the vocals are certainly not behind the guitars as on his early works. Though all Emperor material is more violent and wicked than this disc, The Adversary is by far his most progressive work. Never before did he explore more creative rhyhmic tangents, blending a multitude of vocal and musical styles, and providing such intense vocal harmonies.

    It is impossible not to mention Emperor when reviewing The Adversary. After all, the songwriter of both this band and solo record is the same musical soul. Those who are disappointed with this album are the ones who were expecting him to break new ground and re-invent the wheel. I doubt that was Ihsahn’s goal upon writing these songs to begin with. The material presented here borrows from all of his musical phases. There are clear nods to his earlier Emperor material where crushing guitars blend with hypnotic keyboards and maniacal screams on “Invocation”, a great album opener. The tremelo picking on this piece is nothing short of stellar, especially during the part they disappear under a soaring synth motif. Complete with enchanting acoustic passages and also Ihsahn’s expressive clean voice, this is easily one of the album’s best songs.

    Besides the heavy and punishing material, there are also references to his past with Peccatum and Prometheus meets IX Equilibrium period Emperor as well as his main influences from way back. All of this is kept within a wide spectrum of avant-garde style progressive signature; thus calling the album merely “black metal” wouldn’t do it justice. There is simply more to it. Remarkable diversity is achieved on the unexpectedly melodic “Called by the Fire”, a song that sees Ihsahn paying a little tribute to the great King Diamond using his unique falsettos atop spattering cymbals and energetic guitar rhythms. This is arguably Ihsahn’s most melodic vocal performance in his career, where each line becomes instantly memorable, as he alternates between layered clean harmonies and effective shrieks. There is a fantastic guitar solo in the climax of the piece as well. “Citizen” recalls Arcturus, for its use of non-standard metal ideas. Following fast, tremelo guitars and powerful blast beats from Asgeir Mickelson, Ihsahn delves into a beautiful piano solo before ripping screams are filtered through chunky guitar harmonies.

    The guitar tone on the album is amazing. Though a bit dry from a production standpoint, it serves its purpose perfectly. On “Homecoming”, sung by Ulver’s Garm with his incredible mellow voice, the clean guitar riffs are indelible. The tone is thick and intense, surrounded by ominous keyboards and sporadic bass lines. This song is written to perfection and far more progressive than anything Ihsahn has written before. “Astera Ton Proinon” and the final track “Pain Is Still Mine” both boast classical explorations that recall the heavier parts of Peccatum, with the former being formulated by soothing acoustic guitars, choir effects, and vocals that change from calm, clean vocals to tortured screams. “Pain Is Still Mine”, on the other hand, contains more elaborate piano work, with harrowing whispers and cinematic elements lending it a theatrical vibe, much like Arcturus’ Sideshow Symphonies.

    Spiral Architect’s Asgeir Mickelson proves once again that he is Norway’s best drummer. His fills on the Emperor-like “And He Shall Walk in Empty Places” add to the song’s intensity, particularly because of Ihsahn’s unusually brutal growls and screams. “Panem et Circenses” also offsets corrosive, blackened thrash parts a la Mercyful Fate, juxtaposing blazing classical synths and pulverizing fretwork. Both tracks are masterfully arranged and recorded.

    One of the most creative and important names of 90’s black metal, Emperor’s Ihsahn, has released a more than satisfying first solo album, which, in many ways, is a testimony to his greatness. I am absolutely in awe with this disc. Most, if not all, Emperor fans should love this disc.

    Posted on January 12, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Actually, to use the term “black metal” here would be so limiting, being that Ihsahn incorporates so many musical influences in his solo relaese, from black metal, death metal, progressive and even some tinges of jazz here and there. It’s just a metalhead’s dream, especially for those who were Emperor or Peccatum fans alike. Songs like “Called by the Fire”, “Invocation”, and my personal favorite “Panem et Circenses” showcase Ihsahn’s extraordinary virtuosity with the guitars and keyboards, intricately weaving together delicate combinations of notes and progressions that swirl all at once into the key of “I”! I could imagine that if one note in some of these compositions was off by a hair, the song would be ruined, but tha’s how masterful his writing is! The man’s ability is undeniably present here, and memories of later Emperor can be heard in these tracks, along with his signature scream AND clean vocals. Drummer Asgeir Mickelson provides the perfect drum accompaniment here, as Ihsahn handles ALL other instruments. A must hear from ALL fans of ANY type of metal. Hail Ihsahn!!!!

    Posted on January 12, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The Adversary is a concept album that I can’t help but think, is a project that has been cooking for a while, with Ihsahn performing nearly all the instruments and vocals. It is my understanding that he programmed all of the percussion before recording, and then invited drummer Asgeir Mickelson (Spiral Architect), to play as written.

    The concept behind the album is that bad boy Lucifer, and Ihsahn incisively portrays the title role through nine tracks of inventive music, which explores almost every genre of extreme metal around. The vocals are front and center in the mix. This seems fitting to me, considering that the lyrics are all written in a first person narrative. I have to give a pass to the crisp and rather flat mix, since it seems to set the stage for exceptionally flawless musicianship. (If you play that well, who needs effects anyway, right?) Ihsahn provides all of the vocals with the exception of Garm of Ulver, who deftly croons along on the math-metal inspired, albeit mellow fourth track “Homecoming.

    Ihsahn is an acrobatic vocalist, and uses his voice to full effect with harrowing snarls, low growls, wicked rasps, and most of all, kick [...] singing in multi layered harmonies with one of the most amazing vocal ranges I have ever heard. On one of my favorite tunes on this album, the first track “Invocation”, he deftly displays one of the most expressive shrieks in black metal, with wonderful tremolo, and mellow, clean vocal bridge.

    The second track, “Called by the Fire” has been referred to by others as the metal ballad of the year, and is very “old school” in its use of an absolutely classic heavy metal guitar solo and Iron Maiden-like power hook driven chorus. I don’t usually care for the “King Diamond” style singing employed here, but it is not overused, and the song is so diverse, (and so much fun!), I find myself enjoying the style more than I normally would. The power metal influences are also in the mostly blackened eighth track “Will You Love Me Now?” as well as the majestic choruses of doom-infused “Astera Non Proinon”. The black metal influences are throughout, but especially noticeable on the third track “Citizen”, the sixth track “Panem et Circences” which features a very Opeth like guitar riff, and the blistering seventh track “And He Shall Walk in Empty Places” which display some very nice thrashy blast beats. The latter is the track that most reminds me of Ihsahn’s past Emperor-era albums “Prometheus” and “Equilibrium”, but I really cannot compare this album to past Emperor recordings, as it is a progression from that sound. Progressive it is.
    The final track “The Pain is Still Mine” is orchestral, melodic and, in a large way, gothic. There is an almost rock opera mood to the piece, with grandiose operatic vocal styling and classically inspired piano introduction. My very favorite track on the album, it provides a perfect finish to this most original and completely cohesive works of musical art. My choice for best album of 2006.

    Posted on January 12, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Knowing all the works by Ihsahn from early “Thou shalt suffer”, trough “Emperor” and finally “Peccatum”, for me, “The Adversary” is better than all of his previous works. And I’m a huge Emperor fan, my fav Emperor album is Prometheus. Thus it took time to grow on me. I’m also a big Peccatum fan, especially “Lost in Reverie”. The Adversary, blow me away instantly, at the first listen. It is a very simple and complex album at the same time. It’s like a journey through an array of multiple metal style (black, prog, heavy, etc), that brought me back thirty years earlier, when I begin to listen to Judas Priest, Rush and then to Mercyful Fate, and so on ’til Black Metal. It makes me feel young. This is the best of the two world (Emperor and Peccatum) with a touch of his classical influence. His voice is wonderful, his guitar play is at the top. His talent as a composer has never been so evident. The last track is perhaps the best song I’ve heard in my life. This is sheer brilliance. Ihsahn is a genius.

    Posted on January 11, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • IHSAHN – The Adversary
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    Truth is I’ve never really been a big Black Metal fan… Yet as I continue to explore music I keep coming across bands such as Enslaved or Arcturus, who though being progressive, are definitely footed in their Black Metal roots. Ihsahn (From the Emperor fame) is of no exception, combining black metal with progressive genius to craft what will likely be one of the top albums of 2006.

    From the opening track `Invocation’ I was immediately captivated by the blend of, furious black metal vocals, ambient keys, amazing guitars, a solid bass, and skillful drum work. The lulling symphonic breakdown midway through is a fantastic mood setting piece especially with the somber voice of Ihsahn crooning…
    Now I won’t bother going song for song but be aware that this sets a high standard for the rest of the album to follow… Luckily the rest of the album does not disappoint, each song is written to perfection, holding its own unique sound and style.

    Ihsahn is an incredibly talented musician and an even more talented composer. He plays the instruments with the exception of the drum work with which is handled by the exceptionally talented, Asgeir Mickelson. The Guitar work is probably the finest I’ve heard in BM (just listen to the solo in, Called by the Fire), the keys are effective in their delivery and provide great atmosphere, the bass is a nice backdrop to the overall sound, and the drumming is just perfect, specially during the slower parts where he is given a chance to explore more creative rhythms. Last but certainly not least is Ihsahn’s vocal range… from venomous shrieks to singing and everything in between. His range is overwhelming, transitioning perfectly between his various styles.

    As a big King Crimson fan I can more than appreciate the progressive influences that show up throughout this CD, the blending of Metal and Progressive Rock truly is the greatest thing to happen to music in the last few decades. As long as artists like Ihsahn are unafraid to push the limits of music, there is no telling what amazing creations they will come up with next.

    I would definitely recommend this album for those who enjoyed Enslaved’s last few ventures, (Ruun, Isa and Below the Lights) and for the very few people who have heard of the amazing Norwegian band, Frantic Bleep.

    Favorite Songs: Citizen, Homecoming, Will You Love Me Now?, and Invocation.
    -5 Stars.

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    Posted on January 11, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now