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.