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First off, let me say that Emperor is one of my favorite black metal acts of this and last generation of black metal; as well as Ihsahn being my favorite black metal vocalist after Sakis Tolis. Next let me say that his progressive stuff is much better then anything that Emperor did.
Now that I have that off my chest, let me say that After is nearly one of the best albums that I've ever heard. I listened to the full thing about 6 times through when I first got it, which I never got bored the entire time. It's an amazing album throughout. The thing I noticed most that stuck out the entire time was the fact that he incorporated a Saxophone through about 90% of the album. The only song I noticed that didn't have it was the title track, After. Still, the sax was so progressive that it put Opeth and Porcupine Tree to shame. It added a Coltrane Jazz feel to a lot of his stuff. I liked this feel a lot. It gave it a more depressive feel to most songs Especially the first track, "The Barren Lands", which the name suggests that it'll be depressing.
The other thing I liked is that his growl seemed more focused, and less sounding like it was a forced black metal screech. It seems that Ihsahn has grown up a lot in his music, which is a good thing. The Drums were great, having extreme beats that showed that the progression was not lost; even in the drums, which is usually the weak point in his albums. The guitar showed many progressive jazz chords, as well as jazz and blues oriented scales and leads. My favorite lead was that on (once again) the title track, After. The whole fucking song was amazing as hell, and it's hard not to like it.
The high point of the album starts at track 3 (After) and floats all the way through track 7 (Heaven's Black Sea). Most of the album is highly slow, so that shows a new side of his music. Even when having a fast beat, he somehow shows a somber melody and pace. I really like the new sound, especially the progression. It's amazing when you read the lyrics as well, especially when you say that his last album was good, but nothing super amazing. This album shows a new era in his music career that (hopefully) will change for the rest of his time making music.
All in all, the highlights of the album were the songs After, Undercurrent and Heaven's Black Sea. These songs were all virtually slow, but still having a great beat. All I can say is that it's a great album, so get it. Fans of Opeth, Emperor, Immortal and Coltrane will all love this. It's like combining the progression of Opeth with Emperor's intensity, Immortal's screams and drums and Coltrane's Jazz. My god, it's an amazing mix. Get it now.