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Ihsahn, the main man behind the renowned and almost revered black metal band Emperor, is back with his 3rd full length album, After. His previous work aNgl was very Opeth-like, with lots and lots of acoustic interludes, soothing fretless bass work and very well sung clean vocals. After is almost nothing like aNgl, as this album forgoes most of the softer acoustic moments (though they are still here, the first 3 minutes of Undercurrent is almost entirely acoustic) in favor of an extreme jazz metal kind of atmosphere, with several uses of saxophone and frequent jazzy and almost bluesy guitar work.
The first thing I noticed was how much better the album sounded production-wise; it has a much heavier and beefier sound to it that aNgl was sorely lacking, particularly in the drumming department. The guitar is good and heavy and has a thick lead tone that sounds fantastic during rhythm and solos alike. Something I didn't like was how the bass was pushed a little more into the background on After; it makes some appearances but its frequency has been toned down and regulated to mostly providing a low end to the music. The saxophone sounds rough and raw and fits the overall sound of the album perfectly, but it itself tends to sound out of place on some of the faster tracks. On slower songs like On the Shores, the raging sax solos fit in perfectly with the doomy jazz-esque metal, providing a real film-noir atmosphere; but on other songs like A Grave Inversed it simply whines through a stream of fast notes that don't really sound that good.
Ihsahns vocals have only gotten better; full, thick screeches and calming clean vocals intertwine their way throughout the album, complimenting and contrasting each other throughout.
Overall this is a good effort from Ihsahn; not the best I've ever heard but a solid album nonetheless. The mixing of experimental saxophone, jazzy guitars and extreme metal guitars and drums make for an interesting listen, and I highly recommend this to fans of dark jazz, avant-garde and heavy metal.