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Bring back your edge... - 65%

ArnoldHablewitz, June 26th, 2011

Originally published in "The Wormwood Chronicles."

I know I could receive hate mail for this, but upon hearing "The Adversary" for about the 10th time now, I have determined that there really is no other way to put it. Simply put, Ihsahn is beginning to lose his edge a bit.

Many musicians these fall into this illusion that I refer to as "the artist illusion", where putting out good quality material that average potential audience members can get into takes a backseat to putting out self-indulgent, practically masturbatory material mainly in an effort to express artistic integrity...the whole "I don't care if you like it because I do and that means that my artistic integrity is preserved" type of thing. Take a look at the current noise rock, industrial, and raw, under-produced black metal for further reference. With this release, Ihsahn sure seems guilty as charged.

For those of you looking for one of the former members to continue on with the Emperor sound, this is probably as close as you'll get until they reunite permanently. Truth be told the black metal moments on here could probably best be called Emperor-lite. It's more intricate and as a result a bit less heavy than some of us raised on "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk" are used to. Good reference point: I dunno, make a halfway point between newer Mayhem, Ulver, Arcturus, and Borknagar. But mind you, that's just the black metal spectrum of things. At other times on this disc it seems like Ihsahn is spreading himself a bit too thin trying to expand his horizons. I mean, everything from obvious Judas Priest/Mercyful Fate worship (that admittedly does fucking rock), all the way to atmospheric, ethereal tunes that are more mood-inducing than Pink Floyd in a dark room. Add to this some truly intricate guitar weaving sure to please any Opeth fan and you have a mish-mash that although every element is truly something great, I am of the opinion that it's just too jumpy and without flow.

I could say it's without focus, but that's not entirely accurate. It has focus on a song level, but not on an album level if that makes any sense. And that, I think, is the greatest dilemma that will face any listener that picks up this album. They will probably look at it the same way I did: where most of the components that make up the machine are of top-notch quality, and yet the machine itself still fails to function.