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I really can't recommend this enough - 99%

Evil_Sock_Puppet, December 18th, 2006

I may be in the minority opinion here, but I actually think I prefer Ihsahn's solo work to anything I've heard from Emperor. I admit it's not exactly an apples to apples comparison, as he clearly wasn't just looking to create a clone of Emperor, but I still like the new style more.

As the two opening tracks make perfectly clear, this album runs from straight-ahead black metal (like the first two minutes of "Invocation") to power metal (like most of "Called by the Fire") and in-between (pretty much everything else). In addition to the more familiar shriek with pounding double bass lines and synth-heavy accompaniments, "Adversary" contains some very Priest/Maiden-like guitar lines with surprisingly strong clean vocals, and even the occasional falsetto wail.

Like I said, though, most of the material falls somewhere in between those extremes, and that's where most of the really entertaining and creative stuff is. The overall feel is more of experimentation than standard metal, with several tempo and mood changes scattered about. Once in a while he even throws in the occasional mellow passage ("The Pain is Still Mine," in particular, opens with a really nice piano intro), as if just playing around with genres wasn't enough.

Everything here is just so well done. There's almost always something else going on besides just normal metal. "Astera Ton Proinon" is particularly epic, and there's some great guitar/synth interplay on "Panem et Circences." It's pretty much impossible to absorb everything in just a few listens, especially since almost everything is progressive; there are almost no choruses or repeated sections. The musicianship may not be as technical or accomplished as some of the other metal that's out there (though it's definitely still up there), but the real strength is in the songwriting.

The one thing I really want to emphasize is how creative everything is. It might take until the fifth or sixth time listening to the album to take notice of a particular passage in one song that only lasts a few seconds, but that passage will almost certainly still be kinda neat. Personal favorite "Will You Love me Now?", in which both the black and power metal influences are in full force, alone is worth the cost of an entire album, and the replay value of the whole thing means you get way more out of the album than just the 50 minutes of total playing time.