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I listened to this full length with a great amount of apprehension. I didn't expect to like it whatsoever. That may perhaps sound clichéd, but its the truth. I was a huge fan of Emperor when I first discovered black metal a number of years ago, but as time has gone on, i've become more and more disconnected from the band. I've instead scoured through the underground to find my true home, away from the likes of the second wave of black metal bands everyone has grown accustomed to; Emperor, Darkthrone and others. I was never the biggest fan of heavy, progressive or thrash metal and considering the reviews I had read all stated of a varying amount of genre influences, my apprehension grew and grew. The Adversary is even quite operatic at times, which is a wide selection of genres. However, I was intrigued to see how Ihsahn would fare in a band of his own and whether it would impact the world of metal as much as Emperor did. I hate to refer back to Emperor so much, but I doubt anyone can escape the fact that Ihsahn was a prominent member.
So, after listening to The Adversary in full I came to an overwhelming conclusion. I absolutely love it! Never in my wildest dreams did I expect such an outcome. I was simply blown away. Perhaps the fact that Ihsahn has compete control (apart from the drum factor) over this band has made it what it is. Its incredibly diverse and wonderfully catchy. Having free reign and decision over the band has showcased Ihsahn's many talents. From songwriting, to singing. His vocals are especially good. They range from your standard Emperor distorted vocals to a very catchy clean range of vocals. The addition of clean vocals is pivotal in my eyes. It again adds diversity and depth to the music. They also help enhance moods, tones and give a little something extra and new. They are refreshing. I'm not the biggest fan of Ihsahn's screamed vocals, but for once I can overlook that. What makes this album special, as aforementioned, is its diversity. Not just musically, but emotionally as well. Its hard to find a band who can display a verying range of emotions in the space of one song. Ihsahn does that with seeming ease. This is done by the use of slow sections, the use of keyboards and the introduction of Garm to the proceedings. The latter is especially good for me as I love Garm's clean vocals. Garms vocals have always depicted an underlying pain to me, which I enjoy hearing. They suit the style of music and fit perfectly to the lyrics used, which are excellent. The beautiful and innovative guitar riffs manage to create a mixture of feelings or all at one time. From sadness and grief to a seemingly more upbeat feeling.
The production is spot on for me. Slightly raw and Prometheus-esque. The Adversary is played at a different range of tempos. Slow passages create despairing feelings and offer a brief moment to gather thoughts before the onslaught of the faster paced sections, which resemble the black metal genre. This idea is supported by the use of double bass pedals on the drums, which are controlled by Asgeir Mickelson, who is a session member and apart of Borknagar. Another well known band within the scene. Other genres are well supported, of course. I can sense a distinct Opeth influence, which may only be being made because both bands are playing within the same genre.
As for highlights ... Well, for me it has to be Called By Fire and Homecoming.