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First off, people who think Ihsahn peaked after Wrath of the Tyrant, stop reading.
The Adversary marks yet another exciting chapter in Ihsahn’s already stellar discography. This album works as the next logical step to Emperor’s last album, Prometheus…(2001).
However, rather than taking Emperor into a foreign direction, the Emperors decided to call it quits.
Unlike his work with Emperor, Ihsahn uses The Adversary to demonstrate other musical talents that wouldn’t work in Emperor. For example, his Mercyful Fate influence comes out into full swing during the track, Called by the Fire. The prog influenced Homecoming with Garm of Ulver, features catchy vocal hooks that would have ruined an Emperor album.
Melody is something that was limited in Emperor. Not to say Emperor lacked melody, but rather, was limited to a sinister one (which they pulled off flawlessly). With The Adversary, we have beautiful arpeggio/piano breaks scattered throughout the album. For example, the opening of Astera Ton Proinon and The Pain is Still Mine features theatrical keyboard and clean vocal delivery. This may sound like a bad thing (a cheesy symphonic metal move) but Ihsahn proves to not only be an exceptional keyboardist, but also an extremely talented clean vocalist.
The Adversary is much more focused on melody than brutality. Not saying that this album is a top 40 contender, but for extreme metal standards it’s an easy listen. However, this being said, The Adversary does feature some brutal Emperor like tracks such as Citizen & And He Shall Walk in Empty Places, both of which could have been on Prometheus…
Drummer, Asgier Mickelson’s (ex-Borknagar) performance is technical yet tasteful as compared to Trym Torson’s blast beat heavy work in Emperor. Mickelson’s drumming complements Ihsahn’s technical guitar work, rather than distracting it, which was a problem in Emperor, especially on IX Equilibrium (1999).
One of the biggest pros on this album, like all work featuring Ihsahn, is that Ihsahn has a unique way of playing guitar. Like Chuck Schuldiner of Death, Ihsahn’s guitar playing (and tone) is incredibly recognizable. For further example, check out the some of his online guitar tutorials.
When listening to this album, you get the sense that Ihsahn was held back with Emperor (held back by the rules set by the black metal community). With The Adversary, we have compositions that cater to the artist breaking traditional black metal rules.
For cons, The Adversary feels to have too many ideas at once. This album has proven to be more of a stepping-stone for the two proceeding albums Angl (2008) and After (2010). Like all debut albums, the foundation is still a bit rocky but The Adversary doesn’t really take any awkward steps that merit negative feedback.