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Ihsahn - Undercurrent - 80%

ConorFynes, February 25th, 2011

Released digitally as an exclusive promo for the then-upcoming album 'After', progressive black metal musician and former Emperor frontman Ihsahn has picked a rather irregular single here. At ten minutes long, it is one of the longest, most involved tracks on the record, and the biggest grower. However, while certainly not a typical choice of promo for an album, the song 'Undercurrent' stands as being one of the highlights of the album, and a great piece of music all its own.

Beginning with some mellow yet haunting guitar picking and smooth vocals from Ihsahn, 'Undercurrent' takes its time to get going. Building very steadily from a melodic and laid-back approach to a darker, heavier sound a few minutes in, the song's gradual build can feel a bit inconsequential at the first few listens, but it does do wonders for the song once it finally hits its stride. A good four minutes into the track, 'After's defining tenor saxophones kick in with the track's main theme, an apocalyptic melody that is repeated throughout the album, and is quite beautiful, although very sad.

As with all great longer tracks, 'Undercurrent' also has a fantastic climax and finale, where Ihsahn's clean vocals have never sounded so powerful, ironically sounding a bit like a blues or gospel singer in the sheer passion and intensity of the voice and ad-libbing. Although the song is fairly mid-tempo and moreso a composition based in development of ideas over mere energy, there are a few parts towards the end that feature great soloing from Ihsahn and rapidfire drumwork to break up the pace. While not my personal favourite track from 'After', Ihsahn's 'Undercurrent' would certainly be a great track to be introduced to the album with, featuring virtually all of the things that made the album a success.