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The previous, which was his first, solo full length album of Ihsahn has made quite a big impact on me, surprisingly really, as I just didn’t expect I’ll ever again like anything what Vegard Tveitan will do… You know, knowing some of his recent works with Peccatum and even the very last Emperor LP, which weren’t my thing at all I couldn’t expect anything what I would enjoy (from the other hand I am a big fan of early / mid era Emperor). Anyway I gave “The Adversary” a chance and enjoyed the music very much; I liked its bravery, sophistication and ideas to mix many different styles of music – including some jazz and classic music – with extreme (black) metal. It definitely proved that Ihsahn is a great composer and has many amazing and intriguing ideas. “angL” is the second part of his musical journey through rarely explored territories – in metal music at least – and I think I can say that musically “angL” is pretty much a straight continuation of “The Adversary”. Those of you, who have heard the previous CD will not be surprised at all when hearing “angL”… You know, personally, when I have listened to “The Adversary” for the first time I was quite shocked how the music progresses and how it combines so many different styles of music and so many different emotions… In that way “angL” isn’t so effective and surprising anymore, as it just follows the debut. But that doesn’t mean it is not a good album…
Once more you’ll be able to find in the music of Ihsahn songs, which are following the legacy of Emperor – songs, which are kind of black metal, but obviously they’re not classic black metal… I mean they clearly have the black metal elements, like fast, sharp riffage, harsh vocals, some fast drumming, but at the same time they’re obviously more melodic and have symphonic background, so you cannot call them purely black metal. Anyway, this genre has still a great impact on Ihsahn music. Along it there’s a bunch of songs, which are completely different – some of them are kind of melodic metal songs, some other sound almost like a progressive rock or whatever… and all have big influence from the symphonic music, so you can expect again many different emotions on the album this man created.
“angL” starts with a big bang called “Misanthrope” – and this song is like “Invocation” on the previous CD; it opens the CD with quite aggressive way, only in case of “Misanthrope” it isn’t so fast. A good song, really, it could have certainly been taken from any of the last two Emperor LPs, musically it is just very close to it and you instantly can hear that this song is a work of Ihsahn, with his specific and original way of playing guitars, arranging all the parts and of course also due to the vocals sound. But then “Scarab” will be the first of the songs, which are more on the progressive side; this one – in its majority – is very melodic, very calm and has many peaceful and quite moments, here and there interrupted by bombastic, but also more aggressive and harsh playing, what gives a nice, varied musical experience. Then the third track, “Unhelaer” will surprise you even more! It is something like a shocker! This is progressive rock metal or however you’ll call it, with a great guest vocal participation of Mikale Akerfeldt from Opeth. And man, I just really like it! It is very epic and great song, very catchy, very memorable… and just beautiful, if I can use this description, however I don’t know if some black metal fans will like it, but who gives a damn… The comparison to Opeth comes to my mind straight away and I think it is not only due to the participation of Akerfeldt in this track, but also due to that big progressiveness and feeling of this song. Besides, that Opeth comparison can come also in few other songs, like “Threnody”, which again is one of the calmest and most sorrowful songs on the album, with a strong progressive rock influence. Half of it is almost like a ballad, but to my surprise it is one of the most memorable moments of “angL”, with its sad melodies and great mood. Yeah, I like it! Don’t ask me why I do, but it really is a good song. And another fine example would be “Emancipations”.
Right. What’s next… I mentioned some of the calmest and more progressive songs from “angL”, but don’t think that the angry side of Ihsahn is not present on the album at all… There are several moments on “angL”, which surely will remind you Emperor, not just in “Misanthrope”, but also in “Malediction”, which is just a killer song, very Emperor-esque and can really remind you such anthems as “An Elegy of Icaros” and anything else from “IX Equilibrium”… For sure such moments are lesser present on “angL” than on “The Adversary”, but luckily are not completely gone and I say this because thanks to it the music is wonderfully diverse and has many layers, many different emotions, it’s a bit of everything, which is good of course.
In the end I can just say that “angL” is yet another very good album from Ihsahn. He again delivered some very interesting and enjoyable music, which I listened to with pleasure. Obviously you just cannot start listening to it from the perspective of the old Emperor, as this is just something completely different and has absolutely nothing in common. The old atmosphere of Norwegian black metal is gone, this album is about something different. But I am sure that if you’re open minded you’ll like it. I don’t think “angL” is as good as “The Adversary”, I think I liked the previous album a little bit more, but “angL” is not too far behind. It certainly is more progressive and more melodic material, the music is calmer and not so angry, but I don’t mind. It is good to listen to something like that from time to time, besides it still has some Emperor-esque moments here and there, so… Definitely it is a must for the Ihsahn and Emperor fans for sure! Personally I don’t like every song from it, there are some like “Alchemist” and “Elevator”, which are nothing special really, but anyway this is good album certainly.
Standout tracks: “Misanthrope”, “Threnody”, “Unhealer”, “Malediction”
Final rate: 75/100
Angl, part two of Ihsahn’ “A” trilogy features somewhat of a regression from The Adversary. Regression on the surface, but Angl is quite the progression from 2006’s The Adversary.
Angl features much heavy material as compared to The Adversary. Songs like the opener Misanthrope, features sinister syths layered overtop Asgier Mickelson’s impressive drum work. Although the material is much heavier, the music contains much more complexity within each song. For instance the solos in Scarab and Malediction are simple stellar.
The most significant addition to Angl is bassist Lars Norberg. This guy knows how to play! Every song on the album is filled with complicated bass lines and fills. For example listen to the bass lines on Scarab. Norberg plays the bass like a lead guitar rather than just playing the root notes like most metal bassists.
Opeth seems to have influenced Ihsahn on this album, not just Unhealer which features Mikael Åkerfeldt on vocals but within the composition. The Opeth influence is mostly heard within the mellow sections such as the acoustic pre-chorus on Scarab. This influence is rather subtle.
Angl’s syth work often sounds more like Emperor (Prometheus era). Like all of Ihsahn’s synth work, it doesn’t distract from the overall picture but rather complements the music. Check out songs like Misanthrope, Malediction and Alchemist all of which will give you a nice trip down memory lane.
For the new twists, Ihsahn displays more traditional singing on Angl. The later half of the album is where most of this occurs, songs such as Threnody and Elevator both feature soft vocal passages. These passages do not distract the listener but rather open up another side of Ihsahn’s creative potential. Both songs have a depressive delivery, which fits the album perfectly. Unlike many bands who use clean vocals as a way to gain mass appeal (metalcore, or newer melodic death metal) these clean vocals add dimension to this music, unlike older albums featuring Ihsahn which were limited to clean operatic vocals.
Highly recommended for fans of progressive metal or fans that can truly appreciate talent when they hear it.
Ihsahn's second album, angL, has slowly but surely become one of my more played metal albums. The man behind the legendary Emperor really has some diverse talent, and it shows here.
The music here is incredibly varied and a testament to Ihsahn and his ability as a songwriter. Songs like the opener "Misanthrope" and "Malediction" really show his black metal/symphonic roots, while pieces like "Scarab," "Emancipation" and the last three songs all lean towards the progressive side, with numerous acoustic interludes, lots of clean vocals, relaxed fretless bass work and even a bluesy solo in "Threnody." There's a couple oddballs here, like "Alchemist," which opens with an insane riff and keeps to a pretty fast pace and closes with some fantastic solo work; and "Elevator," which is driven by soaring guitar and keyboard work.
All the instruments sound terrific and are perfectly handled; my only complaints would b that the drums sound weak, and that takes away from some of the faster sections of the album, and the bass remains mostly hidden, except for the fretless solos. Keyboards are handled flawlessly, never overwhelming the music and adding brilliant atmospheric touches.
The vocals, being Ihsahn, are superb. The singing is calming, the screams are ferocious and unsettling and both fit perfectly well with the music. Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth makes an appearance on "Unhealer," and contributes some of his trademark growls and roars which sound terrific.
Lyrical content here is excellent and is mainly centered on thoughtful, poetic, introspective looks at life, individualism and existence. Ihsahn has always had a knack for good lyrics and these are no exception.
If I had to pick a weak part of the album...I'd say "Misanthrope," "Alchemist," and "Malediction" are the songs I'm not as fond of. They focus more on speed and technicality and seem to lack the atmosphere the other songs have. They aren't "bad" songs by any means, just not as solid as the rest.
Like I said above, this is an incredibly varied album. It's got raging furious songs, calming and soothing songs and some plain old weird songs, but all together make for one heck of an album. I highly recommend this to any fan of black metal, progressive metal or heavy music in general.
The former Emperor frontman/guitarist can apparently do little wrong in his career. The Adversary was a great first attempt at a solo record, building upon the later imperial style, and angL kicks it up a notch, with an amazing amount of progression woven into the symphonic and technical black metal excellence.
"Misanthrope" is the first of nine gorgeous tracks, with a thrashing twist to its riffing below Ihsahn's sadistic, toxic vocals. "Scarab" is almost pure progressive, with a few well-timed breaks into the more technical black/death. "Unhealer" is a melodic, progressive track with a near balladry to it, again climaxing with progressive black and death metal overtones. "Emancipation" and "Malediction" return to the fast and aggressive, steeped in tasteful leads, thoughtful riffing and symphonic synths. "Alchemist" is one of the more progressive tunes. "Elevator" is highly creepy and atmospheric, and just might be my favorite track. "Threnody" starts off with some acoustics and clean vocals, as does the adventurous closer "Monolith". Quality is quite consistent throughout here, this is a man who values depth to his songwriting. You won't pick up all the intended signals on your first listen through, it requires a few to truly set in.
Lyrically the album borders on Emperor's sense of personal power and tragedy and the id, but they are quite well written if simple.
'there is vanity in my destruction
there is mockery in my ordeal
indefinite is the course of my descent
when lights disperse
and the devil takes me'
The serious and dark tone almost mocks some of the more playful progressive touches of the album, but in conjunction it has created a near masterpiece. I've said the 'p' word enough in this review, but try and imagine Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise with an edge of 'p' metal and you wind up here, on angL. Enjoy it!
This is a fabulous album by a great metal musician. I am glad Vegard has decided to branch out his affinity for symphonic progression in a solo career rather than just doing it with Emperor which wouldn't work as well. I will admit after the first time I heard angL all the way through, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It was even more progressive than I thought it would be. Some albums take several listenings before you are hooked on what you didn't realize the first time. This album is an example of such. It's an album that I have once played back to back eight times in a row. The reason I have played it so much so soon is I was addicted to listening to Ihsahn's song craft and progressive guitar playing. The fact that I am an Emperor fan also helped but it was nothing more than a reason to seek this out to begin with.
Despite the very recognizable synth arrangements and Ihsahn's somewhat moderated black metal screams, angL shouldn't be approached as black metal. This is quality extreme progressive metal with esoteric themes and personal quest for dark superiority. Asgeir Mickelson is the drummer on this one and he does a bang up job providing a steel cold industrial sense of speed. But it's Ihsahn's guitar playing on here that is incredible. These kinds of progressions are not easy to write or play yet they sound so clear and natural.
Ihsahn has created flawless songwriting and his performance is outstanding and while it aspires to be perfection it falls just a tad shy of complete greatness. Misanthrope and Malediction are tightly wound and superbly crafted songs on the album but they are a bit on the filler side of things. Unhealer is a fantastic song featuring Mikael Åkerfeldt on vocals but Ihsahn gets a little overshadowed by him here. The song sounds closer to Opeth than any of the others but I have no complaints because it is a very awesome song nontheless.
The remaining songs are incredible. I would prefer not to describe them too much as to take anything away or spoil the surprise except to say they are magical with a touch of what made Emperor so great. If you love that band, then angL is a must try. It is worth every penny and shines with the brightest star in the moring that is Lucifer.
It’s difficult to keep the action subtle when dealing with symphonic black metal and/or progressive metal. Subtlety is exactly what’s needed with progressive metal to prevent people from going overboard with long songs, different time signatures and masturbatory skill exercises.
What former Emperor frontman Ishsahn manages to stuff inside his own solo project is of course a seamless mixture of symponic black metal and just as mentioned before, soulful, emotional progressive metal that is in fact subtle without getting anywhere near overboard, and in fact throws in some tiny little surprises that words cannot describe, as they’re not attempts to sound like other music, but true audio experiments with what Ihshan has on tap, that being the guitars, bass, drums keyboards and a fretless bass as well. The progressive tie-ins don’t stop there, as Opeth vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt lends his signature growl to the song “Unhealer”.
The black metal itself sounds like it could be the progenitor of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth, which makes absolute sense, since Emperor was considered by many to be the pioneers of symphonic black metal (were they the first?) Ihsahn manages to bring over that early evil sonic union in a modern sense today.
While the tones and production of the instruments are a slight bit thin, “angL” still provides many of those underground North American black/progressive bands something to aspire to.
Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com
I’m going to keep this review short, simply because this album isn’t worth writing two thousand words about. If you asked me to type out some words to describe this album, you might get such words as “boring,” “dull,” and of course “shit.” If you’re thinking, “this guy’s just some stupid black metal wanker,” you’d be wrong. Make no mistake, I loved “The Adversary.” It was everything it should have been, catchy, memorable, stupidly over the top (in a King Diamond sort of way). It was a great album, and knowing Ihsahn’s consistent output, I expected great things from “angL” (seriously, GET A BETTER NAME).
I’ve been terribly let down though, because “angL” is everything the previous album wasn’t. This has to be the most uninspired thing Ihsahn has ever done. There is absolutely no memorability, nothing to get hooked on. At times it seems like a botched attempt to go back to the style and extremity of Emperor’s “Anthems” album, yet at others it sounds like a botched attempt to go all Opeth-y. Whatever Ihsahn was trying to do here, he’s botched it, and botched it badly. The guitar work is mostly boring wankery mixed with the occasional solo that fucking RULES, but it’s just not enough to save the album. Ihsahn’s vocals are holding up very well, with some of his best screams since “IX Equilibrium,” however his cleans are not up to scratch and it seems that he’s more content to sit back and croon than go down to Majesty Town and whip out a “With Strength I Burn” quality vocal performance. Certainly disappointing, but at least it’s better than the rest of the album.
All isn’t helped by the production. The guitars, while thick, seem weak. The terrible triggered drums are pushed to the front here (the playing is fine, but the sound is horrible). In fact, through most of opener “Misanthrope,” most of what you’re going to hear is “TICK TICK TICK TICK” followed by the occasional “TICK… TICK… TICK…” when the bass drums slow down. At least Ihsahn’s vocals are nicely balanced in the mix, just loud enough to bring out the detail in his voice, but not so high that it drowns out everything else. Oh yeah, the bass is completely inaudible of course, much in the same way that “The Adversary” may as well have not even had a bass guitar.
I think I’m supposed to give some sort of run-down of the songs on the album, but I really am failing to see a point. Nothing is memorable, and after just listening to the album, I can’t remember a thing other than the “Misanthrope” and Mikael Åkerfeldt completely ruining “Unhealer” (Ihsahn has really gone all out with the bad titles on this one!). “Misanthrope” is somewhat reminiscent of “Anthems” era Emperor, though nowhere near as good (it merely sounds like Ihsahn is trying too hard), while Unhealer is such a shitty mix of Opeth and “The Adversary” that it makes me wish the milk man came so the Cheerios I was eating didn’t… look the same on the way out. That’s as far as remembering a song goes on “angL,” so buy cautiously.
All in all, “angL” is a giant turd, polished to the point where it more resembles a freshly cleaned batch of platinum. Unfortunately, this platinum still looks and smells like the putrid brown semi-solid it once was. “angL” is a perfect example of a brilliantly talented artist doing everything wrong. It’s kind of sad really, this mighty musician (and he IS still mighty, so I have no idea what happened here) has released something so devoid of feeling and quality. One somewhat decent song and one piece of vomit inducing shit is all you’ll take away from “angL.” It’s not good, it’s not even average, it’s downright bad. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going back to Autopsy.
NOTE: I've edited out a couple of blatant grammar and spelling related errors.
Ihsahn’s debut solo album Adversary was proof of the musician’s evolution from his genre-defining black metal past to a more traditional metal approach. There were bits of death metal, some traditional Iron Maiden/ Mercyful Fate styling and it was all still wrapped up in a vaguely black metal feel. It was also evident that Ihsahn was getting better and better as a songwriter and as a guitar player. I loved the Adversary and thought it was a terrific and logical follow up to the last Emperor album, Prometheus.
angL, released earlier this year sees Ihsahn team up once more with Asgeir Mickelson (drums) and new addition Lars Norberg (bass) who have played together in Spiral Architect while also turning up in a variety of bands including Borknagar. Backing band thus taken care of, all Ihsahn had to do was come up with a bunch of songs that could match up to The Adversary. Luckily, he’s gone one better than that.
The music on offer is for the most part, progressive melodic death metal with clean acoustic guitars, raging Euro-death and some terrific guitar playing from Ihsahn. Ihsahn also shows off his continuing growth as a vocalist with some nice clean vocals through the album. There’s also an obligatory guest vocal spot on the album, this time from Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt who does a great job. The one thing that really stands out on this album is Ihsahn’s superb guitar playing. His leads on this album are at a whole new level and his riffing sounds pretty damn unique too. It’s progressive without ever coming across like Opeth (even the song with Mikael Åkerfeldt), it’s heavy enough to satisfy just about anybody and there are these little fills that Ihsahn uses superbly to accentuate the songs.
There’s no filler material here at all but the opening trio of Misanthrope, Scarab and Unhealer is a terrific start to the album and the quality just does not drop. Elevator (imagine Solefald and Arcturus jamming together) and Threnody do a fantastic job in showcasing Ihsahn’s vastly improved clean vocal style and honestly, this album shows the phenomenal growth of Ihsahn as an artist.
In terms of a reference point, there are bits here that sound like Prometheus and IX Equilibrium but essentially this is a direct progression from The Adversary except that Ihsahn’s skill has gotten even better. Alchemist is a case in point combining traditional heavy metal with a frantic uber-technical rhythm and some soaring lead guitar work. Also, Ihsahn’s got himself a terrific rhythm section. Mickelson and Norberg are not even close to the stuff they did on Spiral Architect but then again they don’t need to. The duo sound rock solid and the songs benefit greatly from their tight playing.
Each song comes across as a unique entity that still fits into the whole. angL is turning into one of those albums that can just be played anytime, anywhere and enjoyed to the fullest. The real excitement though, comes from the fact that if Ihsahn’s growth as a musician continues apace, the third album is going to be an absolute classic. That said, angL comes pretty close.
I thought Ihsahn's last effort was overrated; it was good, not great. This album is a lot better than his last release.
The sound on this album hasn't really changed much compared to the last release. However, this album seems to have more layers than the previous album if you know what I mean. There seems to be more of an emphasis on synths than the previous album as well. I also enjoyed the riffs here more than the last.
Vocally, this album is the usual Ihsahn output, screechy black metal vocals with clean vocals. Mikael from Opeth even joins in with both his clean and extreme vocals. Back when I was 16 I always thought it would be a cool idea of Ihsahn and Mikael did a song together or something. Mikael's influence on here is fairly minimal, as the song Unhealer sounds nothing like anything Opeth have ever done. Something that I didn't like about this album is that there are less clean vocals on this album than on the previous album. However Ihsahn gives one his best clean vocal performances he has ever done in my opinion.
The drums here are nothing overly technical. Basically, it's the same that you'll find on The Adversary. Nothing spectacular but it gets the job done.
In conclusion, this is a good album and in my opinion much better than The Adversary which only warranted 75%. If you liked previous outputs by Ihsahn, such as Prometheus and The Adversary, then I'd recommended you get this.
Conclusion: The above is recommended for download or purchase.
Ihsahn, the former EMPEROR front man, released his solo debut in 2006. “The Adversary” marked a return to the symphonic black metal contained on his last three albums with EMPEROR, although it included progressive and melodic traits not found on those EMPEROR records, yet strayed from the ethereal movements of his prior project, PECCATUM. Since IHSAHN began his career, he has always refined his craft by exploring new musical avenues, sometimes stepping completely away from black metal. Such is the case with his second album, “angL.”
“angL” revisits many of the same facets as his last album. Tracks such as “Misanthrope” and “Malediction” show Ihsahn bearing his snarled teeth to unleash his familiar, animal-like growl amidst rising-and-falling keys and speed-picked guitar rhythms. Asgeir Mickelson took time off from SPIRAL ARCHITECT and BORKNAGAR to keep the kick the drum moving, Lars Koppang Norber, also of SPIRAL ARCHITECT provides the deep bottom.
Speedy, keyboard enhanced numbers like the above retain the spirit of the last three EMPEROR albums, which should satiate the worshippers of the Icon E, but just like any Ihsahn creation, there are plenty of surprises.
First of all, Ihsahn’s guitar playing has improved vastly. Ihsahn keeps his playing diverse, from charring guitar chugs, to weird guitar tricks, soaring melodies, progressive chord structures, and guitar solos. The number of guitar solos on “angL” seems vastly more than any of his past albums. Ihsahn even pulls out an acoustic guitar for the soulful harmonies of “Threnody.” From the rich melodies to the bluesy guitar solos, this track is reminiscent of OPETH. The progressive, poly-rhythms of “Emancipation” also bring to mind OPETH.
Ihsahn recently stated in an interview that this comparison to OPETH may derive from OPETH’s front man, Mikael Akefeldt making an appearance on the disc. That’s right, the voice of OPETH appears on the third track, “Unhealer.” The melodies of this track seem suited for Akerfeldt, especially during his first, clean verse, but the heavier melodies are straight from the book of Ihsahn. Akerfeldt takes sole possession during clean-vocal moments, but alternates with Ihsahn during harsher moments. This extreme vocal duet is one of heavy metal’s highlights for 2008.
Anyone who has followed Ihsahn’s career knows he possesses one of the strongest voices in black metal, so this side of his vocal performance comes as no surprise, but the maturation of his clean voice is astounding. “Emancipation,” “Alchemist” and “Threnody” are the most organic performances of Ihsahn’s career. These tracks are a testament to the years of training Ihsahn invested in to develop his voice into the smooth-as-suede throat he presents on these tracks.
When an EMPEROR album came out, one could expect one of the best albums of the year. After the group split, the members have created various bands, most of which sound nothing like EMPEROR and are not of the caliber as that legendary group. When Ihsahn released his first solo album, he had returned to the dominant stance he had in EMPEROR, not only because of the familiarity, but also his musical brilliance. The second, full-length recording by the IHSAHN band continues this string of Ihsahn producing a top ten album. At this point in the year, “angL” is the best album of 2008!
Posted on www.metalcentre.com