IHSAHN - angL (Mnemosyne Productions - CD 2008)
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