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Ihsahn - angL

Label: Candlelight Records
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: The Goat
With this release, Ihsahn (Emperor, Peccatum) returns to form. His previous release, “The Adversary” showed a shift in musical attention, ever so slight. It was a hit or miss kind of album. “angL” is quite a different beast. Ihsahn delivers us some Emperor-Lite. There are epic passages, some majestic synths, and the Emperor-Ethos. The familiar croaking chasm of a voice is back as well.
“angL” opens with “Misanthrope” which would not be out of place on Ihsahn's genre defining primary band. The only thing truly missing is the total depth of sound that they were known for. This is the one difficulty I notice with Ihsahn's work, the overall gestalt of sound. Unfortunately, the guitars are somewhat thin and the keys - while majestic and commanding - are notably synthetic. It seems that these issues slowly disappear as you become immersed in the album. “Scarab,” while suffering less from the previously mention issues, is a striking song. Ihsahn offers some of his most melodic clean vocals ever. There are traces of prog in the sound too.

The next song is probably the most intriguing and anticipated. “Unhealer” features Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) gusting vocals. To fully grasp this, imagine if the Opeth and Emperor tour buses smashed into each other: “Hey! You got some Opeth in my Emperor!” “Hey! You got your Emperor in my Opeth!” “Mmmmm, that's really good!” This combination is kind of like one of those “D'oh!” moments, where you wonder why nobody thought to put these two metal figureheads in room together before. Ihsahn's voice and Akerfeldt's croon work very well together and their collective death growled vocals make an interesting composition.

From there on out, “angL” leaves the listen salivating. “Emancipation” delivers another platter that captures Ihsahn's previous band's atmosphere but it has a more melodic quality to it - if that's possible. While the rhythms are quite fast, Asgeir Mikaelson's drums are incredibly tight and they offer an urgent pace to the song. Ihsahn's vocals and the music overall has certain melancholy that has been previously unnoticed. “Malediction” carries the torch to tops of the fjords. It is quite a uniform song in relation to the others. It is the straight forward blackened metal song that will keep the fans happy. It is fast and sweeping. It shows that we are definitely in for it when Ihsahn and the Imperial crew return to the studio - which will inevitably occur.

Next to “Unhealer,” I have found “Elevator” to be the next crazily creative song on “angL”. The rhythms descend and descend in an escalator-like momentum. It is probably my favorite song next to the collaborated piece. It is a very melodic song and Ihsahn emulates David Bowie in some parts, which is utterly cool. The guitars remind me of Metallica's “For Whom The Bell Tolls” with the constant downward shifting.

Overall, “angL” demonstrates that Ihsahn is not lacking in ideas or willingness to test the boundaries. This album is definitely steps better than Ihsahn's first solo album. This album is much more coherent and aims to appeal to the fans, which I suspect it will. I also think that “angL” will garner Ihsahn some new fans, if not a few accolades as well. If you are unfamiliar with Emperor's back catalogue, “angL” is definitely a way to get a foot in that door.
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