The original breakup of Emperor was a sad day for the Black Metal community. Just when they were at their peak, they vowed to quit while they were ahead. However, the great relief came when Ihsahn announced the beginning of his solo career, and with the release of his first album, The Adversary, he gave us a continued dose of inspired metal. Although there were several similarities with his solo album and Emperor, there were great differences too - less black metal, more progressive rock elements, and an overall dab into many other metal sub-genres. Now Ihsahn is back with his second solo effort, Angl, and he once again proves the versatility of his music and the range of his vocals.
Angl starts off with Misanthrope - a throwback to Prometheus-era Emperor albeit with an updated sound. There are even a couple of King Diamond moments in the song, adding to the music dynamically. The next song, Scarab, has an incredible progressive riff, layered with Ihsahn's mid-level Black Metal vocal range. In mid song, there is a a short piano part, coupled with clean vocals that blend in perfectly with song before blasting into a short Dream Theater-like melodic riff. The next song, Unhealer, is a very melodic song featuring the vocal talents of Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt (on both clean vocals and death growls). When Mikael's death growls trade off with Ihsahn's Black Metal screams, it's enough to send shivers up and down your spine. Emancipation is a very progressive song with a nice, catchy chorus. Ihsahn shows a nice vocal range on this track - ranging from clean vocals to raspy screams. Malediction is an aggressive Black Metal song featuring crushing blast beats and traditional Emperor melodies. The guitar solo in this track shows that Ihsahn has what it takes to be a world-class guitarist. Alchemist is full of technical wizardry, in the vein of Symbolic-era Death and the vocals resemble the early works of David Bowie. Elevator is a very interesting track, as the guitar work really makes you feel as if you are actually in an elevator heading straight to hell! Threnody features some beautiful acoustic guitars and Ihsahn's clean vocals seem to get better and better - especially on this track. The album closer, Monolith, starts off as a beautiful acoustic arrangement before churning out some classic Emperor riffs.
Ihsahn continues to prove that his post-Emperor work is just as relevant as Emperor itself. Continually improving on the metal that he does know and play best, while incorporating such a broad range of other styles of music, shows Ihsahn's never ending talents. I believe that fans of Emperor will truly enjoy this more than The Adversary and fans of other types of metal will equally enjoy it as well. I'm very curious as to how far Ihsahn will continue to push the boundaries. Until that happens, I will truly enjoy the music that makes up Angl.
About this Writer: David Loveless // Dave's early introduction to Metal was listening to records by Black Sabbath and Kiss. Discovering Metallica's Master of Puppets on record at the local public library turned his world upside down. After spending nearly 24 years in Japan and expanding his love for the International underground metal scene, Dave (and family) now resides in the US. The savage brutality of Extreme Metal brings out the "Grim Gaijin" in him.
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