The Adversary



by Shattered_Future USER (51 Reviews)
May 20th, 2006 | 64 replies

Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

When one thinks black metal, they often conjure images of Satan, poor production, and hyperspeed music in their mind. While all those are very valid reasonings, black metal had more than just that. Take Emperor, for example. They possessed all the characteristics of traditional black metal, yet expanded on them with orchestral and harpsichordal compositions, sung vocals, and drums that varied from the blastbeat (not by much, but it was a start).

The group owes it all to Ihsahn, the frontman and main composer. He was with the band from their very conception, present through all of their releases, and generally one of the guiding forces of black metal. However, seemingly bound by the constraints of Emperorís genre (even though he had pissed off ďtrueĒ metalheads around the world for actually trying something different), Emperor just wasnít enough for Ihsahn. He began to devote his time to more and more solo projects, as weird as they come, eventually breaking up Emperor (even though they have reformed for a select few shows, none of which I can go to. :mad:). Included in his large list of side projects and guest appearances are the band Thou Shalt Suffer, a guest spot on the song Radical Cut by Arcturus, session synths and guitar for black metal band Zyklon-B, the eternally weird Peccatum, and the focus of this review, his latest release, The Adversary, released under his own name.

Ihsahn - The Adversary

Released: April 18, 2006 on Candlelight Records

Ihsahn - Lead Vocals/Guitars/Bass/Synths and Orchestral Arrangements
Asgeir Mickelson - All Drums
Kristoffer G. Rygg - Guest Vocals on Homecoming

The Adversary is one of those albums that is unclassifiable, in true Ihsahn sense. It has more to do with the fact that there isnít one set style on this album then the actual music on it (though thereís some classic Ihsahn composing on here as well).

As Iíve read elsewhere, this album is ďa trip through the genres of metalĒ. Ihsahn delves into tons of different genres on here, ranging from the almost Dream Theater esque prog metal of Homecoming to black metal on tracks like Invocation and Citizen, and even the classic rock stylings of Called By The Fire. And, of course, thereís no shortage of the sound he was working towards in Emperor. This album completes what he was trying to achieve, which as best I can make out was an almost gothic style coupled with tons of synth layers.

And, of course, since itís Ihsahn, you know there will be no shortage of musical ability. His ability to change styles at the drop of a hat is uncanny, and he is a better guitarist than most people give him credit for. Although we donít see him solo much on here, the riffs he writes are nevertheless challenging. Ihsahnís music isnít about showing off his technicality, itís about creating a mood in the listener. And he does that with the utmost perfection.

Asgeirís drumming doesnít stand out particularly much, but he handles them well. He appears to be very versatile as well, simply because of the broad range of styles on here. The drums never seem out of place at all, they flow with the music rather well. While heíll never be on the same level as Trym (Emperorís current drummer, and an absolute beast), he does possess the ability to NOT play blastbeats constantly.

Same goes for Kristoffer (also known to many as Garm). Kristoffer is quite possibly one of the best vocalists ever IMO, but on this release he doesn't do much. Ihsahn proves much more versatile here, but Kristoffer pulls out a good performance nonetheless. Heís got a good range, and a nice voice. Nothing too standoutish, but it blends with the music well.

However, I think what really makes this release is the orchestral and choral arrangements. Ihsahn always had a knack for blending an orchestra into black metal without making it sound like the orchestra was doing all the work (Dimmu Borgir could take a few cues from him). Thereís the ever-present strings and piano in most songs, and they give a depressing, yet beautiful feel to many of the songs.

Per usual with Ihsahn, thereís bound to be a level of weirdness in the music. Even though this album isnít as weird as releases heís put out with Peccatum (now THAT is beyond weird, yet it still kicks epic ass), thereís the ever-present state of ďFuh?Ē throughout this album. It will take some time to grow on you; I admit myself that Iím still not completely used to this album, but it grows on me more the more I listen to it.

If you desire, there are some recommended tracks. However, all of the tracks are worth listening to, if only to hear the different styles the album possesses:

Invocation - If I am not mistaken, this is the single from the album. The beginning of this album takes us back to Prometheus, the last album that Emperor released. The first half of it is very black metally, but it gives way to a softer sound.

Called By The Fire - Ihsahn doing rock music? What has this world come to!?!? Itís actually really, REALLY good. Catchy as hell riff, some unbelievable notes he hits as a vocalist, and JUST enough of his trademark flair to make it sound like his own, but not too much like his own.

Citizen - Black metal, plain and simple. Aside from a few breaks, this is as black metal as Ihsahn can make it. Blastbeats, trem picking, phlegm-clogged throat vocals...the whole nine yards.

Homecoming - In a complete 180 degree shift from the last song, we have some prog here. Even though the verse riff is completely ripped off from A Change Of Seasons by Dream Theater, Kristoffer manages to make the song his own. His performance is a break from Ihsahnís strained (it sounds a lot like that) vocals, and what he lacks in power, he makes up for in beauty. Odd time signatures complete this song.

Astera ton Proinon - One needs the song title in a weird language. Itís a staple. This is the ďballadĒ of the album, and itís one of my personal favorites. The piano and strings take over for the verses in a very pretty, haunting arrangement, but itís the chorus that really takes the spotlight. Everything kicks back in, and Ihsahn cranks the screams back up, but he does it in a way that actually channels more emotion than the verses, oddly enough. The female chorus does a good job of backing him up as well.

Overall - Is this an essential release to have? Probably not, but itís still an entertaining listen. Fans of Ihsahn in any way, shape, or form wonít be disappointed with this, as it has enough ďtr00nessĒ to stay loyal to Emperor, yet it has the flair of Peccatum as well. And, of course, everything in between. Pick this up if you want some original music, or if you want something that style jumps between many different genres.

Final Rating - 8/10

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user ratings (338)

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 20th 2006


Lovely review.

May 20th 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

Good review.

Personally I love the variety of this album.

May 20th 2006


sounds very interesting. I might check this one out. Nice review btw

May 20th 2006


Good review.
Only downpoint, how can you say, Garm is less versatile than Ihsahn vocalwise? :confused:

Ihsahn is a good vocalist, but Garm kicks his butt big time.

Thabks for uplaoding this in the DU

May 20th 2006


Good review. I haven't been keeping up with metal lately, but I saw this in the cd store the other day and said 'hmm'. I would like to hear it.

May 20th 2006


This is a good CD but I WANT EMPEROR BACK!! *cries to sleep everynight*

May 20th 2006



May 20th 2006


This review was interesting and fun to read. Well done!

May 21st 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

That was GARM?? :eek:

I didn't realize that...no, overall Garm is a TON better vocalist, but on this release you don't hear his massive skills as much. He just goes along with the song. Which isn't a bad thing.

Thanks much for comments.

May 21st 2006


I enjoy what little I've heard of this.

May 21st 2006


That was GARM??

I didn't realize that...no, overall Garm is a TON better vocalist, but on this release you don't hear his massive skills as much. He just goes along with the song. Which isn't a bad thing.

Thanks much for comments.

Ok, too bad he doen't pull of awesome tricks on this track.
BNice to see him collaborating on this album, He is also supposed to be on the Winds album, not sure if he will do vocals, programming or something else.

once again, good review.

May 21st 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

I think I'm going to check this out. I love Emperor at their most obscure, and so I might just dig this.

May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

If you like Emperor, but aren't afraid to branch out a bit, this is for you.

May 26th 2006


Nice review, also not a bad album.

May 29th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

This is not a 5/5 more like 4.5/5

Its a great cd, but not a masterpiece at all.

May 29th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

This is a mind blowing release. Every song brings something new, and it's always excellent. 5/5 from me.

May 29th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

I really need to get this. I'm a huge fan of Emperor and if this thing sounds anything like their later material then I shall be a happy listener.

June 7th 2006


called by the fire reminds me of mercyfful fate and king diamond

June 8th 2006


great cd, just picked it up. definitely ihsahn's shining moment as a composer, though I haven't heard much peccatum...

wouldn't compare it to anything he did with Emperor though... they're far too different to decide if one is "better"

Dancin' Man
June 9th 2006


Haven't heard it yet. Ihsahn generally rules though so I'll check it.

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