Album: The Adversary
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Progressive Metal
Length: 50 minutes
Label(s): Candlelight Records, Mnemosyne Productions
02. Called by the Fire
05. Astera Ton Proinon
06. Panem et Circenses
07. And He Shall Walk in Empty Places
08. Will You Love Me Now?
09. The Pain is Still Mine
Ihsahn The Adversary Review
The Adversary is the debut solo album of Emperor front man and multi-instrumentalist Ihsahn. The sound of The Adversary is a continuation of the black metal and progressive metal hybrid that Emperor experimented with on their final album, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise.
Starting with Invocation, the listener gets a compact overview of what direction Ihsahn is taking as he introduces The Adversary with an intense black metal verse with matching lyrics and a screeched vocal delivery to invoke apocalyptic imagery before crying “let it all come down” which is appropriately accompanied by relentless blast beat drumming, courtesy of Asgeir Mickelson, to tie the lyrics and music together in a dramatic style.
Keyboards are employed as a background instrument in both the hard and soft segments of the song, the latter of which lasts for about 2 minutes after the explosive blast beats, and introduces Ihsahn’s clean singing style that goes from even tempered to a strained falsetto wail.
While Ihsahn shows some skill as a singer among his other musical talents Kristoffer Rygg (of Ulver fame) offers a stronger sung performance on Homecoming that can’t help but make the listener think that Ihsahn should have performed the harsh vocals while getting Kristoffer Rygg to cover the sung portion of The Adversary. The music on Homecoming also introduces more textural qualities when Kristoffer Rygg sings and this gives off the impression that at least parts of the song was written with his specific voice in mind but however you look at it, it proves to be a well-executed endeavour.
The Pain is Still Mine is a little over 10 minutes long, making it twice the length of the other songs, but it gives the progressive metal strain much more room the breathe as you might expect if you are familiar with the subgenre. It should also be said that most of the progressive metal elements come in the form of each song having several different consecutive verses or instrumental passages and this isn’t the kind of album that lies on the virtuosity end of the progressive spectrum.
Like any musician or band that blends polarising genres or sounds together, they must take care to fuse them together properly less they end up with a patchwork quilt of an album at worst or some head scratching transitions at best. In the case of The Adversary this sort of pitfall is avoided in most instances and there are only a couple of questionable transitional sections to be heard. One of these moments is the sudden stop half way into Citizen where you think that the song has ended but before you can finish that thought a piano melody comes out of nowhere and makes you think that it’s an entirely different song. However when this is spliced together with bursts of wrathful vocals and clean guitar playing later in the song the blending of styles is much more convincing.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of this album is Ihsahn’s harsh vocal style which can often sound strained like Marge Simpson if she had a sore throat but for die hard Emperor fans wanting more material from one of black metals early stalwart musicians then this will hardly be something to fault. If you are a fan of indulgent-free progressive metal with a harder edge coming from the black metal realm then The Adversary is an ideal and relatively accessible point of reference to start with.
Ihsahn: Vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards
Asgeir Mickelson: Drums
Kristoffer Rygg: Guest vocals on “Homecoming”