On the eve of the release of Ihsahn's third (master)piece, I get to listen to the band's record through the right speakers at last.
After has already accompanied me at work for a month and I just can't get enough. One's ear is constantly drawn to new details in the compositions that have evolved to new heights since the band's
beginnings with The Adversary in 2006, which says little for the new fan. Research of quality through musical finesses have always been a matter of concerns for the mainman Ihsahn, who endorses in After an eight-stringed guitar for the first time on recording, for the delight of the critical ear.
The sound on the record is the best I've heard in ages. After sounds heavy, thick, yet fluid and clear.
While "After", the title track and third track witnesses of a knowledge of Mastodon (?), fans of Emperor will fall in awe for track number two, "A Grave inversed", as will fans of death metal and of experimental metal. Alternatively none of them will, as this song can prove to be truly disturbing for any of them; its antithetical character makes of "A Grave inversed" the ultimate quintessence of Ihsahn's music.
This brings us to the core of this brief music analysis: gifted with highly developed musical qualities rehearsed and polished through a lifetime, Ihsahn and his accomplices experiment in an eclectic manner, thus creating a slight misfocus in their art. The band's task sounds to me as the creation of music for music's sake, and not to attract an audience of the easiest to satisfy.
One can think of Ihsahn as an unfatigable rodeo bull; can you handle the ride?