by Kirby Unrest
A solo record from any artist once part of a well known band is destined to be met with plenty of naysayers and no matter how good it may be, or even similar to the performers former collective; it's just not enough. It becomes even more difficult when you were once the frontman of Emperor, who didn't create black metal, but completely redefined and revitalized it, and you'd be hard pressed to find a more arduous task in the extreme music world, and even beyond it. Vegard Sverre Tveitan, more commonly known by the moniker Ihsahn, continues to reinvent his artwork, and on this his first solo album, showcases that his sonic alchemy still contains the rabid strains that made Emperor such a potent musical intoxicant, but also that plenty of fiery spells have been garnered from explorations expressed in other projects such as Thou Shalt Suffer, Zyklon-B, and Peccatum to cast over the masses. "Invocation" opens The Adversary and is one of the heavier and more in your face tracks on that album, featuring strong riffs, soaring synth/keyboards and the unmistakable love 'em or hate 'em vocals of the man himself. The track marches forward with abrasive power, before breaking into a soft, solo guitar refrain, and then returning to the initial verse portion to finish things out. It carries a Death like feel, perhaps something off Symbolic or Sound Of Perseverance, but is undeniably Ihsahn, whose roots in classic, NWOBHM really shine through with the arrival of the next cut, "Called By The Fire." Iron Maiden, Saxon, Mercyful Fate and Judas Priest all come to mind, with some shades of progressive rock/metal like King Crimson, Queensryche and Dream Theater. He trades off between his trademark rasp and mournful clean vocals, and on more than one occasion, goes for an all out King Diamond wail, much like the one that began the Emperor fave, "Curse Ye All Men!" A very catchy chorus here and earsplitting yet uplifting leads. "Citizen" is like a sledgehammer for the most part, letting up from the carnage here and there to engage in some classical flare from various instruments (of which all but drums Ihsahn is responsible for here). "Homecoming" is up next, and is probably the most accessible track and could possibly be even classified as radio friendly. The hooks are there, featuring great harmonies and structure, with Ihsahn opting to utilize a rich baritone, and it all comes together nicely, though it may register shock from Emperor fans (though after Peccatum it is pretty much a given that these abilities and possibilities were/are in his repertoire). "Astera Ton Proinon" emerges with a blossoming of electronic strings and vocals filled with longing and inquisition, and goes through multiple musical and time changes, from doomy passages to elements of sludge. "Panem Et Circenses" is pure symphonic black metal, and while good, is one of the few cuts on The Adversary that could be considered somewhat predictable. The same could be said for "And He Shall Walk In Empty Places," though due to its almost unyielding display of speed and ferocity helps it stand out amongst the more tame tunes, in whole or part, that make up The Adversary. The power metal influence is noticeable in "Will You Still Love Me, especially at the end with its poignant melody which is contrasted by the rest of the songs primal drive. "The Pain Is Still Mine" is the final offering, and while most of the previous tracks clock in at between 4-5 minutes, this one goes all out in grandeur for 10 plus minutes. Pretty much any and every vocal and musical style Ihsahn expounds upon in The Adversary makes an appearance here. When divided up and judged individually, not all the components of this song are the best, but when merged, it creates an operatic onslaught that is sure to garner multiple listens. This brings up that ever-important aspect of any album; are repeat listens inevitable In the case of The Adversary, this is a definite yes. The recording/production, excluding drums, were helmed by Ihsahn himself at Symphonique and Juke Joint Studios, and are of excellent quality and scope. The artwork matches the mood of the album perfectly, and as a bonus there is a video included for "Invocation." Lyrically, no new ground is broken, but there does seem to be a bit more introspection than in other projects Ihsahn has been a part of/behind. Bottom Line: If you want Emperor, then by all means indulge in their catalog; nothing but good stuff from beginning to end. Some may argue specific albums, but most would agree that anything Emperor did is better than the majority of what is out there today. As for Thou Shalt Suffer and Peccatum, I've found redeeming qualities in both, and those traits appear on The Adversary with quite a few of the best elements of Emperor as well. This is not Emperor though, even though Ihsahn was without a doubt, the mastermind of the band. The spirit of Emperor is here, but it takes on new forms and sounds. If you are willing to give them a chance, you will not regret it. When it comes to melodic black metal without boundaries, it just doesn't get any better than this.