The arrival of a new IHSAHN invokes curiosity and anticipation as this metal god never fails to stimulate. After concludes the trilogy of IHSAHN albums released to date. To put it in general terms, the album is more like its predecessor AngL than The Adversary. Those, now, trademark cerebral, progressive black metal stylings in the IHSAHN-style are a major characteristic of After’s sound in addition to his complex and interesting song structures. And of course the decadent atmospheres and top notch musicianship, including Ihsahn’s first attempt at 8-string guitar, are all over After.
The most distinctive addition to Ihsahn’s sound is the addition of the fantastic saxophone work of SHINING’s Jorgen Munkeby on many of the album’s tracks. While the marriage of saxophones and black metal may seem like an awkward or bizarre combination, it works.
As with every IHSAHN album, you just get the overall feeling that most other metal bands are simply outclassed and outperformed in comparison. “A Grave Inversed” is a decadent and classic IHSAHN black metal track with all of its blasting fury and twists and turns, and yet Munkeby’s jazz saxophone seamlessly adds character. The excellent “Frozen Lakes on Mars” easily nullifies most bands’ entire back catalogues with its prime riffs. “Undercurrent,” features Ihsahn’s soothing clean vocals, acoustic guitars, and melancholic tone, all topped off with some very nice saxophone leads that only bleeds out the melancholy further. “Austere” explores new territory with its more minimalistic, simplified approach and tasty bass leads from Lars Norberg. The trilogy of albums ends in grand fashion with another big album closer in the form of “On the Shores.” The main riff is a crawling, dark behemoth which personifies most of Ihsahn’s post EMPEROR albums.
While After is not a landmark album, it is still an interesting and high class work. In a lot of ways, it is a culmination of the three album trilogy in which we see Ihsahn improving and elaborating on themes, sounds, and approaches that we started on his first two albums. Without a doubt, After is mandatory listening. (Candlelight Records/Mnemosyne Productions)