Anyone familiar with Ihsahn’s body of work knows that his focus has always been about progressing as an artist. His new album, AngL (pronounced like “angel”), is no exception as he explores new musical realms. One marked difference between AngL and its predecessor, The Adversary, is that AngL is more progressive, a bit more experimental, and less traditional in terms of black metal. Another immediately noticeable difference is the heavier guitar sound as a result of having more than two guitar tracks as on The Adversary. Much of the material still carries that famous decadent, symphonic, black feel along with Ihsahn’s prime, technical guitar work. There are plenty of songs that blast away with intensity and fury such as opening song, “Misanthrope,” and “Malediction.” AngL also contains plenty of slithering Ihsahn-styled progressive guitar riffs and beautiful, melodic song sections. Perhaps, the best quality of the album is his honest and soulful vocals on songs such as “Elevator” and “Threnody.” The latter is hands down the best song on AngL with its acoustic guitars, fantastic clean vocal performance, and somber and delicate atmosphere. The second best song, “Monolith,” closes things out with a potent sense of tension and finality. OPETH’s Mikael Akerfeldt makes a guest appearance on “Unhealer.” His appearance does not stray too far away from the type of material that he’s known for singing. There is also some nice interplay between Ihsahn and Mikael’s contrasting distorted vocals. SPIRAL ARCHITECT bassist Lars Norberg lays down an excellent performance adding plenty of bass presence and character with his top notch skills. While AngL is not Ihsahn’s best work, it does have some very some strong songs and material that undoubtedly a reflection of his continuing evolution as one of metal’s most talented and important artists. (Candlelight Records)

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