First of all, I have to make it clear that I am one of the biggest "In The Nightside Eclipse" fanboys anywhere, which may skew my perception of Ihsahn's work for better or for worse.
Since said Emperor record, nothing that Emperor or Ihsahn has recorded and released has had even nearly the same impact on me. I mean, sure, "Prometheus" was pretty damn epic and entertaining for a progressive album, and Ihsahn's first two solo albums had their moments (specifically his duet with Opeth's Mikael on "Unhealer"), but nothing truly impressed me.
Enter "After". I knew Ihsahn had it in him. From the distinct harsh vocals, to the incredible improvement in the clean vocals, to the absolutely crazy saxophone use(" A Grave Inversed"), this monster just doesn't let up.
The instrumentation calls to mind a number of comparisons, including Emperor, Enslaved, Agalloch, Katatonia, Opeth, Sigh and even Mastodon. There is a perfect balance between atmospheric acoustic passages and ripping progressive black metal.
Overall, a real surprise. I had all but given up on Ihsahn, but perhaps his claims that he believes his musical peak is still to come are actually well founded. I look forward to his next attempt.
RECOMMENDED FOR: fans of any of the bands I mentioned in the review, fans of black, progressive, avant-garde and folk metal