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Angl is the second full length solo album of Emperor frontman Ihsahn who is a Norwegian composer, guitar, bass, keyboard player and vocalist. He is best known for his work with Norwegian black metal band Emperor. In his very early releases, he went by the name Ygg.
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Scarab follows, this one in my ears and perception, being the most epic track of the album. While groovy, heavy and proggy, the piano interlude where Ihsahn lays very tasty clean vocals is followed by a symphonic bridge in a true Ihsahnesque fashion. Very good song. And then Unhealer begins, in a melancholic way, strengthens by Mikael Akerfeldt's angelic voice, then the melancholy leaves to let the chorus spread its menacing tension where Akerfeldt growls and Ihsahn screams. Oddly the song ends with a fade out, which is rare in Ihsahn way of making music. Haunting track. Follows Emancipation, the catchy song, but not in a way one could expect from Ihsahn. It has jazzy verses and some sort of a death/doom chorus, while being still very much progressive. Kind of a earworm for me. Malediction, as Misanthrope has a more Black Metal taste, keyboards are more in front than it was on The Adversary, and it's also much more layered than the Black Metal scented ones of the latter.
Alchemist is a strange one. Progressive embroidered on a power metal canvas, but torn by unexpected song structure. Ihsahn's clean voice recalling a sort of paranoid feeling, and then strangling itself in his trademark screams. The guitar solo being tortured and enjoyable, the whole leaving the listener quite a bit clueless about what he's just been listened. And following this state of mind, the descending Elevator, the masterpiece of the whole album in my opinion. Have I talk about brooding, despair, dark mood and paranoia? You have them all on this one, but musically, what an interesting song, with its descending riff, and that choked, horrifying scream "And the devil takes me down" willing to cling on the high guitar notes, but seeming unable to succeed. This part is very evocative of the whole ambiance. And then the more mellow part where Ihsahn sings cleanly keeps haunting, like a feeling of resignation toward his destiny. Leaving the listener in a dehydration state. Arrives Threnody with acoustic guitars to quench our thirst. Another odd piece of work of a kind never heard before from the man. A melancholic ballad, evoking his eternal inspirational source, the same one as on the ballad Astera Ton Proinon from the Adversary, but it's a totally different ballad, this time. Acoustic guitar, naked clean vocal, displayed in an unpredictable way and wrapped in the same deeply dark mood of angL, Threnody says it all.
The opus ends with Monolith, starting with a proggy mellow groove to turn into another Black Metal reminiscent days of glory, soon tamed by the feeling that is one of angL, would I say despair? All in all, angL flourishes from plenty of weird deconstructed technical guitar solo and riffs, tasteful clean vocals by all the singers involved, keyboards and orchestral injection are more on the front, unifying the somewhat diabolical thread line, and the rhythm part is supplied by fretless bass lines adding a solid texture to this work of art, as for the drumming foundation. angL is more layered than The Adversary and benefits from a thicker and deeper production. On the lyrical side, we cope with Nietzschean themes (Misanthrope, Emancipation) as well as Goethe's Faust (Alchemist and Elevator) influences, his traditional struggling and alienation of being of mortal essence (Scarab), the prominence of the fallen one theme (Threnody). I will not compare the two opus other than what I've already done. If in my perception, The Adversary was an exuberant, angered, romantic and passionate album, angL is a desperate, resigned at once as vindictive, sad and pitiless one. Possibly the opus where Ihsahn lays his best vocals performance, guitar playing and songwriting. Another masterpiece by the man, who's continuing to explore every dark corner of his heart and soul.
In a few words, it's clearly the best metal album in 2008. There are great runner-ups: Leviathan, Lair of the Minotaur, Arsis, Draconian, Testament and Ayreon have made amazing efforts, but Ihsahn's AngL combines sensibility with strength, making it an accesible head-blowing masterpiece. His black metal heritage is there, although in a more mature and elegant way, and the lyrics are blasphemous yet intelligent. If you're still not conviced to buy this album, just listen to "Unhealer", his collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth. No doubt, we're in front of one of the greatest musicians of our time.
En pocas palabras: es sencillamente el mejor album de 2008. Hay grandes finalistas: Leviathan, Lair of the Minotaur, Arsis, Draconian, Testament y Ayreon produjeron obras impresionantes, pero AngL de Ihsahn mezcla perfectamente fuerza y sensiblidad, convirtiendolo en una obra maestra que, aunque te volara la cabeza, lo hara de manera accesibe. Su ruda herencia blackmetalera esta presente, pero con madurez y elegancia, y las letras, aunque son blasfemas, son inteligentes. Y si aun no estan convencidos de comprar el album, tan solo escuchen "Unhealer", su colaboracion con Mikael Akerfeldt de Opeth. Sin duda, estamos ante uno de los mas grandes compositores de nuestra era.
I don't see the need to rehash what I assume everyone already knows about Ihsahn's solo efforts. Needless to say, therefore, if you loved the first one, you'll love this one, and for many of the same reasons. But there are a few new (though related) reasons to love angL, and those are the ones I will highlight. With very limited exception, Ihsahn's focus hasn't been on aggression since his work with Emperor. Not since "Curse You All Men" has he put this much fury into his music, without any loss to its beauty. This emphasis on aggression also lets Ihsahn show off his chops: black and thrash riffs abound on this work - all tastefully done, of course. Then there's "Unhealer," which is a reason in itself: awesome. But that pretty much goes for the whole album. Honestly, if you don't like this album, there may just be something wrong with you. (Of course, if you've ever written a review in all caps, then there definitely something wrong with you. Just thought I'd let you know.)