The Adversary

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When a vocalist for a well-known band provides a solo album -- either while he/she is still with the band or after leaving it -- the material might be a big departure from the band's work, a carbon copy of the band's work, or something in between. In the case of former Emperor vocalist/lead guitarist Ihsahn, The Adversary is definitely an example of "something in between." This 2006 release, which is the Norwegian headbanger's first solo project, is neither a carbon copy of Emperor's black metal nor a radical departure from it. The Adversary has a lot to offer from a black metal standpoint, and yet, this is hardly a disc that caters to black metal purists. The black metal that Ihsahn embraces as a solo artist is symphonic black metal -- that is, a very melodic, intricate combination of black metal, power metal, and/or progressive rock. In fact, The Adversary gets so far into power metal and prog metal that some of the material really falls outside of black metal altogether; there are a few parts of The Adversary that wouldn't be out of place on an album by Rhapsody or Dream Theater. But there are enough black metal-oriented tracks to remind Emperor fans that while Ihsahn is continuing to stretch out and expand, he has not forsaken black metal or forgotten his past. In avant-garde jazz, musicians use the term "inside/outside" to describe performances that combine the extreme (the "outside") with more conventional melodies, rhythms, and harmonies (the "inside"), and that concept is easily applicable to symphonic black metal. The Adversary is an inside/outside effort in which the inside is clearly dominant but the outside is still a hot, spicy ingredient. It is also a rewarding way for Ihsahn to launch his solo career.

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