Today's a decidedly post-metal headphone listening party, which should make the judging a little easier in some respects. The almighty Ihsahn wins the cointoss, so he starts us off with Ãmr, his seventh post-Emperor album. With his previous albums, Ihsahn had shown a knack for surroundimg himself with quality guest musicians, along on his quest for next-level avant garde exploration. Ãmr interrupts those trends a bit. Here, he generally relies solely on himself and Shining's Tobias Ørnes Andersen for drums. And here, his restless push toward the boundaries seems to have settled down into an enjoyable synthy, proggy, almost Ghost-like direction. Subtle at times, lukewarm at others, this album still exemplifies Ihsahn's songcraft mastery, and reëstablishes him as one of the most important voices in black metal.
It's a shame, then, that he immediately gets run off the road by Wavering Radiant, an album so good that Isis chose to break up rather than try to surpass it. (Baller move, that.) The album is as effective and hypnotic now as it was on its release 10 years ago. Aaron Turner has gone on to do a great many things since (including Old Man Gloom and Sumac), but nothing has come close to the sheer perfection that he and the rest of Isis achieved together in 2009. Isis win today's match handily, but don't count out Ihsahn quite yet; he's earned another chance at glory with 2016's Arktis, which we'll listen to next week.
Meanwhile, tomorrow's contest is guaranteed to bum me out. I'm ending our second week by having to choose between Meshuggah and Intronaut. Dammit.