I have listened to this album a few times already and I have to say I am very impressed. It is similiar enough to Ihsahn's previous work that there will be no doubting who is behind the album.
As you would expect, the songs go from fast and furious, to mild and melodic many times throughout the songs. There is a sense of refinement to all these changes in dynamic that is rarely achieved by a one songwriter group, but it is done very successfully here.
The production is very very good, with all the instruments and vocals sound very good, and balanced well in the final mix.
As has been mentioned in other reviews there are few keys on this album, the saxophone being much more prominent. I originally read this and was worried but it has been done very well, being somewhat outstanding in spots, for instance "On the Shores" would not have anywhere near the same feel without it.
Ihsahn manages to mix the progressive and the extreme very well, without going overboard or seeming forced in any way at all, indeed if anything, he is mixing the progressive albums in better than ever.
The songs are not too long for progressive standard, most being between 4-6 minutes, although there are two ten minute "epics".
My highlight song changes dramatically at this moment, but right now I put "On the Shore" right up there, although almost any other track could be considered my favourite depending on my mood.. I may update this segment in the future as I learn the nuances of each song more thoroughly with repeated listens..
I can't see anything knocking this out of my top 10 albums for the year...
As for the extra's DVD, they are interesting, seeing the recording process etc. Quite insightful... But, having said that, I won't view it more than a few times, being much more inclined to throw the CD on and listen to that instead..