Even deep within its granite wells of abject sorrow and glorious heaviness, it’s still difficult to find much to surprise in the depths of funeral doom these days. Perhaps that’s because many of its proponents regard deviating from the true path of catatonic gloom to be a sign of pitiful weakness. The trick, as Adversvm seems to suggest, is to tinker with the formula without chipping away at those cracks in the monolithic misery that might just bring the whole unearthly slab down on your freshly tonsured pate. And so with this, the band’s first full-length, Aion Sitra Ahra – complete with the dark and deviant stamp of approval from Iron Bonehead – the band savours every second of those elephantine riffs while charging them with the kind of bristling energy seldom found within the realms of eternal sorrow and forever death.
That’s not to say that this debut lacks any of the manifest clout that this most glacially evolving of genres holds dear. Vocals so deep and guttural it makes you wonder if the bombs have finally started falling in the distance and they forgot to announce it on the news; tectonic riffs that drive irresistibly down and without mercy; and even the odd hint of a tune, if you amplify your brain’s sensory array to maximum and get yourself in a generous mood. Yes, bleak and black as an imploding star. There’s also plenty of evidence as to what drives Adversvm (although slightly less as to who might be behind it, other than this is just a single person): first track Anti-stellar Gnosis to the Acausal Nexus goes for a first track black metal name splurge wasting two or three good track names in one – but the clues are all here, including finale track Current 218 that strikes a white-noise stab at sucking the life out of the universe.
Adversvm’s aim is to splice black metal prototype into funeral doom, while incorporating slithers of tremolo sound and undistorted chords to help cast that expansive funeral doom soundscape all too often filled by chucking in a few keyboards and strings. The light-denying chords and whispered ordinance help to add further layers as the album progresses from the funereal Anti-stellar Gnosis, through the blackened edges of the second track and onto the thunder third track proper – the title track – that cranks the sound to new exhilarating levels and outwards towards doom death territory with its repetitive, melancholy refrain and a final liturgy to incite whichever unholy hoards are within earshot.
Advervum’s Aion Sitra Ahra is more or less last year’s demo with the title track added and a few other bits of fun to get this to respectable full-length time. But it works very nicely indeed and they shouldn’t have worried too much about not making the requisite length. Unlike a lot of funeral doom albums, this is not one that, for me at least, involved glancing at the track times in the hope of speeding onto the next good bit. It’s a well executed piece of blackened funeral doom with some decent touches – although ones that make me wonder whether they’ve pushed the frills too far for the purists (including the always welcome sound of the obligatory raving evangelical preacher hollering over the top of some driving riffage).
But Aion Sitra Ahra more than comfortably manages to pull off its stated aim of providing something that moves the dial that little bit towards something that’s very much trve blackened doom. Apparently too, this was just a dry run with another obsidian boulder heading towards us courtesy of Adversvm later this year. May the gods of light help us all.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)