Ad Nauseam_Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum EstEarlier this year, Grymm called Imperial Triumphant’s incredible sophomore effort Abyssal Gods “the best French black metal album in recent history” and lauded the half-Pyrrhon band as the new bringers of discomfort and disgust, mixing Obscura-influenced death metal with atmospheric black metal and the occasional ukulele. They’re not alone. Straying towards the more death metal side of the growing dissonant hordes, Ad Nauseam trade in that ukulele for screeching violins and a German expressionist piano on their harrowing and fascinating debut. Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est adds a new dimension to the combination of jarring dissonance, alien rhythm and crushing nihilism that has become my favorite musical style. More so than Dodecahedron or Baring Teeth their music owes its existence to the daring experimentation of 20th century art music composers.

But first things first; Ad Nauseam aren’t some abstract chamber group, and though their music is dense and difficult, they sure as hell know how to write riffs, including the Gojira-meets Gorguts pick-scraping monstrosity that appears early on in the album’s shortest song “Lost in the Antiverse.” Though it doesn’t get nearly the playtime it deserves, that golden riff sweeps you into one of the album’s most compelling songs, beginning with that neckbreaking groove and piece by piece melting into the album’s incredible peak. The zenith of Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est comes in the form of the paired “The Black Veil of Original Flaw” and “Superimposing Mere Will and Sheer Need,” the segue in-between which is heart-stopping. Strings and piano clamor together in an atmosphere of esurient chaos before the piano alone introduces “Superimposing” – and its skull-peeling beginning – in the most horrifying way possible.

Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est is perhaps most impressive not in its excellent writing or performances, but in its sound. The band makes use of atypical instrumentation and extended techniques throughout the album; the coordinated pick scrapes in “Lost in the Antiverse” and “Superimposing Mere Will and Sheer Need” prove highly impactful, but the guitars are among the least acrobatic of the instruments. A down-tuned bass spits fret noise while the recurring violins fly in only at the bleeding edges of their range. Instead of playing backing chords or melodies, the piano undergoes no end of abuse, its strings scraped and keys pounded with not disregard, but contempt for its safety.

                Ad Nauseam_2015

This chaos is all captured in what may be the best recording I’ve heard this year; sound so crisp and lithe rarely makes its way onto a metal cd, but Nihil sounds chaotic and terrifying without being loud or compressed. You can hear every plucked piano string and every finger landing on a fret; the record is truly symphonic in its scope and feel, as if you’re sitting in on the world’s most dangerous chamber performance.

Eight songs long and five years in the making, Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est towers above its contemporaries, erecting minarets of rotting dreams atop towers of psychosis and fear. It is more encapsulating, more daring, more carefully composed and more meticulously produced than any other album to be released this year. Ad Nauseam have taken a movement spearheaded by the likes of Ulcerate and Dodecahedron and transfused into it the life-blood of the European avant-garde tradition. Nihil borrows just as much from Krzysztof Penderecki or Gyorgy Ligeti as Luc Lemay or Michael Hoggard.

This is the music that points towards the path ahead. After an arms race of technicality, metal has painted itself into a corner with no clear way forward; and so we mark time by continuing in the tradition of our forebears, whether we return to ‘70s doom or ‘90s death metal. But how can we revitalize the genes through such incestuous navel gazing? Only by reaching far afield can extreme metal remain extreme. The hybridization attempted by Ad Nauseam succeeds completely in flushing their music full of vitality and interest, paving the way for others to follow down side-streets of their own.

Tracks to Check: “La Maison Diev,” “Lost in the Antiverse,” “The Black Veil of Original Flaw,” and “Superimposing Mere Will and Sheer Need”

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    Dude, this is awesome… Listened to the first song on their label’s bandcamp and now I’m stuck listening to the rest.

    • Kronos

      It really pulls you in.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Still can’t get enough of Abyssal Gods, so looking forward to hearing this.

  • tomasjacobi

    This is really, really good. Thanks for finding it for us!

    • Kronos

      Thank the Metal – Fi forums for getting it to my desk. It’s good to know that some people of there are giving this release the attention of deserves.

      • tomasjacobi

        Ok, thank you Metal-Fi Forums then. I do pop in to have a look there from time to time , but there is so much music being recommended so it’s nice that you guys help pick out the best stuff.

  • Sounds like ya’ll forgot about VI!

    • Thatguy

      I didn’t. It’s great.

  • El_Cuervo

    I guess this is another item on my List of Stuff Kronos Likes That I Can Appreciate But Can’t Love™.

  • Scourge

    This is a great album, but having had it for only a couple of weeks I haven’t fully absorbed it yet. Currently I still prefer Imperial Triumphant, but really it’s not a contest as they compliment each other quite well.

    • Kronos

      Imperial Triumphant is much more varied, indeed.

  • Whiskeyjack

    Can we all take a moment to appreciate how fucking cool that album art is!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I really enjoy these black and white, Dürer-inspired album covers. This one is also a perfect complement to the music.

  • Thatguy

    I have been enjoying getting into this too. It is an important point that you make, Kronos, that sheer technical ability can lead to a creative dead end – just witness most technical death.

    • You wot m8?

      Indeed. You have to admit though, what tech-death gets right, it really gets right.

      • Thatguy

        It’s like much in life – even beer – when it’s done well it’s great, when it’s done badly it’s not worth the visit.

        • You wot m8?

          In all things, moderation is key.

        • There are no bad beers. Some just taste better than others.

          • Thatguy

            There are some bad beers – but none so bad that I have declined it when put in my hand.

          • herrschobel

            well you never tried Sternburger that actually tastes like piss. punks drink it in Berlin all the time.

          • madhare

            Can I at the same time renounce beer and keep at least a tiny bit of my metal cred?

            …I’m a cider man… :D

            …and maybe the occasional bitter, stout, or weissbier.

            It seems lagers are kind of mandatory for being “metal”. But I just don’t understand why anyone would want to drink that. …literally like drinking piss…

  • Iliast

    One of two amazing recommendations by Imperial Triumphant, the other being _Iron King_ by papacy.

  • Prostidude

    This is some of the most awe-inspiring, brutally attention-absorbing music I’ve heard to date. I can’t think of anything less appropriate to use as background music at the next family christmas convocation.

  • Kronos, just checking, but did you get this one from me? I’m just updating my beer-to-recommendation list here and I want to make sure I get it right.

    • Kronos

      Almost 100 percent sure I did. Unless it was Dave. I just remember that it was a friendly Metal – Fi editor.

      • Great review nonetheless. Kronos = +1 beer. Check.

  • You wot m8?

    Another wonderful thing that I can add to my “Makes Me Physically Uncomfortable to Listen To” playlist. No, it’s NOT weird that that is a playlist. Shut up.

  • The Forever People

    Killer album!!!

  • 517H

    Bugger, video won’t play

    Also slightly different note: was hoping to see a Things You Might Have Missed for Termaze’s ‘Her Halo’ from Mr Druhm