As readers of Angry Metal Guy, y’all know what happens when a new black metal band throws itself at the teeming hordes while trying to remain anonymous. Guessing games ensue. Frantic-yet-fruitless searches begin on various websites. Unicorns mysteriously appear. Nine times out of ten, though, nothing new is really brought to the forefront of our collective psyche. In other words, anonymous rehashes can only go so far, and repaintings of the same ol’ Deathspell Omega portrait get old quickly. So, when I grabbed Adaestuo‘s debut mini-album, the 21-minute Tacent Semitae, I expected more French-leaning angular blackness, only this time from a trio from parts unknown.1
And I was only partially correct. Sure, multi-instrumentalists VJS and P.E. Packain reaped what was left of the harvest that Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice once sowed. However, the duo succeeds in creating a suffocating vortex within such a well-trod environment. Both opener “The Abyss (Otchłań)” and “Destroyer of Constellations (Niszczyciel Gwiazdozbiorów)” leave the listener with little breathing space while building a foundation of fear and discomfort. The duo’s command of ambience and atmosphere on the two non-conventional black metal tracks (“Cicatrices Plexae (Scar-Braids)” and closer “Tacent Semitae (Silent Paths)”) compound the dread, further distancing themselves from the various bands aping from the French.
However, the band’s biggest Ace of Spades dwells within the multi-octave vocal cords of one Hekte Zaren. Her Diamanda Galas-like operatic wails beckon like a siren’s call of the dead, only to adopt a Gollum-esque rasp once the snare of her voice entraps you. Nowhere is this most effective than on “Tacent Semitae (Silent Paths).” The sounds of a single bell draws your ear, and Zaren’s singing pulls you into an opera that you want no part of, as hushed and nervously whispered (panting, even?) vocals chant a discordant hymn. As the atmosphere dies out, a final bell tolls, and Zaren’s final wailing closes out the song (and album) in gloriously warped fashion. Spine-chilling, and hands-down one of my favorite closing songs of the past year.
The album possesses a standard black metal mix. Guitars are trebly and up-front, the drums sound mechanical and cold, and bass is practically non-existent. Zaren’s voice weaves in-and-out effortlessly, her vocals acting as a tool to lull you into a false sense of comfort before pulling you in for the kill. My issues with Tacent Semitae, however, lie in the fact that, while expertly crafted, it’s still lifting a bit too heavily from DsO and Blut Aus Nord. In fact, I found myself digging the two ambient songs the most, because while the band is effective at angular black metal, they become a frightening entity when they do away with the black metal and explore more atmospheric waters. Seriously, you have to hear “Tacent Semitae (Silent Paths)” with headphones on in a darkened room. Thank me later.
I went into Tacent Semitae with little expectations, and was inspired by the atmosphere and Zaren’s incredible voice. In 21 minutes, Adaestuo impressed me more than bands writing albums with double (or even triple) the length. If you’re craving something a little bit different than the standard French black metal of a decade ago, you can do far worse than Tacent Semitae. I can only imagine what they’ll create with a full-length.