Adaga – Das Ruínas do Ser Review

Black metal has never been a cheery subgenre. Flavors that lean towards the charmingly-titled depressive, suicidal black metal obviously even less so. There is also no rule that this music—or indeed any music—that deals with existential despair, and depression need actually sound overly melancholic, though it certainly helps. Adaga, though there was no indication of this from their promo blurb, plays black metal of the DSBM-leaning kind. A solo project (of course) whose origin and constitution are opaque, their debut Das Ruínas do Ser fulfills virtually all the expected criteria. Translating as “From the Ruins of Being” from Portuguese, it’s a gloomy affair of low-fi production, hoarse growls, and a combination of fuzzed-out guitar and some surprisingly gentle melodies. Playing to tropes is not a problem if your material is strong enough on its own merits. So where does Adaga fall?

If there’s one thing Das Ruínas do Ser does get right, it’s the tone. This album is utterly bleak, with its “prettier” passages of pretensions towards melody carrying an unshakeably somber, flat feeling. These extended portions of clean plucking appear in every song, lending the whole a kind of dreary intimacy in tandem with the gritty master. Sticking mainly to a sedate, plodding pace, when the rare blastbeats do come in, they bring more a feeling of inner turmoil than fury or aggression. And the vocals—throaty, rough, often pained—are unquestionably as raw in personal passion as they are literally raw-sounding. This is the kind of music you either like or don’t. If you don’t, Adaga probably won’t do anything to change your mind. If you do, there’s enough here to enjoy (as much as one ‘enjoys’ DSBM). There just isn’t anything that really stands out.

As I’ve alluded to, Das Ruínas do Ser is musically quite temperate. Cascading, mellow melodies fall like light snow (“Noite Soberana,” “De Passagem,” “Fragmentação da Alma”). Occasionally this becomes a more heavy snowfall (“No Limiar da Morte, “Nas Ruínas do Ser – Pt II”), but the prevailing tone is gentle. It makes the record actually quite ‘pleasant’ to listen to—if you can get past the polarising vocal style and D.I.Y production. The relatively atmospheric plucks that divide “De Passagem” and the rising riffs in “Nas Ruínas do Ser” parts I and II are pretty nice. Certainly nice enough to at least have on in the background for a bit of seasonal musing. Things never get intense, but they come closest when the quasi-melodic wall of guitar burns in the background in (restrained) apexes (“No Limiar da Morte, “Nas Ruínas do Ser – Pt II”). These are good, but lacking the power, they would need to have an impact.

What holds Adaga back may simply be an over-adherence to style, but these are issues nonetheless. The totally fuzzed-out, muffled rhythm guitar results in an inaudible melody just when it seems a tremolo is surging and the pace is picking up. This results in much of the emotional impact being sapped away, as well as an overall flat sound that too literally depicts the depressive subject matter. Is it unfair to demand that music of this ilk possess at least some bite, some grip? Perhaps the album’s main flaw, however, is its reticence to evolve. What begins as a delicately beautiful melody soon becomes dull after several minutes of unchanging repetition (“Noite Soberana, “Fragmentação da Alma”). Likewise, there is an overall lack of dynamics due to a predominantly slow pace, with recycled refrains and muted riffing when things tease intensity. It’s a pity, as while the whole is perfectly ‘nice,’ it’s simply fairly uninteresting, at least most of the time. Potential exceptions and glimmers of hope can be found in “No Limiar do Morte” and scattered sections of “De Passagem,”; the most effective and interesting cuts here.

As far as DSBM goes, Das Ruínas do Ser is serviceable, and at only half an hour, its anodyne tones flow by quickly. Adaga has, I think, achieved at least part of what they set out to do. This album is cheerless. However, the general absence of musical intrigue, power, and emotional effectiveness let it down. Without digging a little deeper, it seems they are doomed to remain in the murky obscurity of the black metal underground.

Rating: Mixed
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Altare Productions
Website: Too kvlt for the internet.
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2022

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