Adversarial – Solitude with the Eternal Review

I guess I’m one of two Adversarial fans here at AMG, because I’ve name-dropped them in scattered reviews, while Angry Metal Guy himself made a 224-word TYMHM back in 2010 for the act’s debut All Idols Fall Before the Hammer, then slyly name-dropping them in a 2019 ROTM post compared to Musmahhu. The point is, Adversarial is apparently obscure. While sporting a style not unlike the dense n’ dissonant stylings of Antediluvian and Mitochondrion, the melodic dissonant template has always reminded me of Ulcerate; the difference is the absolutely apeshit blast-happy approach to punishment. After nine long years, we are hit with third full-length Solitude with the Eternal, and it embraces the duality, a double-edged sword, of dissonance and punishment.

Time has not worn Toronto’s Adversarial, as Solitude will attest. Punishment is still priority number one, as 2010’s All Idols… and 2015’s Death, Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism firmly established – blastbeats and shredding riffs are in no short supply. The trio of raging guitarist/vocalist C.S. and thunderous bassist M.M., romping atop the galloping doomsday horse of drummer E.K., shred and gurgle like there’s no tomorrow. Despite its cutthroat intensity, Solitude with the Eternal manages to avoid war metal unhingedness while remaining just on this side of sane, guiding its compositions with a “Janus-faced” and “dual-tongued” attack, a pendulum swinging between sharp and slithering, gazing upon horrific truths while revering its macabre beauty. Ultimately, while nothing terribly groundbreaking, Adversarial makes the nine-year wait worth it in its more dynamic songwriting weaponized in this dichotomy for maximum darkness.

Solitude with the Eternal is a bit of Angelcorpse songs covered by Antediluvian and Tetragrammacide, while somehow avoiding the crawling crassness of the former and the DR0 eardrum decimation of the latter. Balancing thick and grimy riffs with a stinging dissonance that shines like a blast of shattered glass, tracks like “Beware the Howling Darkness on Thine Left Shoulder,” “Merging Within the Destroyer,” and “Fanes at the Engur” are relentless assaults guided by C.S.’s absolutely devastating bellows and subterranean shredding with simple yet effective dissonant overlays, while “Hatred Kiln of Vengeance” and “Endless Maze of Blackened Dominion” feel like Evangelion-era Behemoth on crack, guitar harmonics balancing tones blasphemous and regal in equal measure. Bass is blessedly present, shining amid the blinding melodies in “Beware the Howling Darkness…” and “Fanes of the Engur.” Drums have always been Adversarial’s main spotlight, a sharp pong dominating tracks in All Idols Fall Before the Hammer and a mammoth thud in Death, Endless Nothing…; Solitude with the Eternal sports a much more palatable in-between, effectively cutting through the murk while not testing listeners’ mettle.

While spending most of its time blasting, Adversarial’s textures still shine. “Witness to the Eternal Light” features an atmospheric wind-torn ambient motif amid the blasting with a more dissonant palette, which sets the tone for the centerpieces “Death is an Advisor in the Woods of the Devil” and “Crushed Into the Kingdom of Darkness.” These two tracks feel like the eye of the storm, focusing more heavily on dense atmospherics and stinging melody, injecting a powerful sense of purpose to the pummeling that surrounds it; the former deals in far more prominent guitar melodies, while the latter paints its dense riffs in broad strokes through slower tempos against the backdrop of night. Because of this setup, the album feels a bit like a journey through a heretical hurricane, giving further weight to the album’s second act. Adversarial’s more meditative songwriting shines here.

Of course, this is not to say that Solitude with the Eternal is perfect. It’s obnoxiously loud, riddled with tempo abuse, and C.S.’s saturated vocals can often drown out the instrumentals, questioning momentum – ultimately requiring multiple listens to discern every murky movement and burning lead. However, Adversarial’s unhinged attack that avoids war metal decadence is addictive, and its more nuanced textures give the third full-length a mysterious and sinister quality only hinted at in the band’s catalog. It may not make lists, but it remains a pummeling return from an act that feels like they’re just getting started.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Descent Records
Released Worldwide: May 31st, 2024

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