Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: lofty, esoteric song titles and album names, a promo picture of a single dude who looks like one of the choir guys from Batushka and goes by just his initials, and very little-to-no-internet presence at all, so looking for much information on the “band” in question, other than the fact that Adversvm is a German one-man act, is an exercise in futility… all these things would have you screaming, “Fuck, not another one-man black metal band.” And I would sympathize with you completely if it was accurate. You see, though, Adversvm is a one-man funeral doom band hoping to make a name for himself in a steadily-growing genre. But Aion Sitra Ahra, Adversvm‘s debut, reveals some major shortcomings almost immediately.
Opener “Anti-Stellar Gnosis To the Acausal Nexus” eerily creeps in with some quiet hymnal chanting and white noise before lone credited musician SB levels you with a slow, plodding riff while an unknown drummer plods away behind him. An ominous melody wafts in and out, pulling you down into a marshland of sorrow and decay. Under normal circumstances, this would be enough to draw the listener through a tangled web of funeral doom goodness. Sadly, the lack of variety keeps this from going anywhere of note until the six-minute mark, when the pace finally picks up a hair, but even then, the repetition and its own massive 12-minute length teeters the razor-thin line between “Oh my god, this is fucking massive” and “Oh my god, does this song ever fucking end?”, and eventually falls over the latter side.
In fact, other than immediate follow-up “Ps. XIII Maledictvm”‘s careful pacing and clever use of atmosphere towards the song’s end, most of Aion Sitra Ahra suffers from either a lack of self-editing or poor songwriting choices. The title track begins with another head-cavingly monstrous riff that ebbs into a melody that stretches for far too long, before heading back to the original riff that leads to an even worse melody that ebbs for far too long. Wash, rinse, repeat for twelve minutes. “Instrumental” penultimate track “est in fatis” is just a sample of an American Southern Baptist preacher proselytizing over the same riff for almost six minutes, which reminds me of all my waiting periods at my local bus stop, only with 100% less Five Finger Death Punch blaring from a random passer-by, and 100% more tedium. Closing track, “Current 218,” aims for SunnO))) white-noise drone territory, but lacking the volume, the riffs, and the power entirely.
At least from a production standpoint, Aion Sitra Ahra sounds warm and rich. The guitars and bass weave together tightly, and the drums aren’t overpowered. SB’s cavernous growls and snake-like hissing and chanting both cut through effectively. But all of that is a moot point if the music just sits there. Sure, there are good moments in some of the songs, but either they’re stretched out past their expiration date, are repeated too much, or are sandwiched between iffy transitions that go nowhere. I like a good, heavy doom riff like any other metalhead, but I like a good, heavy doom song infinitely more.
But I can see where SB is trying to go with this. Between the esoteric, almost Blut Aus Nord-meets-Thergothon aesthetic and the moments when the riffs just flatten you, it would feel odd to rank this as a bad record. That said, I can’t call Aion Sitra Ahra a must-listen, or even a good record, either. Perhaps with some self-editing, Adversvm will turn some heads. Until then, I’ll go back to The Incubus of Karma for my funeral doom needs.