January isn’t known for being a break-out month for music, let alone for the selection of genres. In fact, solely going by our promo list, the month practically bleeds black (metal). Not only that, but labels pepper the month with releases from artists who either never released an album before, or albums from long-dormant groups. Norway’s Shaarimoth fall into the latter camp. With their sole output being 2005’s Current 11, they return after a lengthy period of inactivity with Temple of the Adversarial Fire. Can their rituals hold up after a lengthy lay-off, or are we best to move on to darker, bleaker passages?
After a short intro, “The Hungry Omega” lurches with pummeling drums, atonal melodies, and a crazed, multi-faceted performance by vocalist R1. Switching between growls, howling shrieks, and atmospheric chants, R keeps the listener guessing throughout the song and the album. Thankfully, guitarist/bassist F2 and new drummer J3 also impress, taking pages out of many classic handbooks to craft their own sound. Somehow marrying the ferocity of early Morbid Angel, the atmosphere of Behemoth and Nile, as well as the weirdness of Absu, Shaarimoth develops an uneasy atmosphere rife with bizarre clean melodies, brutal riffing, and frantic drum work. Impressive.
As the album progresses, the further the heft and weirdness gestates. Immediate follow-up “Elevenfolded Wrath of Sitra Achra” opens with R chanting like a madman, shouting and screaming with F tremolo-riffing away, conjuring up melodies that would make Nergal red with envy. “Fires of Molok,” one of the more straight-forward songs on Adversarial Fire, bulldozes with J’s double-bass murdering, closing with a morbidly uplifting keyboard melody. But it’s late album highlight “Faceless Queen of Bloodstained Dreams” that leaves the biggest impression. The opening tremolo melody catches the ear, and from there the song refuses to let go. J establishes a nice mid-tempo groove, with riffs and melodies building over each other, climaxing into a good breakdown around 3:40, with R seething repeatedly to the song’s satisfying end.
Kudos also goes out to Thomas Tannenberger (Abigor) for the warm, Gorguts-like dynamic production and mix. Despite all that’s happening in the music, not once does Adversarial Fire feel fatiguing or painful. Not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. The guitars feel heavy yet sharp, the bass feels thick and grotesque, and the drums sound powerful. Adversarial Fire does suffer from a weaker back side. In fact, closer “Point of Egress,” with the comparatively lighter clean vocals and unnecessary atmospheric second half, feels out of place. Leaving this song off the album wouldn’t have hurt at all. Also, a bit of a tracklist shuffle could help vary the moods between the first half’s tremolo-heavy riffing and the second half’s more atmospheric side.
Despite my criticisms, Adversarial Fire impressed the hell out of me. We just entered the new year, and already we have a potential Record o’ the Month contender. I’m just hoping that Shaarimoth takes considerably less time to craft their next one. Welcome back, and stay awhile.