Stepping out of the shadows of your influences can be a hard task for any artist. Even more so when you wear them on your sleeve. Quickly a band will be “derivative” or “unoriginal” when they cannot bring their own thoughts to the table. With the return of Gorguts and the rise of Ulcerate, technical death metal was dominated by their presence over the last decade. Many bands felt inspired to take up their instruments but few had something to set themselves apart from the rest.
In 2015, Ad Nauseam made their debut with Nihil quam vacuitas ordinatum est and proved that worship must not equal subservience. The band’s style of death metal can be traced back to the aforementioned giants of the genre. But with great care and devotion, Ad Nauseam crafted an album that ranks among the best in the tech. death of the last decade. Today, Nihil… celebrates its five year anniversary, so for this issue of Looking Back, the choice was obvious.
By the time Ad Nauseam made their debut, the members of the band already had a history spanning more than a decade. The group of four originally released a demo and a debut album under the name Death Heaven. Years later, following personal and artistic growth, it became apparent that the new material also required a new identity. In 2011, Ad Nauseam was born. Yet, four more years passed before the album was ready to see the light of day.
Nihil… is a tome of dizzying and ominous technical death metal that takes many listens to parse. While technically proficient the band doesn’t have to compromise on the atmospheric capabilities of their music. The tracks are harrowing and psychotic, the instruments a sandstorm of intricacy. Opener My Buried Dream surprises with sudden, headbanging grooves and its bitterly melodic climax, a highlight in all of technical death metal.
Similarly, Into the Void Eye is a feverdream of moody atmospheric sections, torn through by neurotically spasming guitars. Following the peak of the track, we are left haunted by a horrifying section of screeching strings. One of many orchestral moments spread throughout the album that potently fleshes out the foreboding atmosphere. Like on The Black Veil of Original Flaw, one of the two hulking compositions at the end of the tracklist. At the end of the album’s most brooding track, the orchestral section builds an unnerving tension that goes unresolved as the last track abruptly blows it away.
From the ground up
Ad Nauseam leave nothing to chance in their music. The band even goes so far as to build their own equipment to achieve the sound they are looking for. In an interview with Parat Magazine, vocalist and guitarist Andrea P. details the DIY gear the band deployed for Nihil…:
“So we experimented a lot to obtain the Ad Nauseam sound that basically had to be rich, dynamic, warm, dark and natural. To obtain exactly what we wanted, we had to start from scratch, designing our own equipment. For example Matteo B. designed and built 2 high quality bass loudspeakers, a 1×18” and a 1×12”, Andrea S. built his snare drum using an unusual technique to achieve more dynamics and power. I am an electronic engineer, which helped me to design and built 3 guitar preamplifiers, 1 bass preamplifier, a mastering compressor, a tube microphone preamplifier and a spring reverb unit, while Matteo G. helped me for the machining aspects.”
The resulting sound is one like no other in extreme music. Ad Nauseam’s aesthetic in sound is closest to a Neurosis album. Warm, dark, dusty and organic. The guitars have an acidic bitterness to them that underlines the album’s psychotic atmosphere. The dry rattle of the bass mixes well with the compact snare as the thud of the bass drum rounds out the low end of the mix. The vocals at the front are a withered husk situated somewhere between Luc Lemay and Portal’s The Curator. Together with the remarkably dynamic mix, Nihil… boasts some of the most satisfying production in extreme music.
In the aftermath
With Nihil quam vacuitas ordinatum est, Ad Nauseam made a stunning entry to modern technical death metal. Their influences merely a homage, they display character and craftiness in engineering their sound. Their debut is a veritable glimpse into madness with each musical motif as but a grain of sand in the storm that is Nihil quam vacuitas ordinatum est. The band is currently working on new music scheduled for later this year. If their debut was anything to go by, the new material will be the benchmark for technical metal in 2020.