Avant-garde. Technical. Dissonant. These are the terms I’ve most often seen used to describe Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est at every twist and turn, so I figured it’d be prudent to get them in the open as soon as possible. Add to that the comparisons with Gorguts, Ulcerate, and Deathspell Omega, though in truth I only really agree with those first two in the case of Ad Nauseam. I have heard this unholy trifecta used to compare a growing number of new black/death metal bands. At one point, modern classical-influenced, atonal tech-metal really warranted the avant-garde label. But as the avant-garde ultimately seeks to reshape the current sphere, I’d say this objective was already accomplished sometime in the wake of Fas – Ite, Maledicti in Ignem Aeternum.
Ad Nauseam are swirling, challenging, and apply to virtually any synonym of ‘dissonant’ you can think of, but they aren’t experimental. Gorguts’ Obscura laid the groundwork for this album’s sound nearly twenty years ago. What Ad Nauseaum is, however, is one of the best examples of a new band taking a fresh handle on this sound and imbuing it with the same attention to detail and calculated focus we’d expect to hear from its progenitors.
Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est took five years for Ad Nauseam to record in full, and the time and effort really shows. This debut may come as a familiar sound to fans of the great Ulcerate. Sludgy death timbres are further weaponized with an ever-busier sense of composition that far surpasses the garden variety US tech death in the sense of giving its demonstration of technique real weight and substance. Leaving a description of Ad Nauseam as ‘sludgy tech death’ might come partially towards describing their sound, but their reality does without some of the less tactful elements of either school. Unlike sludge, Ad Nauseam never let their anger run amok. Even this album’s most chaotic and noisy bits (the second half of ‘Into the Void Eye’ stands out in this regard) sound akin to an enchained beast. You know said beast could cause untold havoc if Ad Nauseam ever chose to let it go, but they keep it under lock and key, guiding their rage along with utter calculation.
Even if Ad Nauseam’s take on death metal isn’t necessarily ‘new’ per se, that doesn’t stop Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est from being an incredibly challenging listen that requires patience to fully unlock. The first time I put it on felt like an atmospheric haze; their grip of mood surpasses a lot of like-sounding bands, but the songwriting took a surprising number of repeated plays before it really started to sink in. Ad Nauseam are busier than Ulcerate, more atonal than Gorguts, and yet I never fully get a feeling of chaos from what they’re doing here. That’s not a bad thing for their part in it; it’s a matter of intent. Ad Nauseam are the sort of band that have set out to create high art (or, at least as high as death metal can muster) to a recorded medium, and they’ve not left anything up to chance. It’s impossible to pick up on half the nuances on this album until the familiarity sets in. Though I’d reckon the same applies to most substantive tech-death, there’s a new level of appreciation that unfolds once you give this album enough time to adequately connect with you. What comes off as an amorphous flood of avant-garde, technical, and dissonant aggression finally begins to take individual shape. Melody takes hindseat to virtually every other aspect of music here, but some of the swirling guitar leads and dynamic changes (from tech death to equally atonal clean sections and back again) offer something in the way of signposts.
Whatever grievances come up in listening to Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est probably have to do with conscious decisions the band made in developing their style. I am not necessarily looking for melody, but some fresh ingredients to further separate song from song would have helped to liven up the album more, especially during its second half. The homogeneously claustrophobic atmosphere already makes its mark from the first track, and doesn’t really care to evolve to give the fifty-five minute length some helpful dynamic. Also, outside of its vaguely modern classical slant (manifested in boundlessly effective orchestration segments by guitarist Andrea Petucco), I’d hesitate to say Ad Nauseam’s formula has ever cared to reinvent the style we’ve welcomed since Obscura. But a boldness of style is less important than a wealth of substance, and it’s in this respect that Ad Nauseam have truly impressed me. Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est has been laboured over tirelessly, and it’s apparent from the meticulous way they’ve handled everything from the album’s structure to the puzzling sequences of notes you’ll find buried in any given moment. Genuinely experimental they are not, but this debut has already established them as prospective masters of their craft.
01) My Buried Dream
02) Key to Timeless Laws
03) La maison diev
04) Into the Void Eye
05) Terror Haze
06) Lost in the Antiverse
07) The Black Veil of Original Flaw
08) Superimposing Mere Will and Sheer Need