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Quadrivium - "Adversus" (CD)

Quadrivium - "Adversus" CD cover image

"Adversus" track listing:

1. A Sophic Fire
2. Works Of Glory
3. Svartamaal
4. Haust
5. Principal Cognizance
6. Nordover
7. Into The Void
8. Is
9. Ettertid

Reviewed by on July 31, 2009

"It takes a few spins to become acquainted with, but once you grasp onto the music, “Adversus” is actually a pretty enjoyable album."

Norway’s Quadrivium was formed in 2005 by Erlend Antonsen (guitar, drums, keyboards) and Lars Jensen (vocals). Quadrivium plays an interesting take on avante-garde, symphonic black metal that is similar in style with Radigost (keyboard-wise mostly) and Arcturus. The artwork appears to be some twisted DNA strands presumably being sucked out of a hole. I’m not really sure how this represents the album, but given the music to come, the rather vague cover may be fitting.

Disclaimer: When I read the band name Quadrivium, my first thought was, “sounds like Trivium.” I was unsure whether to expect metal core, pseudo-thrash, or a complete abomination in between. It took two seconds into “Adversus” to realize that Quadrivium is about as far away from Trivium as you can get.

This album took a few listens to warm up to. An unsettling and almost carnival-esque theme kicks off the album on “A Sophic Fire,” with black metal styled shrieks and supremely minor chord progressions along with breaks of more tranquil keys. Exchanging screaming and singing begin the album in a disturbingly dissonant way.

There were also a few melodies that I found to be somewhat comical. Aside from the carnival-esque theme of the opener, the intro and transition melody of “Is” reminded me of music from the legendary arcade game Asteroids. That is, until the banshee black metal vocals and descending power chords came in.

There aren’t many solos in “Adversus” but given everything else that is going on in the music, they aren’t really needed. The guitars in general are to provide rhythm and occasionally melody. The keys do the majority of the melody lifting and are often the main attraction in the music. The drumming is solid throughout and displays a variety of techniques from unbalanced syncopated rhythms to blast beats. The drumming is constantly changing, helping to guide the songs deeper into this weird and daunting musical abyss. The vocals alternate between a typical black metal shriek and more operatic vocals, further enhancing the ever changing moods of the songs.

The album ends on an obscure yet tranquil note. The entire track “Ettertid” is a recording of a thunderstorm. The distant thunder, calming wind, and rain along with birds and crickets chirping really allow you some closure to the unsettling intensity of the other tracks. This was a nice end to an album with so much dissonance and disturbance.

My gripes with "Adversus" are that many of the song structures are the same. There is a lot of variety within the songs, but not many songs stand out from the rest. At times there is also too much going on at once.

“Adversus” is definitely a different album. It takes a few spins to become acquainted with, but once you grasp onto the music, “Adversus” is actually a pretty enjoyable album. I hope Antonsen and Jensen keep this project alive as I would be very interested in hearing new music from Quadrivium.

Highs: Interesting melodies, very expirimental, and the track "Ettertid"

Lows: Too much going on at times, songs have hard time individualizing themselves from the rest

Bottom line: If you enjoy wierd, unpleasent, and experimental metal, give this album a spin.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)