posted on 8/2008 By:
I’d not heard of Quadrivium before embarking on this review, and as ever, taking on albums by unknown bands constitutes a low form of gambling. However, signs pointed to Adversus being a pretty safe bet—po-faced Norwegian dudes with fake names playing some hifalutin version of symphonic black metal (they call it “unique metal”—shut the fuck up) usually has a better than even chance of rocking. Unfortunately, this is no high-impact romp through the realms of Emperor or even early Dimmu Borgir. It turns out that Quadrivium is functionally the product of two guys, only one of whom actually plays instruments (the other is a vocalist, and there’s a bassist too, but only sorta—more on that later). And holy fuck if it isn’t obvious; despite a few Pyrrhic victories, Adversus is totally flaccid in a number of crucial departments.
My understanding is that main man Erlend wrote and recorded everything on this disc shy of the vocals and bass guitar, and like so many multi-instrumentalists, he makes it clear which instrument he’s most comfortable with: keyboards. This album is utterly keyboard-driven, almost overwhelmingly so; they take center stage in the opening seconds of “A Sophic Fire” and do not budge for the duration. Erlend’s keyboard bias isn’t implicitly problematic, and his performance on the instrument is above par for the genre. The problem is that everything else about Adversus seems like an afterthought, including the songwriting. Tracks plod along at middling tempos so devoid of fire and passion that there’s almost a gothic sense of mope about the music. Erlend’s drumming is metronomic but uninspired and afflicted with a horridly artificial tone. The guitars are even worse; they’re redheaded stepchildren slinking along in the background, too afraid of the abusive keys to do more than mutter perfunctory power chords through each song. This is metal, folks, and there’s no excuse for perfunctory axework. Poor Decepticon the bassist is totally inaudible, and one wonders why he’s even in the band if he’s just going to get mixed clear out of every song. Vocalist Lars Jensen turns in a solid, Ihsahn-inspired performance, and his presence manages to briefly jumpstart a few songs (“Svartamaal,” “Nordover”). Unfortunately, he and a decent production aren’t enough to save this album—largely the effect is that of a horribly anemic Arcturus.
Quadrivium’s Myspace page mentions their search for a new guitarist; if only they’d found one before recording this album. A new drummer wouldn’t hurt either. I understand what these guys are going for, but the simple fact is that they screwed up. They’ll have to add a few new members and rework vast swathes of their sound if they hope to make headway in a burgeoning Norwegian metal scene. Basically, Adversus sounds like the work of half a band, and it’s less than half as good as it could’ve been.
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