One question I never get asked is: “How much more do you drink for ‘Drinking With Satan’ than all your other posts?” And it’s a fair question that I’m willing to ask myself and answer for your benefit. While it’s true that I drink plenty for every other review I write for Nine Circles, I usually get doubly aggressive when it’s time to do so with the devil. He requires much…inspiration, I suppose, in our meetings. It’s never just beer though, you have to mix in some whiskey (what?), vodka (what?), tequila (what?), and more beer (what?), and… well… you get the idea. In tonight’s episode, however, the indulgences are going in another direction.
Let me paint a picture for you. It’s Thursday night, and I’m at a fascinating level of self-loathing, drinking alone in my lair of a bedroom. The cedar incense is burning, filling the space that surrounds me, as I look out the window at the darkness that is enshrouding my historical harbor town in New England that I proudly call home. A dense fog has settled over the town, enveloping all streets and buildings. It’s bleak, dark, and cold for an August evening. The only thoughts that come to mind amidst this eeriness are those of Portsmouth’s haunted tales from centuries ago. The town’s cemeteries are home to victims of some of the most vicious murders in New England history. Yet it’s home. It’s why I’m addicted to this place like a drug. Walking through these endless graveyards at night in dense fog, with visibility near zero, the inspiration strikes. I pick up a bottle of red wine — Apothic Red, to be exact — and prepare to submerse myself in hateful darkness for the rest of the evening.
So here I am with a full bottle of wine (gotta consume some fruit every once in awhile) about to be annihilated once I kill the last of these PBRs and Harpoon Oktoberfests. It’s a different kind of aggression this evening — more inward-looking, more focused on the bleakness of black metal and the current environment that surrounds me. So let’s get started. The soundtrack tonight is provided by Vaee Solis and the album is their debut, Adversarial Light. Frankly, nothing could better match the environment of this particular evening.
Six tracks from the Portuguese blackened doom metallers that cover about forty minutes. Meanwhile, all beers gone, the Apothic Red pours as an extremely deep red, almost purple, in the stemless wine glass next to me. We open with “Saturn’s Storm” and dark, echoing notes of the opening guitar leads immediately take my mind back to my fascination with the mysterious universe that holds our insignificant existence. Saturn… the gem of our slice of the cosmos… coupled with a storm. A storm of impressive power we can hardly imagine. As the crippling shrieks — all brilliantly produced, I must say — surround us, and the droning instrumentals meander onward, it become apparent how insignificant we all are. None of this even matters. This sound is pain. This pain is our existence. This music forces you to acknowledge and become one with the inevitabilities that we often seek to avoid.
We continue onward through the opening tracks, and while the pace increases, it doesn’t ever change the defining elements of this album. The title track has just enough motion in the early stages to burn with an unrelenting heat. The image quickly forms of a faraway mountainside, in complete isolation, sitting beside a raging fire… wolves howling in the distance. It’s a moment of complete introspection, one that every man must experience regularly. The introduction of cleaner, choir vocals and higher tones in the leads brings out some of the black metal that was previously restrained in these tracks. But those elements still feel reserved, not fully unleashed… it feels like it’s ready to explode in a wave of ferocity and just can’t… but that only adds to overall melancholic intention of this album.
Somehow the latter half of Adversarial Light becomes even more deliberate. The notes hold a burdening amount of weight, with each percussive beat crippling your ability to keep yourself upright (Ok, in all fairness, the third glass of wine following several beers could also be a culprit). But the four minutes of “Feral Isolation” really is a new found level of darkness. It brings about a new level of self-hatred. Advesarial Light comes full circle, however, at the closing “Cosmocrat”. The same flesh-searing growls fill the void of the instrumentals. But more so than ever, you really feel the blackened influence. The crisp tones, the varied tempos, the emotion-driven nature of each note… the track just sways onward into darkened oblivion. The raw, unquestionably powerful emotion that is the music we love… is all here. At over ten minutes, we have something that encapsulates the very essence of this musical experience. It’s the nail driven into the coffin that is Adversarial Light.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m at an interesting level right now. It’s been a memorable day and night in the most fascinating of ways. As such, Vaee Solis has provided the ultimate soundtrack. But this is no light listen. This requires dedication and focus (ironic for someone that’s consumed this much wine). It’s a challenge… it hurts… it takes doom metal, it takes black metal, and it uses them both to create something even darker. It inspires introspection… but only after acknowledging one’s own insignificance. It takes its listener to emotional experience rarely duplicated. Is the album perfect? No. Is it overall quality? Certainly. But the most important thing is that Adversarial Light drives emotion. And that is what defines it. Wander into a vast wooded darkness, light a fire, ignore all other surroundings, and focus on whatever the fuck comes to mind. And listen to this thing. What I’m saying is… GET ON MY LEVEL.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”