Review: Ad Nauseam – Imperative Imperceptible Impulse
In Imperative Imperceptible Impulse, Ad Nauseam creates an abyss of darkness that is, for all intents and purposes, perfect.
I’ve had bands expand my preconceptions. I’ve had albums blow my mind. I’ve had music change my entire line of thinking. Yet, I think Imperative Imperceptible Impulse might be the first time an album has possessed me. I feel haunted by this record in a way I can’t say I’ve ever felt, except for maybe the first time I heard Gorguts’ Obscura. As of writing this, I’ve listened to Ad Nauseam’s newest release about 8 or so times in the past 24 hours (I’ve honestly lost count at this point) and I still feel like I’m not getting the full picture. In many regards, I feel just as lost and overwhelmed as I did on my first listen. There’s ultimately so much going on at any given point that soaking it all in seems daunting. The overwhelming amount of complexities almost seems to taunt me, to be perfectly honest. All of this is to say:
I’m absolutely dumbfounded.
Hailing from Veneto, Italy, Ad Nauseam is no stranger to tonally bizarre, avant-garde death metal that bends expectations and preconceptions. 2015’s Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est was similarly outstanding in its compositional flavor. Taking notes from technical predecessors Gorguts and Ulcerate (as well as from the atmospherics of Portal and other dissonant metal acts), Nihil is, in its own right, a stellar work of art that builds on the chaos of said bands. All these elements created a weird sort of musical psychosis that left me enamored in many respects. So many flavors come together to make that record and, for all intents and purposes, it’s fantastic. This was all apparently just a fucking warm up for what would come 6 years later, as any complement I could give to Nihil goes to Imperative Imperceptible Impulse tenfold.
Imperative Imperceptible Impulse is a rare experience in extreme metal, as in it is a record that challenges the listener to adjust themselves to the band’s constantly shifting pace. The keyword here is pace, rather than speed, as the tempo changes that result from the songwriting are frantic and complex. “Coincidentia Oppositorum,” “Sub Specie Aeternitatis,” and the title track are all emblematic of how intensely labyrinthine every moment of songwriting is here. Deep, chasmic shades of sound play out with intricacies that serve to create an omnipresent feeling of unease. This effect is certainly achieved through the member chemistry. Said cooperation seems disjointed at first, but reveals itself on repeated listens as an organic and jazz-like ecosystem of performance. The intricacies also lie in the thickly layered structure. As songs develop and swell organically, angular, uneasy riffs and bass-backbones start to layer to the point of seemingly crazed discord.
The discerning and attentive listener can shuffle through these different layers and pick up on jazzy, technical riffs that carry momentum throughout a piece like on “Horror Vacui.” Every single guitar passage builds atmosphere in a way that few bands can, from the atonal whirrs of the slower segments to the intensities of the parts of a breakneck pace change. Much like the guitars in question (which often play two different riffs at the same time to expertly build tension), the rest of the band weighs in on the organic progression of this record with heft and purposeful intent. The bass playing on here flourishes a beautifully cataclysmic rhythm that is as dizzying as everything else. The percussion too is masterfully executed, dictating a definitive structure for everything else, while also being incredibly elaborate in technique. The same can be said for all 4 members of Ad Nauseam, even down to the swelling violins used in the sweeping atmospheric portions and the vocals, which transition between commanding death growls to disassociating screams of anguish.
The synergy and mastery that goes into these songs aids in fulfilling the soundscape aimed for on Imperative Imperceptible Impulse. Somewhere between progressive extreme metal and technical death metal with influences and flourishes from jazz, classical, horror soundtracks and avant-garde soundscapes, this record lies in a dissonant medium between the worlds of density and ferocity. Similarly to its predecessor (perhaps even more so), it would be seriously disingenuous to imply that Imperative is just a list of influences playing out, as what was created by Ad Nauseam is nothing less than a lifelike gorge of introspective darkness.
Even after describing this record, I still feel absolutely dumbfounded.. So much of this album is mortifyingly detailed and amazingly impressive. Not a single second of runtime is wasted, every single note and string played is performed with a purposeful intent that is intense and powerful. The record is mastered and mixed perfectly, especially when considering how balanced and clear everything sounds. (It’s especially impressive when you realize the band did the production themselves in house.) Every single moment rings with a level of depth that you just don’t hear in every dissonant death metal song. So much of this album is sharp, grim, rich, and emotive in a super unique way. Despite somewhat resembling albums like From Wisdom to Hate, Everything is Fire, and Outre, Imperative Imperceptible Impulse manages to be one of the most unique and befuddling albums I’ve heard in quite a few years. Even with everything written here, I’m only scratching the surface of what lies in Ad Nauseam’s masterpiece. One thing is for certain, this is one for the high echelon of death metal and I look forward to being haunted by it further.
5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell