Ad Infinitum – Chapter III – Downfall (Napalm Records)

Friday, 31st March 2023
Rating: 9.5 / 10

Ad Infinitum teased their first release all the way back in November 2018 with their single “I Am The Storm” but then left us to wait until April 2020 for their full-length debut, Chapter I – Monarchy. The wait was absolutely worth it though; as evidenced by the captivating subject matter, eclectic vocals, hauntingly beautiful melodies, and rhythms that captured the listener from start to finish. Since their explosion onto the symphonic metal scene they’ve released an acoustic version of said debut, then Chapter II – Legacy in October 2021, and now we have the third installment, Chapter III – Downfall. The first taste of this newest chapter came a year after the second with “Upside Down” setting high expectations and anticipation. The end result did not disappoint.

One thing that sets Ad Infinitum apart from a lot of female fronted symphonic metal acts is the fact Melissa Bonny has not only a beautiful clean vocal style, but an amazing harsh range. She even features a bit of sprechstimme, such as on “Ravenous.” While they certainly are not the first to do this, they are easily one of the best (right alongside Seven Spires). This isn’t the only thing that differentiates them from other female fronted symphonic metal ensembles, though. The vocals aren’t the overbearing, dominant focus as is often the case; instead, every instrument in the quartet is on display. Tracks like “From the Ashes” strongly showcase the amazing bass work of Korbinian Benedict, while “The Underworld” brandishes Adrian Thessenvitz’s masterful ability to go from a heavier guitar riff to a haunting lead with a soaring solo. Let’s not forget the ingenious pounding drums of Niklas Müller, which truly shines through during “Architect of Paradise.”

This chapter is the first to show Benedict, Müller, and Thessenvitz without plague doctor masks on the album art. Although the first album artwork was released before COVID, one could think this lines up nicely with life finally getting back to a more normal state. However, this could also indicate the band taking more chances on this third chapter in their development (or maybe I’m just overthinking things). This progression certainly pays off. Throughout there are hints and elements of folk metal, but it really comes together on the final track “Legends.” The stage is immediately set with Chrigel Glanzmann of Eluveitie providing a poignant spoken word intro. Surprisingly, there are even some djent elements with a downtuned chugging guitar tone towards the end of the track, bringing into focus the continual evolution of their sound. While this adds a nice progressive feel for this writer, djent can be divisive within the progressive metal genre, so if that’s not your cup of tea, fear not – this isn’t full on Meshuggah or Animals as Leaders.

This record is full of catchy lyrics, haunting guitar leads, unearthly riffs, profound bass lines, and crushing drumming. The melodies take one into the empyrean with a combination of elegance and darkness at every turn. Fitting for the overall theme of this album; like their others, the focus is history and mythology, with a heavy emphasis on Ancient Egypt (in case it’s not obvious with a song titled “Seth”). If you have not listened to their earlier releases, now is the time to jump in and enjoy this unique symphonic metal project that continues to develop into an even more extraordinary work of art.

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