Everything about this release seethes with bad intentions. Adversarial Light is the kind of album that sounds as if it was created in opposition to everything, standing as a monument to dark secrets and isolation. Primarily a sludge record, there’s also some interesting, unusual influences to the music that lend it hints of black metal and even the slowest, heaviest moments of Holy Terror style hardcore. Vaee Solis have crafted something that is every bit as unsettling and esoteric as that description might suggest, with a bleak, violent, and almost overwhelming heavy aura that simply cannot be faked.
The record wastes little time in pulling you in, even if it does primarily move at a glacial pace. Opener “Saturn’s Storm” grabs hold of the listener with a guitar tone that simply cannot be denied, full of malevolence, the melody (such as it is) leaving enough space to keep you wondering what will come next. As the rest of the band come in, and Sophia’s horrifically raw-yet-captivating vocals command proceedings, the effect is like watching some ceremony or ritual play out. That vibe is maintained throughout the six tracks of the album, as they tap in to something primal, that feels as old – if not older – than language and music itself.
That feeling is what gives Adversarial Light its character and main appeal. There is not much variation throughout the album, and what variety there is lies mainly in differing shades of the heavy and the dark, but it is not much of an issue. Instead, the album keeps you hooked with its primitive power, tapping in to that prehistoric, animal part of your brain. Yet for its ugly, harsh, unsettling nature, there are moments of relative beauty and grandeur; the section just past the three minute mark of the title track when things are stripped back is heart-stoppingly bleak and beautiful. Moments such as this as more notable because of their scarcity, though; it’s sections such as the horrific opening screams of “Feral Isolation” that better sum up the album. And by the time closer “Cosmocrat” has finished with you, you’ll be feeling exhausted and bruised – Adversarial Light is an incredibly heavy 38 minutes of music, both sonically and emotionally.
It perhaps goes without saying that this is music that does need the right kind of mindset to fully appreciate – if you’re not in the mood for such bleak negativity, then it might feel like a slog. But such is the nature of records like this; were it music that you could put on in the background in any situation or frame of mind, it would be failing somehow. No, this is music for the darkest of nights and blackest of moods, when primitivism is the only enlightenment. And make no mistake, there is something oddly enlightening and cathartic about Adversarial Light, even if such truths are not revealed quickly or easily. But given time, and the right frame of mind, this is an experience that is very much worthwhile.
Adversarial Light can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp. It is also available on cassette, limited to 100 copies, though this has sold out from Signal Rex, though the band themselves may have some copies left.