Review by Greg Maki
Let me preface this review with this qualifier: I’m a novice when it comes to symphonic metal. I haven’t given the subgenre the attention it deserves, but the bits and pieces I’ve heard previously have come off as over-produced with forced theatrics, as if the musicians are trying too hard to fit into this very specific style of music. I realize that opinion is more on me and my inexperience with what I’m sure is a varied and interesting subgenre when one takes the time to explore it than it is on the bands themselves.
So, looking to broaden my horizons and with a little more time on my hands thanks to the coronavirus quarantine, I recently took the debut album from Ad Infinitum, “Chapter I: Monarchy,” for a spin, and now I’m thinking that I’ve deprived myself of a lot of killer tunes over the years. Or maybe this band, with members hailing from Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, is exceptionally talented. Likely it’s both.
Orchestration abounds throughout the 10-track album, yet the core of the sound is the incredibly tight musicianship of guitarist Adrian Thessenvitz, bassist Jonas Asplind and drummer Niklas Müller. Symphonic elements serve as embellishments, adding texture to what would be dynamic arrangements even without them.
The classic metal sounds lay the foundation for the true focal point of the recording—vocalist Melissa Bonny, whose resume includes stints as the singer of symphonic folk metal band Evenmore and trance metal (that’s a new one for me) act Rage of Light. In Ad Infinitum, her soaring melodic tones carry each song, and just when you’re settled in, thinking you’ve got this band figured out, she unleashes a bloodcurdling, guttural growl. She doesn’t do it often, but when she does, look out. It adds a whole new dimension, taking the band to another level and giving it a more modern edge. (Another surprisingly—and eerily—current aspect: The three band members wear plague masks.)
The songs are based on historical events rather than fantasy or something more abstract, and the record clocks in at less than 45 minutes, making it easily palatable for newcomers to the subgenre. Longtime fans, meanwhile, should appreciate the ace songwriting, expert musicianship and jaw-dropping vocals. The best part? The title “Chapter I” promises more to come.
Napalm Records – April 3, 2020