You want some cognitive whiplash? Read reviews of Vi Sonus Veris Nigrae Malitiaes online. On Metal Archives alone , commentary on this cult weirdo black metal album goes from a scathing 5/100 rating to more metaphoric examinations of the album that produces a vastly higher score. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this disc remains as divisive and provocative as it still does. Here you get a band that was connected to the lauded original Nordic "Black Circle" with all the black metal lore that comes with it. But who pursued a seemingly psychotic and abstract sonic vision that offered little to metal fans mainly looking for ripping riffs. I remember an old review that Peter Sotos did in this newsletter where he had gotten ahold of one of Abruptum's albums and compared it to something much closer to Nurse With Wound than anything resembling heavy metal. And of course this was correct - the modus operandi of Abruptum was invoking a presence of real darkness, some tangible aspect of human evil, through what is essentially intense and discursive sound-collages.
Recorded in 1995 at Peter Tagtgrenâs Abyss Studios, Vi Sonus is the only Abruptum album that is solely created and performed by the late, great IT (aka Tony Sarkka), as other member "Evil" was unavailable. This is all "It", a one-man show as he plumbs the filthiest recesses of the human psyche. It is the third album from the band (following the first two on Deathlike Silence) , originally appearing in 1996 on the semi-legendary US black metal label Full Moon Productions. Profound Lore's 2019 reissue presents the piece in four parts, but as one unbroken track. Just over an hour of abyssic improvisational horror. Slow, pounding drums echo in some subterranean chamber, surrounded by nauseating feedback that rises and falls in wave-like movements in the vastness. Wailing guitar noise that precedes a more urgent drum track backed by distant moaning and howling . A formless mass of percussive psychosis opens the album, with weird knocking sounds, unidentifiable chirps, ghostly scraping and shimmering cymbals. As that drumming eventually coalesces into an actual beat, a slow, torturous trudge, and the shrieking reverberant guitar settles into huge splatters of distorted drone and floor-shaking rumble, Vi Sonus Veris Nigrae Malitiaes curdles into a bizarre and amorphous blackened doom dirge. Those pained screams and shrieks and gasps echo throughout the background as the instruments slowly congeal into this massive, cavernous plod, stinking whiffs of riffage and astringent melody and slithering atonality hitting you on and off again.
That charred-black, shapeless doom breaks apart into more sprawls of scrabbly detuned guitar noise, electrified hum, and malodorous non-verbal vomit, clanking chains dragging somewhere off to your left, bursts of mangled blast beats and reptilian hissing, and this push-pull tension of form and formlessness is stretched out over the entire recording. Those fragments of deformed melody and constructed guitar parts move in and out of the shadows, with the only real constant being that steady amplifier hum and the endless vocalizations that sound way off in the background. The parts where it starts to resemble some totally fucked-up doom metal are scattered and brief; in the latter half of the album, it does get pretty heavy, but it never relinquishes that atmosphere of sickness and insanity. For the most part, those howls of agony are encircled by blobs of gooey, freeform guitar fills the air like fumes from a long-rotting corpse, backed by energetic but apparently directionless drumming. When Vi Sonus is at its most shattered and abstract, it's remarkably redolent of the jet-black psychedelic scrawl of Khanate, a mutated corpse-gnawing version of early 90s Skullflower, or the most nightmarish moments of Keiji Haino and Fushitsusha. It's quite different from the later, more "industrial" Abruptum releases, much closer in sound and feel to the darkest extremes of European improv. But with that ghastly, "necro" ambience native to the early second-wave Nordic black metallers.
This utterly abject extended pain-ritual still sounds as far-out and avant-garde now as it did when Full Moon released it back in 1996. Even though a thousand bands have mimicked Abruptum's shambling, oubliette-locked death-dirge and blackened noisescapes over the past quarter-century, nothing has quite captured the unique evocation of mental and physical illness and personal corruption that "Itâ pulled off on this disc. And like Corrupted, this is one of those albums that is best heard on CD; the degraded, radiating "music" captured here should be heard unbroken, with no pause to alleviate the ghoulishness ambience of it all.
Still one of the most whacked-out, bizarro moments in black metal history. A personal favorite, for sure. This CD reissue comes in a nicely embossed digipak that stays true to the look and feel of the original release.