AD INFINITUM – CHAPTER III: DOWNFALL
LABEL: Napalm Records
RELEASE: March 31st, 2023
AUTHOR: Mike Smith
01. Eternal Rains
02. Upside Down
04. From The Ashes
05. Somewhere Better
06. The Underworld
08. Under The Burning Skies
09. Architect Of Paradise
10. The Serpent’s Downfall
11. New Dawn
12. Legends (feat. Chrigel Glanzmann)
13. Upside Down (Instrumental)
14. Somewhere Better (Instrumental)
I would describe AD INFINITUM as a Swiss/German symphonic metal band with pop, modern, progressive and djent elements. The band’s line-up consists of Melissa Bonny (vocals), Adrian Thessenvitz (guitars), Korbinian Benedict (bass) and Niklas Müller (drums). The band has released three full length albums. “Chapter III – Downfall“, due out March 31, 2023 on Napalm Records will be their fourth. ‘Ad Infinitum’ is a Latin phrase meaning ‘to infinity’ or ‘forevermore’. The new album explores concepts of ancient Egyptian history and mythology with Cleopatra in the lead role and being the main source of inspiration for the lyrics. Melissa has stated that the album lyrically sort of follows the story of Cleopatra from her ascension to power to her death. ‘Downfall’ refers to the fall of her dynasty. Other topics explored are related to the fact that her family had a very poisonous atmoshere where they were killing each other to ascend to the throne.
I feel I have to get something out right up front. I love Melissa‘s clean vocals. She has a great voice with fantastic range and diversity. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I am not a huge fan of growling vocals on either male or female. I can appreciate it sporadically to spice things up a bit, but too much of it and I lose interest. Which is why I really haven’t followed AD INFINITUM all that closely. It’s a shame because I really love her voice. I just wish she would cut back on the growls a bit. I know most of you love it though so you’ll be happy to know that she hasn’t forsaken that style on the new album, although on the singles they’ve released she doesn’t use it all that much.
In September of 2022, shortly before they embarked on a European tour with Beyond The Black, Amaranthe and Butcher Babies, the band posted a video to their social medias with the caption “The time has come” showing the members taking off their masks one by one and then Melissa proceeding to burn them. Obviously indicating that they would no longer be wearing the masks. I’m not much of a fan of bands wearing masks, which is probably another reason I didn’t follow them too closely before, so this was good news to me!
“Eternal Rains“ opens the album. It’s hard charging right out of the gate and maintains a high energy pace from start to finish. The growling is kept to a minimum. I find this song to be quite good! There’s a teriffic soaring chorus and Melissa sounds fantastic! Adrian has a very cool solo. I just found out this song will be released as the next single and video premiering on album release day, March 31st!
Track 2, “Upside Down“, was the first single and video released in October of 2022 so I’m sure you’re all very familiar with it by now. It’s a fantastic song with some cool riffs, orchestration, some cool sound effects, a nice groove and a big chorus. Melissa sounds teriffic with some really nice vocals and great harmonies. There’s a short breakdown where Melissa does some growling and then Adrian has another solo. This is the shortest song on the album clocking in at 3:15.
“Seth“ was the third single and video released in January of 2023. Seth was the Egyptian god of war, chaos and storms and brother of Osiris and Isis. The lyrics seem to tell the tale of how his greed and quest for power led to his demise. Beginning with a whisper, the song then abruptly kicks in with a heavy djent styled groove and some Egyptian sounding orchestration. Melissa comes in clean and beautiful. She sounds amazing! There are no growling vocals in this song which I thought was refreshing.
“From The Ashes“ was the fourth single and video from the album which premiered just barely one month after “Seth“. It begins with a nice heavy groove while Adrian plays a cool guitar melody over the top. It’s a huge dramatic epic song with an amazing chorus! Melissa really shines on this one! Niklas also really impresses with some fancy footwork and really cool odd timing drum patterns and fills! There’s a killer djent sounding breakdown. Absent again are the growling vocals which I really appreciated. Definitely my favorite track so far! With a running time of 4:41 this is the longest song on the album.
“Somewhere Better“ was the second single and video making it’s debut in November of 2022. Wow, what a beautiful guitar melody Adrian plays at the start of this song! And what a chorus! Melissa duplicates that same guitar melody from the beginning with her voice. Absolutely stunning! I’m not crying, you’re crying! Not gonna lie, this song tugs at my heart strings. Adrian plays a beautiful guitar solo and Melissa soars back into the chorus with some really nice harmonies and vocal melodies over the top. That’s three tracks in a row now with no growling vocals. What an amazing song!
Welcome to… “The Underworld“. Track 5 ends the streak of songs without growling vocals with a vengeance! There’s a lot if it. She still uses the clean vocals, sometimes doubling her own vocals with clean and growling in the chorus. About midway the song shifts gears a bit with a really cool riff and groove and Adrian solos over it. It’s a pretty uptempo track with some progressive elements that probably gives Niklas a bit of a workout! A real banger this one!Next up we have “Ravenous“. Things slow down a bit for this one. It’s sort of an epic anthem sounding song. Though it has a pretty heavy breakdown with Melissa doing a bit of spoken word. Lyrically the track seems to address betrayal and murder. She sings, starting of with spoken word and building to a growl: “It all starts like a lullaby / A wonderful once upon a time / But as soon as the sun goes down / Here comes the smell of the rotten flesh again”. This song kinda grew on me. I wasn’t sure I liked it too much at first but the more I heard it, the more I liked it.
“Under The Burning Skies“ switches gears completely and we’re treated to a wonderful ballad. Melissa sings beautifully and softly: “Walk me through the darkness / I’ll be fine again / Whispers of the sleepless / Put my mind in chains”. There’s quite a lot of orchestration throughout combined with heavy yet somewhat subtle guitars, bass and drums, and of course Melissa‘s captivating voice. Lyrically the song seems to address Cleopatra‘s suicide. Melissa sings: “Here under the burning skies / My final moment has arrived / Flesh and bones return to dust / Keep my memory alive”. I did a little research and apparently on August 12, 30 B.C. Cleopatra closed herself in her chamber with two of her female servants. The means of her death is uncertain, but a popular theory is that she used a poisonous snake known as the asp, a symbol of divine royalty, to commit suicide at age 39. The song gradually builds to a huge crescendo and closes out with a grande finale. A truly fabulous and epic song!
Track 8, “Architect Of Paradise“, is a fairly uptempo rocker that combines modern progressive metal elements with pop, symphonic and djent sounds. There’s a really nice chorus that goes like this: “Call out my name I’ll be your hero / Your moonlight, your sorrow / A scar left on your heart forever / Always been dancing in the fire / Igniting desire / Architect of paradise”. Melissa sounds fantastic and sings clean vocals for most of the track, but towards the latter part of the song after a cool breakdown she does belt out a verse with growls.
It’s time for “The Serpent’s Downfall“. This track has a really cool riff and groove that comes right after each time the title is sung! The rest of the song has a sort of variation to that riff which is cool, but I found myself wishing they’d played the other riff more often. Clean vocals during most of the song again, except for whenever they sing out the title where they double clean with growling. Then towards the end she does one verse growling and then Adrian rips out a quick solo. Very nice!
“New Dawn“ marks the first time we hear acoustic guitar. It’s a sort of majestic sounding song, possibly a love song. Cleopatra seduced and then maintained a love affair with Mark Antony who ruled Rome with Octavian and she cared for him deeply. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing this song possibly explores her feelings for him. Regardless, Melissa sings it beautifully. The music stops for a moment and then it slowly picks back up with Adrian playing a beautiful guitar melody which segues into a soaring solo. One more chorus and the song closes with a nice acoustic guitar outro.
Closing track “Legends“ begins with an atmospheric monologue introduction courtesy of special guest Chrigel Glanzmann of Eluveitie which really sets an intruiging vibe. The song kicks in with a really cool double bass drum pattern and bass guitar groove while Melissa slices through it with her crystal clear voice. Verse one finishes and the fantastic chorus takes off: “Why can’t we learn and rise / Above the inferno / I hear the angels cry / Before they fall / Why can’t we realize / And break the cycle / Open up the gates of Heaven / Once more”. I can’t quite figure out how this song fits into the Egyptian theme of the album. It seems to stand on it’s own. Seems more Biblically based to me. About 3/4 through we get a nice moody ambient guitar solo from Adrian and then we’re crushed with a heavy djent styled breakdown, soon joined by an Egyptian melody. One last chorus and another heavy groove to close us out. A teriffic closer!To summarize: “Chapter III – Downfall“ marks a nice leap for AD INFINITUM in songwriting and production. The album sounds incredible! The band has taken the best of the first two albums and combined that with fresh ideas to come up with their finest work to date! As I mentioned earlier, although I am a fan I really haven’t followed the band all that closely. Although I can appreciate some growling, the frequent use of growling vocals has kind of kept me from listening to much of anything other than their singles. I love Melissa‘s clean vocals though! I think she’s a very beautiful, interesting and unique presence in the symphonic metal world and she sounds incredible on this album! I’m also not really a fan of djent metal bands or djent metal elements. This album hasn’t changed that for me, but I think they do a great job of incorporating some of those elements without overdoing it. They are definitely very talented musicians! As a drummer myself, I can assure you that Niklas is a remarkable drummer and some of the odd timing stuff they do is very impressive! The Egyptian theme prompted me to do a little research on the subject for this review which has been different but enjoyable. This has been a bit of a journey for me. It took me a little bit to warm up to some of their more modern elements, but after hearing this album many times now I can definitely say they have won me over! Hats off (or should I say: Masks off) to Melissa and the band! Congratulations on a fantastic album!