I’m not going to wax positively over the faded imagery; it’s beautiful, well designed and organic, fitting the music wonderfully in the scope of this album. Season of Mist’s twitter feed brought this band to my attention earlier in the month and I snagged a number of listens on band camp while at home and work to this piece. Hailing from the Vancouver scene, Anciients is another band with whom I was wholly unfamiliar at the time I began listening.
Self described as Metal, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, &c, they list on their Facebook and bandcamp pages that they are attempting to inhabit a sonic space somewhere between High on Fire (a band whose efforts I am not keenly a fan) and Opeth. Like the earlier review for The Fall of Every Seasons, it took me at least five times through this album to fully digest their approach. It is an amazingly dense album in both production, technicality, and songwriting.
At this point in my understanding of the album, I feel that Anciients is a band whose classic rock influences, especially from bands like Thin Lizzy, Steely Dan, and other 70s era rock bands, is the core of their sound. Whereas Opeth’s metal albums are very much influenced by this melodic progression, their core is still metal. Anciients’s sound is very progressive/classic rock in its melodic progression that just happens to use metal soundscapes and voices in their approach. The result is that nothing on their album feels like it is misused or misapplied. The vocals (no, I don’t know the names of the band members) are warm and cleanly sung, a shrieking keen in the black metal style, or a churning growl in the death metal style. The riffs are epic and tightly focused; the bass drives the rhythm and the percussion is quality.
It is the multilayered facets and the differing utilities of their sounds that really grabbed my attention and pushed me through the album. It is an album to which I can either devote my ear to for its entire duration or put on and let play in the background, enjoying it while I write, think or work. Its varied approach and wonderful production is simply what allows this to happen, letting the music do all the communication and ranges from equal parts blistering to introspective.
My highlights from the album (though the whole thing is beautiful) are “Raise the Sun,” “Falling in Line,” “The Longest River,” and “For Lisa.” The last of those song is instrumental and is as close to psychedelic rock as this album gets, which is a good thing because too full a dose of psychedelic can be confusing. Anciients’s offering is a satisfying romp through a new spin on Opeth’s similar vein of classic rock inspired progressive extreme metal. By fusing black metal, doom metal, and death metal elements into the core of the classic rock sound, I never found a point on this album at which I got bored or merely tired of their songs. To wit, I feel this album should be required listening for progressive rock fans, and would be proudly owned by any metalheads who don’t mind a little more thought than how fast one would have to rock their heads back and forth to match the speed at which the double bass is churning. Ultimately, I look forward to Anciients as they continue to grow and evolve their sounds.