Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ancient : " Return to the Land of the Dead"

Zel is the only original member, but Nicholas Barker of Dimmu / Cradle of Filth fame is laying down the drums. Dark and driven with the cold atmosphere that should run through black metal's veins a song that drops into a more mid paced march like "the Sempiternal Haze" still feels black enough to it's core even when the acoustic guitar and whispered female vocals come in to silence unbelievers. Far less theatrics and pageantry than some of the other projects Barker has drummed for who went sideways into a more symphonic metal direction. The drumming is really what hammers the heart of this album.  To the point of where there thunder almost dominate the mix and finds the guitar stepping behind it. These guys are old pros and it shows in their song writing chops that never forget these songs can not live on blast beats and double bass alone.

They might not possess the feral blitzkrieg of energy some bands use today, but the gradual build into the blast beats of "The Ancient Disarray" works so much better. The gallop this song finds is pretty powerful and works in a way like classic Immortal. They do get back to blasting on "Occlude the Gates" . Two and a half minutes in this shifts towards a more melodic respite before charging back onto the battlefield. This song is much more straight forward than the previous songs that followed the title track. The guitar solo adds a little texture and is generally something you don't hear much of on black metal albums. They return to a more frenzied pace with "Defiance and Rage". These songs are no long winding drones, but very concise and focused. The vocals in more of a snarling croak than Abbath's delivery. Overall I would say they are angrier sounding than Immortal. The two and a half minute mark seems to be the way they have timed what works best for them when it comes to when they should switch things up as it begins to become a constant.

The vocals become more whispered when accompanied by the acoustic tones that open "the Prodigal Years". It's some really tasteful guitar work, but more of an interlude than a song. They lock into another raging storm on "the Awakening".  There are enough blast beats to make most fans of black metal happy here. "Death Will Die" finds a dark groove that is tempered with a similar anger that most black metal is these days , but it is fine tunes through a filter of their veteran song writing skills. They hit a more raging speed that shows cases a little more flash from the guitars on the dizzying "the Spiral". Them racing around at this speed in this way doesn't do a lot for me. Their is more melodic nuance to "Petrified By Their End" it finds the band coming from a more powerful place with this more mid-tempo pacing that builds into a gallop.

The close the album with a cover of Bathory's "13 Candles" from the album "Under the Sign of the Black Mark". It's well done, though not the most challenging song to begin with. Over all this album is what you want from this band. It tends to take less chances and become more uniform as it progresses, but is pretty solid I'll around it up to an 8.

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