Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Anciients - Heart of Oak (album review)

Cover artwork by Alison Lilly (doesn't it remind you of the
Chief Examiner from Marvel's short-lived RPG tie-in comic
Questprobe?  Awesome.)
Real life work conversation:

Me: Have you ever heard of The Ancients?
Other dude: Yeah man!  I know those guys.  They will fuck your fucking asshole!!
Me:  Oh ... oh God -- no!
Other dude: ... ?

And so that rather awkward exchange was fair warning from one who knows, warning of the worst possible kind of dangers unleashed by a band who had an album in the can (okay, yeah, it's a pun, you got me) and were signed to a label and but had yet to see a single official release.  So it went among us privileged few who live around Vancouver, BC that some of us were among the first to hear the colossal sound of the band that would become Anciients.  We're privileged because we got to hear Anciients before anybody else, while they were still developing the sounds that you hear on this disc.  Back when they were known by the entirely correctly spelled but perhaps too generic and overused name of 'The Ancients'.  For several years now the city has been treated to one of the best little secrets in the world and now ... the word is out, the cat is out of the bag, and Anciients have finally arrived to ... do what they do (I'm not going to judge, I'm not going to judge ...).

One more stray memory:  Other dude: Their drummer is sick.  He's a young guy too.  I think he was only like 18 when he joined the band.  I've watched him develop over the last couple years into the best fucking drummer I've ever seen.

I'd been looking forward to this album for over a year and it didn't disappoint.  Anciients take no prisoners and make no compromises.  Musically, they take widely varied and disparate elements from all across the metal world and incorporate them into a unique sound.  They do many different things, they do them all quite well and they don't overdo any of them.  Anciients music is well seasoned in other words, by hands as adept and experienced as the band's name implies.

Vocal duties are split between the band's twin guitar phenoms Kenneth Paul Cook (melodic baritone) and Chris Dyck (death metal grunts, screeches and shouts).  All these disparate elements combine for a progressive journey from Olympus to Hades and back again.  "Giants" and "Overthrone" are fine examples of what I'm talking about.  These two tracks are long-time favorites of mine: heavy and melodic, dynamic, neither too slow nor too fast to alienate either doom or death metal fans, these guys have potential mass appeal.   "Flood and Fire" and "Raise the Sun" are both equal to those greats (listen on the player below, don't be shy).  Bright, shimmering and scaly riffs whose flesh flows and morphs before your very ears gives their music the texture of a dragon and you begin to realize why the name of the band fits the music.

Shreddin' ass guitars and progressive structures with a heavy emphasis on dynamics give 'Heart of Oak' the distinct flavor of a classic metal album.  Hints of extremity in the vocals and timely blasts of double kick bridge the gap between old and new, the ancient and the futuristic.  There definitely is some kind of feel of 'Ride The Lightning' era on some of the tracks, specifically "Flood and Fire".  It's just a feeling, an overall vibe of 'Heart of Oak' just being a great album.  Every now and then an album comes out and you can hear immediately that future generations will consider it a classic.  But, that's getting ahead of things a little.  Still, it can't be helped, this band has a bright future ahead of them.  There's no telling how far they'll go.

I've heard guys label the band: "it's early Metallica mixed with Mastodon" or whatever and that's not quite getting it right, but I've never heard anybody simply write them off.  They are an impressive band for many reasons.  They have energy, they have riffs, they have all sorts of things going for them and they have that unattainable attribute that one simply either has or doesn't have: PRESENCE.  First time I saw the band play I knew they would be big.  Just how big is unknown but we're only two months since the release of their debut album and they're already on tour with Lamb of God.  That's pretty damn big and as I told 'Other Dude', "they're going to be headlining festivals and shit in the future ... if they want to".  But as always, only time will tell.  For now, there's 'Heart of Oak' and a cheap bottle of booze.

Highlights include: "Giants" and "Overthrone"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 1:00:06

Kenneth Paul Cook - Lead/acoustic guitar & vocals
Chris Dyck - Guitar & vocals
Mike Hannay - Drums
Aaron "Boon" Gustafson - Bass

From: Vancouver, BC

Genre: Progressive Metal

Reminds me of: High on Fire, Opeth, Red Fang, Void of Sleep

Release Date: April 16, 2013

Suggested Listening Activity for Fellow Non-Stoners: Sun and fluff your beard, put on your favorite battle armor and ride the dragon all the way to the underworld simply to mock and cheat Pluto himself!

Better Reviews:
The Sludgelord
Metal Bandcamp
Ech(((o)))es and Dust
Sputnik Music

Anciients facebook

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