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Anciients

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Voice Of The Void

14th October 2016 – Season of Mist

01. Following the Voice
02. Buried in Sand
03. Worshipper
04. Pentacle
05. Descending
06. Ibex Eye
07. My Home, My Gallows
08. Serpents
09. Incantations

Part of the general evolution of prog is the need to assimilate new influences, sounds and textures – what was “progressive” in 1970 is pretty standard now. On the flip side, there’s a firmly established framework for prog; the lofty themes and ambitions, noodling, time signature ballet and so on. With this in mind, the odds seem a little stacked against Anciients on their second release Voice Of The Void – but despite, this they’ve produced a record that sounds familiar enough yet is packed full of coherent, identifiable ideas.

It’s not hard to dread prog records sometimes; a dense, badly-executed prog album is a slog to sit through even for seasoned fans, vastly more tedious than disasters in other genres. The issue is clarity and expression of ideas; for such an idea-heavy genre, it’s easy to loose the thread and be stranded in a sea of mellotrons. The biggest strength of Voice Of The Void is the clarity of ideas; opener “Following the Voice” has recognisable, memorable riffs and a distinctive structure of lyrics which complements the flow of the song. Later in the record, tracks such as “Pentacle” have a similar songwriting philosophy, as do closing tracks “Serpents” and “Incantations“. Crucially, this is a fun, rewarding record; plenty to connect with, and it only take a few listens for the musical nuances to make themselves know.

Anciients could broadly be described as Mastodon meets Powerslave-era Iron Maiden; big riffs, big drums, big vocals. Voice Of The Void flirts with being a sludge release, but the production is very modern which emphasises their progressive influences. There’s certainly a weight to the riffs that modern prog or even proggier death metal lacks, as much to do with the mix as it is their composition, and much closer to Mastodon or Baroness on the sludge spectrum than they are to, say, Eyehategod.

Voice Of The Void‘s cross-genre appeal is notable; it’s particularly pertinent to those who like the general aesthetic of doom or sludge but can’t get behind the music. The lyrics evoke ruined temples, forgotten gods and myths; not unusual metal stuff, but the tropes are confidently expressed, packaged in a slick, accessible vessel.

Vocalist Kenny Cook has a particular Åkerfeldt-like quality to his harsher vocals; imposing, but in good taste and contrast to his almost operatic singing voice. The opening track is a good example of this, but it’s consistently a strength of the record, a standout example being “Pentacle“. This play of vocals is pretty crucial to their success here; the riffs are either jangly and melodic or beefy sludge belters and the vocals slide along the top, having settled into two smooth styles. Everything is layered well, and although the instruments are busy they don’t detract from the vocal delivery. The general musicianship is superb but it’s not always hammered home; they’re confident enough not to have to draw attention to their proficiency, to the great benefit of the record.

Overall there’s a sense that this record could be a little shorter. If the band is moving towards a more succinct approach I’d be tempted to ditch some of the longer tracks in favour of more to-the-point outings. Though they seem confident writing more complex tracks in excess of the seven minute mark I’d be interested to see the songs condensed even further, even more streamlined.

With a strong attention to single-worthy releases and clear, well-presented ideas, Anciients have done rather a good job of their second release. Voice of the Void cuts down on some of the ideas that meandered a little on their first record, and marks an improvement on a formula that was already working for them.

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