I first heard Anciients about two years ago, which is about a year after their debut album “Heart Of Oak” was released. The band and album did what rarely happens with me, and that’s start an instant love affair with their musical cohesion, totally encapsulating and gripping me with the myriad of sounds coming out of my speakers. The band’s intoxicating mix of current sounds with an old-school approach instantly won me over, and the album has remained in my musical rotation ever since.
So after a long three year wait, rumblings began to surface that the Vancouver, Canada quintet was writing the all-important follow-up album, due for release in the fall. I was instantly excited, and even more so with the release of the first single “Following The Voice” in late July. Any worries I had of the sophomore jinx were squashed at the very least for this song. It instantly brought back the sound I loved from their debut.
And now the hour is finally upon us to digest the new album “Voice Of The Void”. After lots of time listening to the first single (and also the album opener), I was eager to get my first taste of the rest of the batch of new songs. “Buried In Sand” (at almost eleven minutes being the longest song on the album) follows up the opening track by hitting just as hard, but it’s right out of the gate instead of a build. It slows down after a couple of minutes into a sludgy, plodding approach with an emotive guitar solo. There’s a nice atmospheric lull that comes into play, simmering the whole approach down even more, but not giving up on the emotion. It then starts building back to a higher paced forceful riff pattern. The band keeps an infectious energy going through all movements of the song and time flies by. “Worshipper” gives off a slow and labored opening which turns into a pertinent march. A twisting guitar solo and quick time changes give off a magical vibe. “Pentacle” is a good song to throw into the order at this point as it serves as a great way to slow down the pace of the album just enough with it’s guttural vocals and mid-paced groove as to not overwhelm the listener. “Descending” takes us a little quieter with the acoustic based instrumental showing great depth from the band.
“Ibex Eye” ramps things back up with a thumping and thunderous opening. This track incorporates a lot of beautifully picked guitar backdrops with a monstrous bass surging underneath. The death vocals help put the dirge and sludginess over the top in grand fashion. “My Home, My Gallows” is a head-bobbing jaunt with a mid-paced power drive as the core of the song. Plenty of interesting guitar melodies, both spiraling and frantic are woven into the song fabric. The second half of the song turns up the speed at times and works well with the crushing drums of Mike Hannay, moving in a fevered and unapologetic stomp, going back and forth between pounding and crisp to barrage-like. “Serpents” shows off Kenneth Cook’s powerful singing style which compliments the laid back light organs and emotive platform of the song. “Incantations” sets up a mood-setting acoustic pace for the final song on the album. It morphs into another set of complex guitar patterns and syncopated instrument cohesion that leaves me wondering how the band can move so seamlessly between the hard and soft and always make it sound interesting.
And in what seems like such a brief foray into the band’s new venture, “Voice Of The Void” comes to a close. The time flew by me, which is all the more surprising considering the album is over an hour in length. This speaks to me about how interesting and exciting the music is. When you can get so lost in an album that you lose all concept of time, you know it’s a winner.
However, I’ll be the first to admit that although this album took me away and onto a different sonic plane, it didn’t hit me as hard right away as their debut did. This isn’t to suggest that it’s any less worthy or less pleasing, however it’s such an involved sound that I took so much time feeling it out and analyzing the contents. But with repeated listens it grows more and more on me and sits with just as special of a place for me as “Heart Of Oak”. It’s almost more wide-open and expansive in a way, which is quite a feat.
This album should be the one to give the comparisons to bands like Mastodon and Baroness a rest as Anciients are proving that they have the songwriting ability to be in a class all of their own. This band features everything I want in a metal band; new sounds mixed with a respect for the old-school, emotional highs and lows, adrenaline pumping riffs and delicate yet carefully constructed musical landscapes.
The sophomore jinx didn’t enter into this album’s sound at all. And while it felt like an eternity to receive new material from the group, I’m more than happy with the result in the time it took to carefully construct the beautiful music I’ve digested.
01. Following The Voice
02. Buried In Sand
06. Ibex Eye
07. My Home, My Gallows
Playing time: 66:01
Release date: 14 October, 2016
Label: Season Of Mist
Website: Anciients Official Website