REVIEW: ANCIIENTS – “Voice Of The Void”
From the moment that I first heard ‘Heart of Oak’ by Vancouver’s Anciients, I knew that I’d found something special. And now, three years after the first full length album, comes the equally, if not more, aurally pleasing ‘Voice of the Void’. As always, the cover art is phenomenal, immediately attracting you to explore the madness within.
If I had to describe Anciients in a nutshell, I would say that they are like the Canadian Mastodon for those who miss “the old Opeth”. Now, that is purely meant as a compliment, and I wouldn’t compare them to other bands if I didn’t think that it would attract some well-deserved attention for them. That being said, they of course have a sound all their own, and I’m glad that they’ve only improved it with ‘Voice of the Void’.
Opening strongly with “Following the Voice”, Anciients instantly demonstrate the power and skill of their previous material, with a thicker and more brutal atmosphere that carries throughout the entire album (even during the short, acoustically driven fifth track, “Descending”). The relationship between the heavy guitars, rich bass, and distinctly accented drums is glorious, providing catchy riffs and grooves that support both beastly growls and melodic cleans. The intensity continues with “Buried in Sand”, the fast licks of the verses merging gracefully into a more sludgy chorus, complete with classic guitar solo atop steady quarter note crashes.
The middle chunk of the album contains some of the best aspects, beginning with “Worshipper”, which builds in aggression, and has a really meaty chorus. “Pentacle” is definitely one of my favourite tracks, being likely the heaviest part of ‘Voice of the Void’. The ominous feeling it creates just puts a permanent, seemingly angry “I’m listening to metal” expression on one’s face, then suddenly, bassist Gustafson introduces what might be the catchiest riff the band has ever written. As the guitars shove it further into the depths of my brain, Kenny Cook adds a complimentary vocal melody over top. Then comes the previously mentioned soft breather, “Descending”, leading into the impressive single (and my personal favourite), “Ibex Eye”. If there is one thing that Anciients always manages to achieve, it’s great writing in time signatures like 7/8. Every member shines on this track, from Hannay’s crazy fills, to the hungry yet crisp guitars and bass, to the fierceness of the vocals, it all just comes together beautifully to magnify an already well-developed sound.
“My Home, My Gallows” is a pretty standard tune for these guys, with the flowing guitars, back and forth cleans and demon growls, and smooth changes in pace. “Serpents”, on the other hand, is slower, simpler, and contains elements of an old school metal ballad. Shortly after coming to this conclusion, I read that the band themselves had noticed this slight deviation, and not only found it amusing, but liked that it opened up the door to future exploration into such territory – although I will admit that one ballad per band is more than enough for me. And finally, “Incantations” provides a nice closing to ‘Voice of the Void’, the initial gentle melody becoming a passionate guitar solo, and eventually concluding with their usual ferocity.
The pairing of guitarists/vocalists Kenny Cook and Chris Dyck just keeps getting better with each release, combined with a wicked rhythm section in Aaron “Boon” Gustafson and Mike Hannay. Very similar to ‘Heart of Oak’, Anciients has brought their A-game with ‘Voice of the Void’, incorporating climactic solos, and even more savage vocals than before, into their glorious technical sludge. The writing, the performance, the even production… this quartet is moving up in the world – let’s just hope that they start to tour more of it.