Tuesday 30 April 2013

Anciients - Heart of Oak (Album Review)

Album Type  : Full Length
Date Released : 16/4/2013
Label : Season of Mist

Heart of Oak, album track listing:
1. Raise the Sun
2. Overthrone
3. Falling in Line
4. The Longest River
5. One Foot in the Light
6. Giants
7. Faith and Oath
8. Flood and Fire
9. For Lisa

Canada is famous for its own brand of illegally distilled spirit, commonly known under its tell-tale moniker, "white diesel". Yet aged in wooden casks this whisky will grow in taste and maturity while acquiring its golden quality by being given a "Heart of Oak". The stunning full-length debut of Vancouver's ANCIIENTS proudly bears this name as well as sharing many characteristics with the beloved liquid. Its songwriting is simply intoxicating. The sound has a warm flow, solid earthiness and beautifully dark undertones. "Heart of Oak" comes with a delicious blend of Rock and Metal, which places their emotional and unique style close to like-minded fellow musicians such as QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, KYLESA, BARONESS, THE SWORD and HIGH ON FIRE. Founded in 2009, ANCIIENTS feature former 3 INCHES OF BLOOD live member Aaron "Boon" Gustafson on bass, who is flanked by excellent guitarist and vocalist duo Kenneth Paul Cook and Chris Dyck churning out a host of crunchy riffs. Drummer Mikey Hannay adds steady power from the back with his relentless push of intricate beats. The Canadians captured immediate attention with the release of 7" EP "Snakebeard" (2011), which put them on the road to supported the renowned likes of HIGH ON FIRE, GOATWHORE, BORIS and THREE INCHES OF BLOOD. Based solely on ANCIIENTS' first output and impressive live presence, influential and prestigious American print magazine Decibel magazine has already branded "Heart of Oak" as "one of 2013's most anticipated albums" in an early commitment. Take a deep draught of this classy distillation of traditional heavy ingredients and nuanced modern expression, which ANCIIENTS gracefully serve you with "Heart of Oak"!

Kenneth Paul Cook: Guitar, Vocals
Chris Dyck: Guitar, Vocals
Aaron "Boon" Gustafson: Bass
Mikey Hannay: Drums

There's something stirring in Vancouver, something monolithic. It could be some toothy beast, but luckily for western Canada it's more likely to be their very own Anciients, who are unleashing their first full album, 'Heart of Oak'.

Anciients deal in a distinctly melodic yet morosely heavy blend of doom and sludge. Think Opeth, Baroness and maybe even at times a little Kylesa, all strewn together to make an almighty racket. it's a highly varied racket at that, one that continuously demands your attention.

'Raise the Sun' kicks the record off in a pleasant enough manner with light guitar flourishes, but it progresses soon enough into an old school battle royal. The riffs are galloping on this thing, giant affairs that crash into each other like waves on rocks. The drumming is also top notch, with just as much bombast attached to it as it's six stringed brethren.

'Falling In Line' is another slow burner that just builds into another stormer. The love of authentic and classic 70s rock is clear and present within the group's collective heart, all the better for it's inclusion into their style. The constant mix of clear and rough vocals fits exceptionally well. If you could ring this LP dry, there is no doubt that the liquid that poured forth would be addictive in nature. I'm thinking some kind of hallucinogenic mercury. That's right, it's metal.

'The Longest River' is pretty epic. I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, it either is epic or it isn't - it can't be 'pretty' epic. But it is; at nearly 10 minutes it winds and redirects multiple times without ever losing your interest. Credible song structuring, with a killer chorus. It aint Bon Jovi in a stadium in New Jersey, but it is magnificent in it's own way. Which is the way that we all probably prefer. No disrespect to the Jovi, like.

I have to give my two thumbs up to 'Faith and Oath' though. Exploding into life with a killer riff that wouldn't be lost in any black or death metal band's arsenal, the drumming is also a cacophonous noise that compliments said riff perfectly. What follows is a master class in progression, build and true weight. There's a hint of Mastodon in there somewhere, but they make it notably enough their own entity. The real beauty therein however commences at about the 4:20 mark, when the song begins a long bow out to some of the most doom-laden grooves this side of a haunted forest. Incredible stuff.

'Heart of Oak' is a must, a genre-straddling behemoth that speaks persuasively, but with an iron will that cannot be ignored. At times melodic, at others heavy as hell, submit unto it without delay. There's little point in resisting the sound of Anciients. Your time will be spent far more rewardingly by absorbing it.

Words by : Matt Fitton

As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links and buying their merch.  This record is available now on Season of Mist. Thanks to Gunnar @ Season of Mist for hooking us up with the record for review!