The mighty Ancient are back to their old tricks after a very long hiatus. Too long some could say. With 2004’s Night Visit, interest in Ancient dwindled as the album didn’t meet the classy sound fans had come to expect from their earlier work. The Cainian Chronicle and Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends may have spoiled fans rotten with its sound and energy rich in both texture and taste. Moving forward almost twenty years the later than latest album Back To The Land Of The Dead is more than just a title because it signifies their return to form.
It doesn’t feature Lord Kaiaphas lending his vocal talents unfortunately and he’s a sorely missed asset from the zenith of the bands popularity, helping to characterize the second wave of black metal. However going through numerous line-up changes in the past since the current members of Ancient are founding member Zel (Aphazel,) old hand Dhilorz and the colossal Nick Barker who gives a refined and ferocious performance on the drums.
Yet Zel and company have matured as artists and this album manages to invoke the undying spirit that defined Ancient as a choice melodic black metal act back in the day. With greater emphasis on composition than technical showmanship Ancient excels in creating songs that resonate with pure necrotic substance and unbridled intelligence. Something that has been prevalent on every good Ancient record and can be heard in the way that the dynamics are used to maximise the effect of the black metal sound. Where they’ll use moments of quiet articulation to affect a drastic change of mood, moving from unnerving softness to grotesquely brutal, they do say it’s usually the quiet ones.
Another thing that set Ancient apart from its contempories was the guitar tone. Closer in sound to The Cainian Chronicle than Proxima Centauri, the production while crisp and high fidelity is grim and grainy, crashing like a terrible tide upon a dark wind strewn shore and less cookie cutter black metal than later entries into the Ancient catalogue. Which when it comes to solos creates a mind bending shift that’s captivating and most importantly interesting.
Back To The Land Of The Dead is a wholesome killer of an album. Its classic format and sound is nostalgic to their earlier days and also asserts a sound that is to be seen, to be feared, but never to be reached. Ancient are back.