It is no secret that the American state of Georgia has produced some fantastic metal over the years, and Canadian metallers ANCIIENTS clearly know it since their new album, Voices from the Void, makes no secret of their apparent infatuation with the Georgia metal scene and its darlings MASTODON, BARONESS and KYLESA. A lot of the Georgia tropes are there: rumbling, fast paced and occasionally jazzy drums, elaborate riffs mixing prog, sludge and dark psychedelia packed into the same song, over which clean vocals hold long, ghostly notes and inject rasping yells.
However, the band clearly looked for inspiration from other bands and sub-genres to mix into their unabashed Georgia worship. The problem is they don’t mix them together enough, so the music, particularly the first half, often sounds less like a cohesive sound and more like a Frankensteined grab bag of influences that become distractingly apparent on several of the tracks. Despite that, there is a lot of good ideas and moments here, and if an album that a lot of the time sounds musically and lyrically like a collaboration between Blood Mountain-era MASTODON and Mikael Akerfeldt sounds appealing, then Voices should make for an enjoyable, if not particularly impactful, listen.
The band charges out the gate brilliantly with Follow the Voice, a blood pumping slice of Georgia metal laced with Akerfeldt-style growls that genuinely sounds like someone charging through the undergrowth of a forest or a jungle, switching between the ghostly cleans and brutal growls to great effect and with fantastic duelling guitars whose serpentine riffs swirl and coil deliriously around each other underscored by tribal, pummelling drums.
In fact, the guitar work is certainly impressive throughout a lot of the album, but the problem is that Kenneth Paul Cook and Chris Dyck, whilst certainly accomplished, seem at times a bit too eager to showcase their abilities and capability for diversity. Consequentially, some of the tracks suffer as a result from overly flashy or derivative guitar work or awkward shifts in tone and style that feel shoehorned in rather than in service to the song. One example is the sudden transition into ALCEST-style shoegaze about 4 minutes into Buried in Sand, a 10-minute sprawling epic strongly enamoured of OPETH in its composition. The problems also irritatingly apparent on Worshipper, whose title accurately describes the instruments’ relationship with HIGH ON FIRE for most of its run time, before breaking into a minute and a half of unapologetic fretboard masturbation about seven minutes in.
The second half of the album improves considerably and ANCIIENTS deliver a trifecta of strong tracks that more than stand with the furious opener, starting with the wonderful Descending, a surprising instrumental breather from the riff tsunami and genuinely good display of diversity. Psychedelic, bluesy notes bend and slide under an acoustic guitar lead that summons the image of sinking peacefully below water, away from the insanity of the surface world. Descending is followed by the very cool Ibex Eye, which adds a healthy layer of TOOL to the proceedings, as well as more diversity in growls, more evocative clean vocals and in general a better flow. The band then dips into black metal instrumentation and more extreme growls on My Home My Gallows, a monster of a track that, unlike some of its predecessors, doesn’t overstay its welcome and makes its seven minutes fly by.
OZZY OSBOURNE-esque vocals haunts on Serpents, which, along with Incantations, sound like two songs built off the same blue print: soft, atmospheric intros, killer old school rock riffs and a return to Georgia. Incantations ultimately proves the stronger track, with a gorgeous riff that bridges the shift between folky softness and pummelling heaviness. The band really find their feet on the last half and the song gallops with KVELERTAK-esque majesty for it’s last two and a half minutes.
In total, ANCIIENTS show a lot of potential, once they emerge further from the shadows of the bands that shape their sound. But despite numerous strong moments and four very good complete tracks, derivative and repetitive ideas stop this sophomore effort from amounting to more than a reminder of how great those other bands are.
Voice of the Void is set for release on October 14th via Season of Mist.
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