ANCIENT

"Proxima Centauri" (Metal Blade; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I was kind of hard on Ancient a few years back when I reviewed "The Halls Of Eternity" (see review below). It was probably one of the first CD reviews Iíd written for Rough Edge and I wasnít shy about explaining my displeasure about certain characteristics of the disc. I might also add that the sullen passages on "The Halls Of Eternity" were quite memorable and gave the disc a worthy reason for multiple listens. Now itís 2001 and "Proxima Centauri" graces my presence for criticism.

With "Proxima Centauri," Ancient have, for the most part, abandoned the long, drawn-out gothic passages that evoked feelings of despair and misery so effectively on "The Halls Of Eternity." Many of the songs on "Proxima Centauri" revert back to a more typical mainstream type of black metal with furious, rapid strumming along with slower breakdowns. They've moved away from the whimsical, theatrical approach to a more technical, extreme style. Actually, Ancient have moved closer to the type of mainstream black metal being performed by Cradle Of Filth than I ever expected them to do so soon after establishing somewhat of a unique sound.

Given the length of "Proxima Centauri" (twelve songs, 55 minutes) the CD moves quickly and avoids strict repetition (which is often a downfall of black metal). "Beyond The Realms Of Insanity" and "Incarnating The Malignant Deity" are two songs that rise above the others. While I do miss some of the characteristics that made "The Halls Of Eternity" so unique, I must admit that "Proxima Centauri" is well written and well performed. "Proxima Centauri" has intrigued me for its new direction and improved overall presentation.

"Proxima Centauri" doesnít necessarily fall into the 'must-have' category; however, fans of black metal will be pleased by Ancientís latest effort.

"Proxima Centauri" was produced by Ancient and Jacob Hansen. The production is very good - just the kind of attention to detail that extreme metal demands for a good listening experience. Also, there is a slight improvement of the vocals in the mix - it's more up-front and center and not so terribly buried as they were on "The Halls Of Eternity." 

Ancient: Aphazel on vocals and guitars, Deadly Kristin on female vocals; GroM on drums; Dhilorz on bass; Jesus Christ! on guitar and keyboards. The inclusion of a couple of new members has seemingly lessened the musical load on some of the long-time members - this could be viewed as positive or negative depending on your point of view.

For more information visit http://www.ancientband.com

"The Halls of Eternity" (Metal Blade; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Ancient is most often lumped into the black metal and ambient metal categories. There is no argument from me on this fact. However, Ancient still manages to establish a somewhat singular sound in the black metal realm. Ancient smoothes out the black metal edges with sullen passages - majestic keyboards and guitar arpeggios provide balance to the furious maelstrom. Female vocals are deftly employed throughout the songs - this keeps the disc interesting.

Ancient play a style of black metal that focuses on long drawn out passages of quick strumming guitars although elements of choppy guitar riffs creep in ("Spiritual Supremacy" and "The Heritage"). At times it seems that Ancient wish to share the "cosmic metal" spotlight set aflame by Covenant's "Nexus Polaris" ("Cosmic Exile" is a prime examples of this).

The title track conjures the epic greatness that black metal offers with somber passages, changes in tempo, technical ability, and merges the progressive and the traditional elements of the genre. Ancient often glides effortlessly through melodic and gothic passages ("The Battle Of The Ancient Warriors" and "A Woeful Summoning" in particular). 

Unfortunately, Ancient is occasionally guilty of uninspired music ("Born In Flames" and "From Behind Comes The Sword"). "I Madman," although blessed with a great traditional heavy riff, suffers from what seems to be a bit of the Spinal Tap "flu." Also, there is nothing technically challenging about Ancient's music and that's where I lose interest.

Two instrumental tracks highlight Aphazel's ability to produce palatial music - if Ancient doesn't pay Aphazel's bills then he certainly has a career in writing soundtracks.

This is black metal "lite" with a theatrical, almost whimsical approach. As such, this disc will probably be appreciated by two groups of people: those black metal fans who can't get enough of the genre and those who would like to hear black metal but without the technical extremes of bands like Emperor.

"The Halls Of Eternity" was produced by the band. Engineering and mixing provided by Marco Negro. Overall the sound of "The Halls Of Eternity" is above average, but the vocals are buried far too often in the mix.

Ancient is Aphazel, Deadly Kristin, and Krigse. Aphazel is the primary vocalist and plays guitars, bass, and keyboards; Deadly Kristin provides the seductive female vocals, and Krigse is the drummer. Special Guest musician Jesus Christ (!) contributes guitars, bass, keyboards, and spoken parts.

For more information visit the official website at http://www.ancientband.com/news.html for your feast of Ancient "history."

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

 

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Copyright © 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 21 Feb 2016 12:36:07 -0500 .