I noticed that a few of you had this album in your top 10 for 2009, and quite frankly do not know for the life of me how I let this one slip past my ears. If you are into the psychedelic side of Stoner Rock, then this album is one you should definitely check out. I may just have to update my Top 10 of 2009. Therefore, I am making "Of Sound Mind" by Ancestors my Album Of The Week.
"Ancestors' masterful debut, "Neptune with Fire", was apparently nothing more than a demo. The band wanted to re-record it, but Tee Pee Records insisted it was fine as it was. The label was right - Neptune with Fire was lightning in a bottle and I'm of the opinion that trying to recreate it could've been a fool's errand. All the same, that revelation further piqued my interest in their sophomore album, Of Sound Mind. What would this California-based five piece do with the luxury of studio time?
Production-wise, there actually isn't that much of a difference - a touch more clarity overall, and the vocals are occasionally pushed further up in the mix (too far at times, but since the band's usually skyrocketing off on some inspired instrumental trip, it's a minor quibble). Music-wise, it's also more of the same, but seeing how “the same” in this case is a mish-mash of Kyuss by way of King Crimson by way of Sleep by way of Pink Floyd by way of Neurosis by way of Hawkwind, you can't say they're not pushing themselves.
And with the eight song Of Sound Mind (of which four stretch past the ten minute mark), Ancestors continues to defy any attempt at pigeonholing. They effortlessly move from one genre to the next with such grace that it's a seamless transition. Obviously, the longer cuts - “Mother Animal, “The Bounty of Age,” “The Trial,” and “The Ambrose Law” - in particular offer ample evidence of the band's musical dexterity (the shorter numbers serve mostly as vignettes between songs, although “Challenging” seems to be a longer, more fleshed out version of “Not the Last Return”). There's an instinctive sense of knowing when and how to turn a doom riff into a rock one and let it stretch out before bringing it back to its original form.
I'm not sure I could pick any one song as the highlight, as each has something unique to offer (okay, maybe not so much with “From Nothing”). I will say that “Bounty of Age” is a testament to the band's guitar playing, that Black Math Horsemen's Sera Timms adds some captivating vocals to “The Trial,” and that while “The Ambrose Law” is the most conventional of the four epics, it's straightforward approach serves as the perfect end to an album that's as emotionally complex as it is musically. Ancestors was off to a fine start with Neptune with Fire and on Of Sound Mind, they've taught the old dog of progressive stoner rock enough tricks to grant it a permanent spot in Cirque du Soleil. Recommended." (John Pegoraro, StonerRock.com)
03.Not the Last Return
04.Bounty of Age
08.The Ambrose Law