Anciients: Heart of Oak
How many have heard a split second of a song and immediately had a pretty good idea what the bands aura, vibe, and, eventually, over-all sound would be? A quick show of hands please... Well, all of you listeners out there can take this weeks first 'Dose, Anciients, one of two ways. The first, as stated above, or second, in total contradiction, as an endless evolution of the fundamental and stylistic orchestration of each song. I can hear your thoughts now, "Crazy Uncle Zac throwing out oxymoron's and giving us all a Wednesday morning aneurysm." I'll try to explain. Initially Heart of Oak, the debut release of Vancouver's Anciients, seems self explanatory and a perfect fit between the likes of Mastodon's Blood Mountain and Baroness' Blue Record, or more generally speaking the entire Georgia prog-sludge movement. However, when disentangling the fine web that Anciients weave, I quickly found myself free of the web but engulfed in a sea of dynamism and variety. There is a thick and rich warmth generated by Heart of Oak, and I believe we should delve right to its very organic, very Canadian heart.
This roughly sixty minute monster covers a wide range of musical influences. Try combining the progressive mentality of Mikael Åkerfeldt, the fret-frenetic of Brent Hinds, and the melodic-Metallica of the mid to late eighties and you come out with a close comparison to what Anciients are creating here. Add versatile dual vocals that mutate between blackened-death roars to culminating cleans and you have the one and only Anciients. Heart of Oak is a trip for sure and at some points this trip becomes slightly dis-jointed. I mean how can't it, every good trip needs some turbulence and with so much action and sound-waves erupting in the process the choppiness of this record was inevitable. However, in the name of progress this is not a bad thing, nor does it negate the music created. Heart of Oak opens with what has become the releases first single, Raise the Sun. This track truly shines with an Opeth-ian attitude. Commencing with a steady, tone-driven introduction Raise the Sun recedes only for a few moments to launch us into the sun that, until this point in time, only Mr. Åkerfeldt himself could do. Then, just when you thought you were comfortable, your ears are assailed by the volatile vocals. And this was just the track numero uno! Heart of Oak really stretches its seizing arms out over the next three tracks, all weighing in over six minutes. Applying some southern progressive sludge impulses and some pleasant plucking, Anciients alter their Scandinavian melodic-death bursts and break up the raucous with a classic acoustic guitar track called One Foot in the Light. This minute long filler track is followed by the seven and a half minute Giants. Full of fancy fret work and some battle-cry like dual vocals, Giants gushes a Mastodon influence that can't be left unsaid. Do not take this as a second hand Mastodon track though, each tick of the clock of Giants remains Anciients and only Anciients. Here I find some of my favorite drumming from Mr. [Mike] Hannay. With each drop of his sticks Mike builds an inquisitive apprehension towards Giant's conclusion. Heart of Oak's reach never retract throughout the remainder of the album. Here we are met with blast beats and a whole lot of precision RIFFING. Anciients chooses to close Heart of Oak with a bit of a reprise, For Lisa. Here we are set in motion by the wail of a train horn and drift into an elegant and mellow blues cut. The dual guitars drive For Lisa successively building pace to a zenith plane. Full of rich guitar tones, For Lisa comes to my ears like some strange incarnation of Eric Johnson's Cliffs of Dover being played by David Gilmour and Greg Allman.
In the end Anciients have offered up an advanced and dynamic debut record in Heart of Oak. Listeners will not find a seamless flow between every song, however each song is important in defining what Anciients is... a kick ass and versatile metal band. A perfect ten for the year, not in my opinion. A nod towards my favorites list of 2013, yes indeed. Now all there is to do is to pick up a copy for yourself. Enjoy.
Aaron "Boon" Gustafson - Bass
Chris Dyck - Guitar // Vocals
Mike Hannay - Drums
Kenny Cook - Lead Guitar // Vocals
One Inch Giant: The Great White Beyond
I know I'm putting the cart before the horse here with this weeks second 'Dose, but I had to get the word out. Gothenburg, Sweden's One Inch Giant (a personal favorite of mine) have released their sophomore follow-up to the euphorically heavy Malva in Europe (USA release is pending), entitled The Great White Beyond. After signing with SoulSeller Records in 2012 the band members decided to pick up a new drummer, enter Jakob Strand, and modify their musical direction. Don't concern yourselves about the new compositions or Mr. Strand though. This quartet is now tighter, with a much better instrument to vocal to instrument chemistry, and Mr. Strand's talents add a new intensity the mix. Dropping the grunge-esque front One Inch Giant have implemented more progressive metal into each songs arrangement. They have also created a heavier sense of melodic here in The Great White Beyond. Leave it to the Swedes to make a more melodic heavy. Where would heavy music be without you guys?
Even though we Americans have to wait for the full release, I felt we should still get a taste of what's to come. I also thought it would be a good idea to get a little more press out there for our brothers and sisters throughout Europe, in-case they missed the official release date or needed a little push to pick up a copy for themselves. So, that being said I only have two tracks to play with, but that's okay. That's all I need. These two songs are monstrous and diverse in both harmony and progression. Mountains Will Erode lands itself as track two on The Great White Beyond. Beginning with a very Endgame, circa 2009, era Megadeth melody One Inch Giant quickly tear into a more familiar stoner-style RIFFING. Filip Åstrand's vocal presence is noticeably more pronounced than what I recall on Malva. Here on The Great White Beyond Mr. Åstrand is flexing his "vocal muscles" much more, creating a soaring effect over the doomy hooks. Our second sample, Only Scorn Remains, finds itself centered in the ...Beyond but a world away from the sensory candy found on Mountains Will Erode. Driven by a hybrid blackened, power-metal style drumming, listeners can be reassured that One Inch Giant are breaking the boundaries their debut release placed them in. Here the band truly shine, increasing the tempo to an advanced level, and leaving those untrained exhausted and gasping for precious air. Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to catch your breath when [Gabriel] Méndez, [Axel] Berglund, and Strand turn the the song on its head by implementing a pummeling Tool-esque rhythmic break-down. Having listened to both sample tracks extensively, I cannot wait to wrap my ears around The Great White Beyond in its entirety. So, for those of us in the USA, we will be patiently waiting while our friends overseas enjoy the One Inch Giant surprise... Wait a second. That doesn't sound good, does it? Regardless the sample tracks are now streaming at bandcamp. Go check 'em out!
Jakob Strand - Drums
Gabriel "Abbe" Lugo Méndez - Guitar
Axel Berglund - Bass
Filip Åstrand - Vocals