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The doom/stoner hybrid is home to many successful bands. Here in Britain, Electric Wizard lead the way, but across the ocean in North America, the rat race to be the leaders of the pack is far more open than it is in other parts of the world. Ancestors, one of these hybrid bands, are striving for success themselves with this fine effort, ‘Neptune With Fire’. To my knowledge, this band and this record has received much critical acclaim and has sent fans stark raving mad. Hybrids of this nature are not the easiest to convey well. The strikingly long songs, both of which are around the twenty minute mark need to induce a state of intoxication upon the listener, especially when it comes to the stoner side of the material. Those long droning guitars and powerful clean vocals are perhaps more influential in bands like these than certain other bands from certain other sub-genres. Listening to a good hybrid act should be like drinking a fine malt whiskey by the burning fire. One should be intoxicated by the fumes and liquid simultaneously and dazzled by the fantastic array of striking colours. The use of the term ‘stoner’ is seemingly ironic in its description of the music because the best stoner bands induce a state of being high in the listener. Euphoria and elation ebb and flow like electricity in the sky of the soundscapes as they’re brought out by the fantastic ambiance and atmospherically challenging material.
This record, ‘Neptune With Fire’ runs its course well and despite the long nature of the two songs, they serves as a memorable reminder of why doom/stoner is such a successful hybrid. Of course, there are bands who make a hash out of crossing over these two interrelated genres, but Ancestors are not one of those, inflicting contrasting emotions upon the listener with long winding guitar leads and bass that backs up the material, but also likes to showcase its leading abilities like a strong soldier working his way through the ranks to become the highest ranking officer. We begin with the epic ‘Orcus’ Avarice’. This song begins with a tragically displayed organ, grinding its way towards negative emotions like a tank rolls over the bones of the dead. The obvious doom influences are felt immediately through the heavy distortion of the guitars, which strike up a catchy, yet melodious lead that continues to pound its way through the down trodden soundscapes of grief and pain. The depiction of this song is fantastic. In conjures up an array of emotions and images at the beginning which work in direct contrast to the second half of the song, which is perhaps more impacting upon the soundscapes as it gushes out an ambiance akin to the best I’ve heard within the genre. Stoner influences become more evident as the song progresses in honor and in strength. There is good use of layers on this song, particularly in respect to the bass and the guitars. The production is particularly adept in conveying the constructive themes that are carried forward by the instrumentation.
Whilst the bass is certainly more repetitious than the guitars, it sets up an inevitability in the first half of the song which, instead of becoming dull, makes the listener feel at home amongst the glorious soundscapes. As the song begins to spiral out towards a glowing space like ambiance, the bass comes back into the fray, pushing itself through the distortion of the guitars like an avid fan pushing himself towards the front of the stage to see his favourite band. The euphoria of the bass is eclipsed only by the fantastic song writing abilities portrayed on this song which sees the bass work comfortably alongside the intricate guitars and percussion, which is never overbearing at any stage of the songs development. Chico Foley provides us with the ‘noise’ elements, which draw out that out of this world feeling to the music which becomes essential as the song begins to build upon the earlier heavy touches. This mixture of heavy passages and slow ambiance is sparkling and quintessential to the song, the record and the genre, displaying the very best of what this hybrid has to offer. At first, when I initially heard this record, I wasn’t as excited by it, but having let it settle, its become a constitutive and crucial record in my collection of pivotal doom/stoner hybrids. ‘Neptune With Fire’ is well written and pivotal to the record, but isn’t as strong as the first song.
It would seem that a number of the members of this band provide vocals for the songs, which isn’t particularly important to know, but the vocals themselves are important. Like most stoner vocals tend to be, these are clean and conveyed in a melodic manner, acting like another instrument which provides a hefty amount of emotion themselves. The vocals are used sparsely, which surprised me, but they’re very well done. There sound may be like the majority of bands with this sound, but those clean screams are particularly suited to the harsher moments that Ancestors provides. Whenever the ambiance rears its delight façade, the vocals disappear into the sea of crashing instrumentation, like a hermit hiding from the predators of the beautiful landscapes that inhabit this world. The second song isn’t as powerful, but is still diverse, conjuring aquatic or space like themes (the ocean has always held an out of this world feel to it, given its strange creatures that inhabit its waves). The self-titled second piece is creative in its display of the unknown lyrical themes, but more so in the display of the instrumentation which is some of the best I’ve heard all year. Perhaps the best doom/stoner crossover record I’ve heard and that’s no overstatement. Highly accomplished, mature and reflective.