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It's a foregone conclusion that where anything begins tends to be very different from where it later ends up, but the story of Ancient is a much more auspiciously blatant one in this respect. Not only did this associate member of the Norse 2nd wave end up moving away from the unifying low-fidelity practices of the forefathers, but the principle member found himself crossing the Atlantic and spending some time in America making music before ending up on the Southern end of Europe. Most who have discovered this outfit based on recent works will find a very different band when discovering their formative works, a band that has much more in common with Darkthrone and Satyricon during the early 90s.
This little EP which follows a fairly solid demo from just a year prior, has the production quality and polish to stand toe to toe with most full length albums put out by the major players at this point and time. The principle point of separation mostly revolves around a greater affinity with haunting acoustic guitar passages, which both songs found on here offer up in such a beautifully dark and chilling manner as to one-up contemporary Dimmu Borgir offerings which dealt in similar atmospheric aesthetics. Otherwise, what is found on here is pretty conventional fare for anyone who's heard anything out of Darkthrone just before "Transylvanian Hunger", save a production approach that is noticeably smoother and punchier than the jagged edged character that typified their 2nd and 3rd full lengths with Peaceville.
Nevertheless, this is definitely an album that adheres to the general principle of rawness in most respects. The vocal work has that maddened raving character typical to Burzum's work prior to "Filosofem" with perhaps a bit more of a whispering quality to it, accented by a somewhat less distant sounding mixing job that what was employed by Varg. It's particularly noteworthy on the droning ode to Darkthrone "Huldradans" where the acoustic sections are a bit less overt and the tempo generally higher. Aphazel even pulls out a solid guitar solo here that effectively takes the frenetic style of Euronymous (which he largely inhereted from Kerry King) and merges it with a fuzz driven tone more appropriate to Nocturno Culto, definitely a nice bit of frosty icing on a very tasty cake.
While much of the better works of the 2nd wave are to be found in the 1992-94 full length releases of the 2nd wave, this EP is definitely among the more aesthetically brilliant offerings to coincide with that era. It has a proficiency and flair to it that puts it almost in league with the Emperor and Enslaved camp, yet largely maintains the straight forward character of the stripped down, conservative members that didn't dabble as heavily with keyboards and symphonic additives. It's not wholly Darkthrone, Dimmu Borgir, or Satyricon, yet all 3 of these contemporaries are unavoidably comparable in several respects. Ancient definitely had itself a unique, though clearly stylized niche in their early days, and it is rightly treated by most as their career zenith.
Yes you have read it folks Ancient was at one time a band that promised the listener good old-school Norwegian Black Metal, and guess what? They delivered. Ancient started along the tail-end of the second wave of black metal which rose to infamy in their home country and kicked-off the equally as good, yet less violent third wave of black metal. At the time black metal had not became so gay in the fact that it needed to obsess with vampires or anything like that, but was still taking what was the golden-era of black metal and progressing with it.
Ancient were one of the many third wave bands, when they were in their embryonic state of satanic mischief, and were still legit to name-drop. In fact I think it is still only if you refer to their early stuff. Main man Aphazel performing guitars has learned his black metal history and done his homework well with the first song being total The Return/Under The Sign-era of Bathory. It's 6minutes and 35 seconds of pure mid-tempo Norwegian black metal and no substitutes accepted. The riffs are totally headbangable/head-nodding epicness with acoustic breaks with spooky howling winds and then goes back into total Bathory worship. "Huldra Dans" (it is either misspelled here or on the "Det Glemte Riket" compilation, not sure.) is a showcase of a less majestic old-school Bathory and more in favor of old-school Burzum in Ancient completely nails the hypnotic, trance-inducing riffs that would be more popularized by acts as Xasthur. Keyboards are here, but kept to a minimum to give the song an extra push in terms of it being sooooo fucking killer. Oh and a guitar solo that's doesn't hurt this fact either.
And it's only 2 songs. It ends off with a high note that is kind of hard for Ancient to top and that's where the band has failed so many times in terms of trying to make good Black metal nowadays; the complete failure to continue putting out quality BM. But for 1994's standards...this is excellent.
Ancient are known these days for their ridiculous ‘goth’-image and for producing weak to mediocre ‘Mainstream Black Metal’-records; but in their beginning, when they still hailed from the Norwegian West Coast, this was actually not the case at all. Back in those good old days, Aphazel and Grimm knew how to create High Quality Black Metal with a rather original sound, and their early releases ‘Det glemte riket’, ‘Svartalvheim’ and ‘Trolltaar’, all of them severely underrated, prove that.
The recordings of ‘Det glemte riket’ and ‘Huldradans’ on this 7” EP are actually the same than the ones on ‘Svartalvheim’, with the only exception being that the sound here is mixed even a bit rawer than on the album. The difference is not that important though, it’s nearly the same. ‘Det glemte riket’ and ‘Huldradans’ are among the best tracks on ‘Svartalvheim’, it’s all there, melancholic acoustic guitars, chilly riffs, haunting melodies, fast, raging parts and a phenomenal guitar solo in ‘Huldradans’… The guitar sound is extremely raw, the deep Black Metal rasps are some of the grimmest ever and the simple but effective drumming fits the music perfectly. But most important is the mystical atmosphere that these tracks are evoking, it’s unique. Listen to this by a camp-fire in a forest at night and you will not only hear it, but also feel it.
There is no doubt that ‘Det glemte riket’ and ‘Huldradans’ are classics of True Norwegian Black Metal, but unless you are a fanatic collector of such cult-records, I have to say that since these recordings are nearly the same as on ‘Svartalvheim’ (which you should own anyway if you dare call yourself a serious Black Metal-listener), there is no real need to try to get this EP, especially as it is very difficult to find nowadays and rather expensive.