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Bouts of flair bogged by pretentious tedium - 55%

doomknocker, July 12th, 2011

Part of me gets what Ancient's bread and butter is. But another part doesn't. From the mid-90s onward, there were far worse black metal bands to slog on, but there were also far more talented acts probably salivating at the prospect of Metal Blade's worldwide stardom, bands that would've deserved being under their banner more than these harmless Nordic vampires. Still, what's done is done, and for all my yammering against hype, I just had to partake in an album so uncelebratory in its supposed crappiness.

So what was the end result? It ain't great, but not as bad as it's made out to be...

I think the biggest problem plaguing Ancient is its rather tedious approach to the black metal genre, thereby preventing them from truly getting an identity. In performance and composition, Aphazel and company seem pretty competent, even downright good, but for whatever reason, their overall appeal shows them to be almost pointless, with this album being a pretty prime example. Even their previous affair, "The Cainian Chronicles", only held so much attention due to a lack of necessity despite being a more solid effort. Around this time, Ancient's combination of gothic-tinged female singing and synthetics taken from a filthy cradle with riffing and grim screeches strewn across a dark throne contained occasional bursts of energy and good ideas warranting a bit of interest. However, Cradle of Filth were doing the gothic thing far better, and Darkthrone's politics and silly pandering made the riffing more enjoyable, unfortunately forcing "Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends" into also-ran territory. Not that it's all our fault, though. Still, for all the laughing and unfair condemnation, I still found "Mad..." a halfway decent album that had the capacity to lean against its strengths in order to at least water down the weaker moments. The vintage riffing is still rather nice and Norse in approach, preventing them from heading towards pure Filthdom, and even the keyboards and clean singing only sideswipe such notions, with Kaiaphas' vocals being strange enough to prevent them from being stagnant and the chilling melodies dark and tasty in their own right, as shown on tracks like "The Draining", "Her Northern Majesty" and "Willothewisp". On paper, this would make for a fine album. And it's made fine albums before and after. But the formula seems a bit tainted by its own sense of pretension and unfocused direction. It's a shame, really, cause a good album is hidden amidst all the rubble and rancor.

In the end, this turned out better than the general folk let on, but it's far from a perfect product. I know that, chances are, this will offer some replay value, albeit at a more slim amount than many of their other peers.