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You’ve got to admire the persistency of some metal bands today. Norway’s Ancient are one of many a band that must be given due props for their refusal to just pack it all in and find a real job. Once residing on the cusp of joining the Black Metal elite back in the early nineties (particularly on the back of the impressive ‘Canian Chronicles’), for some reason Ancient never quite took the next step. Usurped by Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, Ancient has missed the boat and no matter what they do now, they will always be entrenched among the plethora of other middle tier Black Metal acts. Still, Aphazel and his band of spiky clad cronies soldier on.
‘Night Visit’ comes to us some two and a half years since the release of Ancient’s last album, 2001’s Proxima Centauri. I missed that one, but from all accounts it wasn’t all that well received. Obviously these guys have a loyal fan base and they believe in what they do. Having said that, it wouldn’t be that inspiring to find out that in its first week of release, ‘Night Visit’ sold a massive 134 copies!! Still, as we know, raw Black Metal isn’t about the units you sell, it’s all about the music. Ha, try telling that to Metal Blade!
Lack of popularity aside, all is not lost for Ancient. ‘Night Visit’ is in fact a perfectly acceptable, solidly delivered Black Metal album. Built around old school aesthetics whilst adopting a thoroughly modern production (Studio Fredman no less), Ancient have been able to come up with a convincing set of songs that most Black Metal fans would take a shine to. Probably the most impressive element about this album is that Aphazel has been able to re-capture that dark ‘Canian Chronicle’ atmosphere. The use of some abrasive riff work, well placed keyboards (without their reliance) and a more pronounced melodic tone gives most of the 10 tracks written here more bite than one might realize. I also give the band props for the slower mid tempo variations thrown into tracks like the closing ‘The Truth Unveiled’.
Despite ‘Night Visits’ unwillingness to adopt a truly modern song writing style (which is again, a bold, yet commendable move), if you are a long time Black Metal follower, you get the feeling that the meal served up on ‘NV’ is only half cooked. By definition, Ancient pull of this type of shit quite well, yet you know that from the bottom of your blackest soul that you’ve heard it before. And its been done much better. Therein lies the problem with the longevity of Ancient. ‘Night Visit’ is a thoroughly competent and well-delivered Black Metal album, but that’s all it is. Fans of the band will devour every note, whilst the more discerning fan that opts for progression in this style will fall probably asleep.
If you are a Black Metal fan that just has to have every release that this genre puts forth, then Ancient will probably satisfy your craving. There is a lot to like about ‘Night Visit’, particularly its more than worthy classic sound. However, if this description sounds ‘generic’ to you, then I couldn’t really disagree either. Ancient probably deserve more respect than shifting 134 copies in its first week, but maybe the market is trying to tell them something.
It has taken some time but finally, Ancient offer their latest effort "Night Visit" and believe me it was really worth the wait, from the very start they offer us a blistering black metal record that ranges from evil dark melodies to high class speed destruction.
There are so many special things about this record, but first thing that comes to mind is that every member of this band plays his instrument perfectly. Vocalist and guitarist Aphazel just destroys us with every one of his riffs and his voice ranges from low screams to hellish shouts.
The second guitar player named, get this "Jesus Christ" fills in for the rest of these hellish riff attacks. The drummer Grom is a blessing for the band, I would strongly consider him one of the best black metal drummers today, this man is simply put, a machine! Last but not least we have Dhilorz to complete the rhythm section. Cute names guys...hehehe but thats a detail.
Onto the music, the opener "Envision Of The Beast" begins the destruction with traditional blistering black metal but they soon add a lot of harmonic leads and they also break it down sometimes with harmonic female vocals. Nice touch. What I really like about their new album is the big variety in songs and that they are influenced by a lot more than just black metal.
The second song "Rape The Children Of Abel" opens with pure thrashing metal and then they continue with another black metal attack. I can't get enough of this album and that's not often the case when it comes to black metal records, and its just the begining.
The third track "Horroble" starts off with fast hard rocking riffs and then they continue on with fast grooving rhythms. With the title-track "Night Visit" they return to more black metall sounds with an apocalyptic touch and a lot of harmonic elements and they even throw in a few grooving parts into the song.
I could tell you something special about every song, "Lycanthrophy" is a black/death mixture with a few thrashing moments and Aphazel is shouting in a rough throaty way. I would maybe even dare to call Ancient "progressive black metal" because what they do is just amazing and in a class of its own, they combine evil black metal with tons of melody. They no longer sound like copycats, and have definately come into their own with this excellent release!
If you''ve asked me to describe Ancient''s music several years ago, circa 2003, you'd hear as a result something along the lines of "a weak Cradle of Filth impression" or "CoF wannabes", since Ancient aim at being ''grandiose'' and ''theatric'' (see also Dimmu Borgir), yet when CoF are doing it with certain chique, or however you spell it, Ancient's attempts sounds more like a cheap parody - alongside the occasional use of synth ambiances, Ancient also used to feature a female vocalist, yet apparently from CoF''s Sarah, Deadly Kristin barely offers something, apart from looks, yet she still thought that she could sing. Bad, bad idea.
And then "Night Visit" came and wiped that all away. Yes, Ancient are still playing melodic BM in the vein of the bands specified above (but more Dimmu Borgir, since they don''t incorporate gothic elements after all), but still - lots of things have changed. First of all, no more Deadly Kristin (except the only appearance at the first track, luckily no singing). Second - the band significantly matured when it comes to music writing: the riffage became more agressive, partly because of the 2-nd guitar in the face of Aleister and the drumwork is remarkable also. You can still hear them experiment with heavy-metal-like riffage (see the beginning of track #3 - "Horroble", which is coincidentally my favorite track on the album), but most of the album is definitely BM, with no gimmiks this time. Except one, and that''s the weakest point in the album - it would be Aphazel.
Aphazel is by no means a really bad vocalist, but while musicwise the band has made a huge leap forward, his vocal performance stood still at the same point, sometimes involving odd elements (like the part in track #2 when he sings "Mesmerise my fucking vortexsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss", which sounds like a dentist''s drill) which sound plain bad, but the main problem about the vocals is that they no longer fit the music. On Night Visit there''s plenty of parts that are born for a clean passage, or a low growl, or a spoken word, but the only thing you'd hear here is screeching and screeching again with zero tonal changes, negating the great impression given by every other aspect.
Yet the bottomline remains the same: it''s a worthy offer indeed. Check it out if melodic and ''untrue'' BM speaks to you, you won''t regret it.