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For some reason I’ve always had something of a passing interest in Ancient’s music. Perhaps it’s just the curiosity of understanding a band which was able to go from producing some great, original black metal in the very beginning of their career (the Det Glemte Riket EP) to become utter degenerates of awful music only three years later (Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends). Another few years later and we have this album. Proxima Centauri is evidently Ancient, but curiously enough is neither equal to the top of their career beginning nor to their most abysmal of years.
Instead, Proxima Centauri is a relatively decent, if ultimately unmemorable and forgettable album. There music here is a watered-down form of black metal, sounding most like a sloppy kind of Dimmu Borgir, without any of the symphonic elements or energetic performance which makes that band’s music worth listening to. The music consists of black metal riffs which are more melodic than the genre’s usual stuff, and generally these riffs are pretty good, although, once again, nothing exceptional happens. On the other hand, the drumming is actually pretty competent and interesting to hear, with actual variation helping the album’s overall cause. Unfortunately, another external influence makes its presence felt and, although it’s subtle enough to avoid turning this album into pure crap, it’s still not helping its cause: Cradle of Filth. From the overall melodic sound to several precise elements, most notably the rare but ill-placed female vocals and the extremely stupid female spoken interlude, Audrina, My Sweet, this album bears not-silent-enough witness to Aphazel and his gang having listened to Britain’s often-a-disaster band.
If there’s one element allowing the listener to realize that this is an Ancient album, it’s Aphazel’s vocal work. Aphazel can best be described as a second-tier black metal vocalist, trying to imitate more well-known characters like Shagrath and Abbath but meeting only very limited success. He doesn’t sound actively bad, but his originality is at an all-time low, except for actually being recognizable as the Ancient guy. Oh well, at least reviewing this album didn’t require me to watch his… special… performances within the band’s large quantity of low quality music videos.
As bad as much of this might sound, Ancient’s music does have a few highlights here and there and in Proxima Centauri’s case, the last song, Eyes of the Dead, is pretty damn good as a melodic black metal song which features an excellent usage of keyboards and some true aggression inserted into the music. The song is a memorable ending to a relatively unremarkable album.
There’s a final little element which demands attention on this album, and that’s the lyrical content. Most of it consists of the usual satanic stuff, simplified by your local melodic death metal band, but one song takes exception to that: The Ancient Horadrim. This song is actually inspired by the world of Diablo (I, II and soon III), the popular role-playing games. For anyone who actually knows a bit about that fictional universe:
for I am izual the fallen guardian
banned from the ancient horadrim
aeryel and tyrael my brothers now slayed
These lyrics leave little doubt as to what the band were inspired by and, in the end, it’s rather funny and interesting, if a bit geek-worthy. Still, for some reason Diablo and Ancient work well together, aesthetically speaking if not musically.
In the end, Ancient’s newest output, if Proxima Centauri is anything to go by, is a compromise between the band’s brilliant beginnings and their awful mid-era career. For those who like melodic black metal this might be worth a listen but, in the end, it’s far from essential. Instead, those interested should head for Ancient’s first EP and album for some real black metal.