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The debut album of the Norwegian black metal band Ancient had fairly impressed me. With the sort of folkish influence that also made Ulver and Enslaved's first albums so magical, Ancient's left-of-centre approach to black metal was both surprising and effective. While this obscure band from the Norwegian scene had some great black metal riffs and howls going on, it was the more ambient and folky side of Ancient that got me hooked on them, it was something that distinguished them from the devilish hordes of the scene. 'The Cainian Chroncle' sees Ancient return again a couple of years later, and this time around, there is a heavier focus on the black metal aspects of this band. Although the black metal element of Ancient has been considerably improved from the last time around, its length and somewhat inconsistent second half puts the debut a slice above this one.
Ancient were a fairly progressive act for black metal at this stage, and the first four tracks of 'The Cainian Chronicle' compose the title track, a suite of music that seeks to tell some dark story that only black metal could be fitting of. Although this is very ambitious on paper, the music is not too much different from other Norwegian black metal this time around. There is a tad more of a melodic depth here than the par, but the music itself is fairly straightforward, focusing on giving a dark and powerful atmosphere. Aphazel's vocals here sound alike most black metal, but I find they are more comprehensible than most. Also, there are some spoken word sections which seem more for the sake of moving the story along than anything else. The music is fast paced and furious, but these otherwise generic black metal riffs become much stronger with the added melodic leads.
The first half of this album is very good, even better than Ancient's debut, I would say. Although there isn't that same folk vibe and most distinct style, Ancient's improvement in their black metal territory makes 'The Cainian Chronicle' a true feast of atmosphere. Sadly, the album goes on for far too long, and the second half is quite a bit less interesting or memorable than the first. After the title suite is over, the songs naturally start becoming less inspired. The interlude track 'Exu' is where I really noticed that 'The Cainian Chronicle' had taken a dive south, hearing convoluted tribal drums underneath what only sounds like a female and some chthonic hobgoblin reaching a state of sexual arousal together. I'm sure this may have had the intent of being a statement of primal energy or some new age philosophy, but it comes off as being pretty funny, and throws off the atmosphere that the first half of the album tried so hard to build up.
The final two tracks on the album are long enough to be called little epics of their own, but here, it definitely feels as if the album has drawn on for too long, and the riffs have become less melodic, and alot more generic. Ancient was certainly not lacking ambition here, but especially in the second half of this album, the ambition seems to turn on them, and results in something that overshoots the mark, and risks becoming monotonous before the end. If only this album had been edited and maintained that same sort of atmospheric beauty that those first few tracks demonstrated, 'The Cainian Chronicle' would have overshadowed its predecessor.