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My word...this album is just as good as its predecessor, the beyond brilliant "Altars of Madness"! And that oughta tell y'all something, seeing as how I hold that album (well, the first three MA albums, actually) in VERY, VERY high esteem.
The production is not quite as clear as "Altars", but the added thickness in the guitar department really helps, as does the extra low end on the bass guitar. And speaking of guitars, Trey and Richard really owned on this album! Their signature wildly inspired soloing and crazed riffing was unchanged and in fact even more chaotic on this album--check out Trey's keening, Middle Eastern sounding whammy bar work in the first solo of "Rebel Lands", for example. RIchard's somewhat more restrained and melodic work offset Trey's more weird and atonal style very well, and his solo acoustic piece, "Desolate Ways", is very appropriately titled with its lonely feel and subdued picking.
"Ancient Ones" simply flattens everything in its path like a runaway tank, as does "Unholy Blasphemies" , due in no small part to Pete Sandoval's organized chaos approach to his playing. But really, pretty much the entire album slays with the exception of the ending piano piece, "In Remembrance"--pretty, but not the best way to end an album. But then again, that shows just how MA, back in the day, didn't give a damn for conventionality and made that approach work. Another classic in the canon of USDM, y'all!