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Mashes two forms of mediocre with terrible glue - 45%

lord_ghengis, September 30th, 2013

I'm not even to pretend this has promise, this band is creatively bankrupt and thoroughly average at their execution of their dodgy ideas, and there is absolutely nothing of interest here. The Albion Codex are a boring doom band cross pollinated with a boring acoustic-ish folk-ish prog band, in short, they're pretty much Opeth with half assed melodic doom in place of quasi death metal, except somehow, they actually transition between the two sounds more abruptly than the Swedes. Both styles are a pretty dodgy match for one another, and since the simplistic, occasionally galloping doom has next to nothing in common with the fluttery, dainty prog acoustics the only real link for the bands sonic poles are pretty much the pathetic, effeminate, and entirely-not-powerful-enough-for-doom vocals. This has been a problem for every band who have tried this idea, like say Australia's Okera, but these guys probably pull it off worse than any of the acts I've seen try it.

The doom seems to be the main focus of the album, so I'll start on it first. They've definitely tried to give the listener a good range of doom to choose from, simplistic trad doom in the Sabbath vein exists comfortably alongside daintily melodic stuff with no bite, which in turn are played in tandem with bigger, stompier doom like Candlemass and Doomraiser, and a little bit of more sweepingly epic stuff which I'm sure only coincidentally has a passing resemblance with Atlantean Kodex, sometimes with a bit of added folkish/"naval" flair, like Doomsword for instance. Really, outside of some depressing or really oppressively heavy stuff, they've covered basically all the major doom food groups, sadly I can't say they're all that good at any of them. The title track definitely packs in the best riffs, but I've got to say some of them are awfully close to existent riffs, such as the "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" on that other reviewers have mentioned, which kind of holds me back from getting right behind them.

The boring progressive/acoustic parts are less prominent, but are far less varied and thought out, pretty much aping "To Bid You Farewell" entirely. They don't even sample other Opeth tracks to steal ideas, because those songs are too hard or something I guess, they just stick to their one tempo, woodblock-y snare and all, and mix dainty little melodies with a few rattley folkish chords every single goddamned time. It's never original, it's rarely any better than average, and they overuse the shit out of this bad, bad idea.

Obviously, mixing two styles as openly contradictory as simple, mobile doom metal with fluttery prog is difficult, and The Albion Codex are definitely not the band to pull of such a bold task, so instead they just randomly drop what they're doing and slap in a few minutes of totally unrelated content in the middle of or on the end of a primarily doom song. Take the actually pretty solid title track for instance, which spends seven and a half minutes being loaded up with their best riffs and even a fairly heavy segment of punishing groove, and then decides that a minute and half of pretty acoustics is the perfect way to end what is the closest the band has to a riff monster. It makes no goddamned sense.

Overall the product sounds quite meek, both vocally and production wise. A few harsh vocals which are awfully ineffective the title track aside, the only vocals you get here are very clean, rather high pitched and shy sounding. It kinda works with the entirely forgettable fully acoustic folk/prog track "Stormweilder" (Of course it has a fully acoustic song, Opeth via doom, remember?), but it is an awful, awful fit for doom, even for super melodic, frail doom, which this actually isn't most of the time. Likewise, the production is meager, mainly due to poor mixing which leads to the drums being featherweight and the actually pretty distorted rhythm guitar tone being buried until the pretty harmonized notes. It's just an odd production choice for something which is mostly in a more Sabbathian or galloping mindset.

I guess if I wanted to be kind and say the band has some promise, I could honestly say the title track is pretty solid, I like the Doomraiser riff that opens it, I like the Sabbath riff which gives it some nice groove once the more epic side wears out its welcome, and I like the genuinely heavy and harsh ending to the metal section. But really, outside of that, I have nothing positive to say about it, this album is based around a pretty crappy concept, and they lack any sort of X factor to give any sort of impression that they'll be the band to magically execute it with some brilliance since all their best bits are the parts where the mind you of other, better bands. Avoid.

omg long songs and clean guitar parts *drools* - 53%

MutantClannfear, August 10th, 2013

Summon the Ancients is probably about as far out of my element as anything can possibly be in the metal spectrum, but The Albion Codex seem to really appreciate it whenever they receive reviews, so I'll throw my two cents into the pot anyways: this is rather unremarkable. The band seem pretty proud of what they've made here, and it does seem like the kind of thing that the creators would want to be especially proud of, but I dunno. I can't really say I'm sold on this.

This is the band's first album (or release at all, for that matter) and it's quite chunky, with five songs that somehow manage to clock in at 43 minutes long. Three of them are over nine minutes in length by themselves. This would be totally fine and okay if there was actually a need for them to be that fucking long; alas, The Albion Codex seem to be avid subscribers to the unfortunately common mindset that music gains layers of depth directly proportional to how ridiculously stretched out it is, and so basically each song feels like it's only playing riffs in order to stall. Let's be honest here, there's no need for most of this stuff to go on for almost ten-minute stints at a time - it's not merely a matter of "ain't nobody got time for that", it's that The Albion Codex don't have anything that could possibly justify wasting that much time on them period.

Each of these songs shuffles through generic mid-paced doom riff after generic mid-paced doom riff that don't push any particular extremes in melody, catchiness, darkness or heaviness (though I will say the guitar tone itself is rather heavy, even if it feels like it really shouldn't be), but it never really feels like it's worth anything by the time you've finished one. It's like how everyone has that one friend or family member who loves telling these absurdly long and drawn-out stories that are supposed to be funny, and you listen intently as they add elements and pack on details, but then the story comes to a conclusion and you're left wondering exactly when you were supposed to start laughing. There are certainly bands that can pack together a bunch of relatively mediocre individual elements and make massive, inspiring albums out of them, but then you get stuff like The Albion Codex - telling stories with rather uninteresting pieces, no hooks and, really, nothing to indicate that they had a story worth telling in the first place. I don't even listen to doom metal on a regular basis and the riffs here still feel really uncomfortably familiar.

And then those guys telling the boring stories, you know how they usually get caught on a random side detail and then have to totally derail to explain that too? Yeah, The Albion Codex have those too, in the form of really wimpy and pointless clean guitar sections that put-put around and seem to try to impress the listener by, well, I dunno, not being metal. They're really not very substantial, they feel rather shoved onto the ends of (or in between) the doomy riffs, and when the band try to make an entire song out of it ("Swordwielder") it doesn't get any more interesting. If I had to choose a favorite riff here, it'd be this one right in the middle of the final track "Swear to the Gods" which, I shit you not, sounds ripped straight out of a song by Formulas Fatal to the Flesh-era Morbid Angel. Yeah, the best part about Summon the Ancients doesn't even come from the band's designated genre. It's pretty sad. If there were more "oddball" moments among the album it might carry a bit more weight, but for the most part the band don't really do much of anything aside from doomy riffs which range from mediocre to relatively good, and then acoustic junk that doesn't even fit anywhere.

The whole album also seems to suffer from a general lack of polish. Vocals are probably the biggest offender here because, erm, they're not really very good at all. If you were a kid being raised in an environment where the only male voice you had ever heard was the singer of The Albion Codex, you would grow up thinking that women were the physically dominant sex. Imagine the guy from Ghost, but somehow even fruitier, weaker and less talented, and you'd be about spot-on. He seems to be unable to hit some of the vocal lines (which are boring and really poorly planned in terms of harmonizing with the guitars, by the way) with the proper pitch, sounding just a wee bit flat. His effeminate timbre also sounds really unintentionally funny against the retardedly massive, overly-distorted doom guitars, which would honestly probably suit the music's feel a lot better if they were toned down at least a bit. The mix isn't exactly ideal (the guitars clip at times; the vocals are way too loud and don't feel integrated with the rest of the instruments) and overall, there simply isn't enough going on in the music considering how long the songs are. While I still wouldn't be automatically convinced of this band's intellectualism if they had added in a few interesting dual harmonies and given the riffs more variation, I'm sure they would have been able to wrangle in at least a few more prog suckers if they had done so.

This isn't really anything more than boring at the very worst (except for the glaringly bad vocals), but at the same time it's irritating because the band seem to have that air about them where they think they've made some sort of glorious masterpiece when it's really not. It's like if you said you had a real-life fucking T-rex behind this big curtain on stage, and I could see its silhouette, and I was like, "Wow, a real T-rex!?" So I run behind the curtain and see that it's just a fake, lumpy sculpture that you built out of two tons of old Play-Doh. Summon the Ancients is that silhouette - it might look big and mighty at first glance or to people with IQ scores in the double digits, but even a cursory bit of investigation will reveal that it's a phony made of really inadequate building blocks and not-particularly-impressive structuring. I highly doubt there's anybody who knows who I am and then reads one of my reviews looking for doom recommendations, but if you do (hi, you must be new; you're in the wrong place, sorry), you can skip over this one.

The Ancients Are Not Amused - 54%

dystopia4, August 9th, 2013

Man, this album is really frustrating. It could have been really good, but it's just . . . not. While some cool ideas are definitely thrown around, the glue holding them together just isn't strong enough. When something is going really right, something lame quickly ensues. Band gets into a nice groove? Overlong prog section soon follows. First half of a riff is killer? Second half is lacklustre. The whole album varies wildly in terms of quality. There is a decent array of different styles clumped together, and while done rather cohesively, the end result falls very short of enthralling. Being good in parts won't save the whole. It's actually quite the feat that they managed to make such an ambitious vision become so boring in execution.

The Albion Codex mix doom with prog, while adding touches of psychedelia as well as hints of traditional metal and even USPM (you can definitely hear Manilla Road creep into a few of the riffs). As if that is not enough, the doom they present is also rather varied. We get a fair amount of the epic variety, which generally treads between early Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. Your run-of-the-mill traditional doom also makes an appearance, and Sabbathian riffage is not omitted from the mix. With so much crammed into one package, they do manage to make everything fit together surprisingly well. Almost too well. In the end, you'd think with this many styles we'd at least get something interesting. This is really rather bland and doesn't offer much in terms of excitement or atmosphere - two things they are obviously going for. They have an awful habit of following good sections with, well, not so good sections.

The production doesn't really do the band any favours. While produced well enough from a technical standpoint, it robs the riffs of their power to hit hard. When a good riff does poke its head out from the mediocre mass, the tame and reserved production doesn't allow it to have the impact it deserves. If not relatively varied, their riffs are rather obvious. It probably should be mentioned that one guitar part in the title track sounds suspiciously similar to a part in "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". The band tends to let all instruments get a chance at the spotlight. While it's good that they let every band member have a voice, there are a few sections where it doesn't work out all that well. "Swear to the Gods" provides a nice example of this. When the drummer attempts to erupt into a pseudo-blast it sounds absolutely laughable. There is also a bass wankery section that is completely needless and if anything comes off as a nuisance.

The proggy parts here could have served as a nice little breather between the more metallic sections, but the band really just couldn't help going whole hog and let them long overstay their welcome, gathering substantial amounts of dust in the process. The prog stuff is rather average, drawing a quite noticeable amount of influence from Opeth. It's not outright bad, it just doesn't warrant the length it tends to go on for. These sections often ruin the flow of the song, while halting all forward momentum. The worst thing is they would have totally worked if they were much shorter. If not for the vocals, that is. While the vocals are just generally your generic traditional metal affair, they switch it up in the prog passages. Here they are dry, nasally (especially in "Witch in the Mist") and, honestly, kind of annoying. I will admit that I'm not very partial to these kind of vocals, but I've heard them done infinitely better elsewhere. In "Swordwielder" they attempt a prog-metal ballad and while it is easy to see what they were going for, it just doesn't work out for them. A proggy metal ballad is really not something that's easy to pull off convincingly and these guys certainly aren't one of those that can make what is usually a bad idea work.

Meh, this could have been pretty cool, but the band just doesn't have that spark. Even though their mix shouldn't be called generic, the band still comes off as rather faceless. They have failed to develop a tangible personality. The occasional harsh vocals are cool, though hardly enough to save this. The worst thing is this could have been rather worthwhile if the band had a more distinct character and refined their sound (read: shortened the prog sections). If they tightened everything up, this would have been something at least worth a listen. However, as it stands, I just don't see any reason why I'd give this another spin. It's not bad, it's just not very memorable. Also, it comes off like they shoved a whole lot of ingredients in a blender that could have gone well together, but got the amounts of how much of each thing to put in very wrong. Eh, maybe next time.

it's basically just not that great - 40%

caspian, August 6th, 2013

Albion Codex remind me a fair bit of Atlantean Codex with their whole self conscious "trying to be really epic" schtick, but while also wanting the world to know that they're proggy and/or jazzy and tasteful, maaaaan. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a fairly hit and miss album, with the occasional moments of potential/accidental genius/etc surrounded by consistently emasculated vocals and the sleepiest attempts at Opethian balladry you've maybe ever heard.

There are two main things holding this band back- the vocals and the prog. Let's look at the prog first. I like a bit of prog, some Rush, some Dream Theater, King Crimson etc. I don't like it when a band stops the best part of their album- that huge, ridiculously atmospheric chanting part of the title track- to throw in a really average bit of prog noodle. I don't like it when bands basically rip off "To Bid You Farewell" and do a bad 7 minute ballad about a Swordwielder, or throw in some random and totally momentum sapping 2 bar bass solos throughout Swear to the Gods.

Simply put, the tunes are simply not strong enough, not captivating enough on their own to get away with adding this sort of stuff. Write some strong material and then *maybe* you can add some serious dynamic contrast for the hell of it and pull it off. As it stands, these songs already struggle to get off the ground, and the awkward transitions do little but make the songs longer for the hell of it.

When the band aren't making you yawn and look at your watch, they're trafficking in some not-bad-but-not-really-amazing doom. It's that sort of midpaced power/epic doom thing, like a friendlier Candlemass perhaps, or a nowhere-near-as-good While Heaven Wept via Dio era Sabbath. It's the vocals that drag much of these parts down- the vocals are powerless, remarkably effeminate, loud in the mix, badly doubled and have some of the least creative melodies this side of Iron Man. The band can clearly play their instruments and it's cool hearing the way the drums are always mixing the feel up (Man or Antlered Man, a good example) but then the vocals come over and take a giant shit on the whole thing.

Yeah, I dunno man, this is basically just not all that good. There are some cool moments, particularly when the band bring out the rougher vocals and get to their heaviest (Swear to the Gods an example), but overall this is a badly done hodge podge full of ok but not amazing riffs, bad prog sections and some really awful vocals. Avoid!

The Union Jack Prog/Psych Metal pt. I: Empty Book - 65%

Metantoine, July 21st, 2013

The Albion Codex is a British quartet who's playing a mix of progressive metal/rock with epic doom and other different influences. While I liked their debut album, it still has clear flaws that made Summon the Ancient an underwhelming release. Although their compositions have many intricate layers, their compositions are too complicated for their own sake. That's unfortunate but I think that's a fault they can correct for their future releases.

The five songs are all pretty long, three of them are reaching the nine minutes mark and even if I'm usually a fan of extended compositions, I don't think it works here. Mostly because of the way the songs are composed, the transitions are pretty awful, Mikael Akerfeldt is really a master composer compared to that. The heavy to soft progressions are far from natural and in my opinion, they're not helping the band. There's simply too many things tried at once and as newcomers, they don't have the necessary skills to pull it off nicely. Furthermore, it gave me the impression that the band is directionless. A good example is actually the first track ''Witch in the Mist'', the first half is pretty good but when there's the softer transitions, it fucked up the rhythm. That's the case for pretty much all the record. Being progressive doesn't mean that you can mash up many different genres together with crazy glue, it's about melting them to form a solid, condensed and listenable mixture that has diverse feelings.

The production is decent while not heavy enough, maybe it's the atmospheric approach but the band is a doom unit nonetheless and I expected harder hitting guitars. A bit like countrymen Solstice who can be epic, doom and atmospheric with ease. It fits the softer side of the band better than their heavier since I'm not a fan of the electric guitars tone. The title track is quite fast and almost reminds me of the first two The Sword albums with its stoner vibe. That's of course before the clean break towards the middle. Believe me, I like clean and soft music breaks when it's done appropriately and not forced unto the listeners like pancakes when you ordered eggs.

Influenced by Opeth and Porcupine Tree, Paul Wale has a nice clean and melodic voice similar to Steven Wilson. They're not quite powerful but he's also one of the guitarists and it's totally fine for their sound. I always liked the English accent in my doom metal and it's no exception. What doesn't work though are the harsh vocals, they're completely out of place and they seem to be present only to give the band an edgier sound. While not awful, they're not convincing, not well written and useless. They're not even often present in the songs but they're an unnecessary flaw. Hopefully they'll be gone from their future releases.

Psychedelic, stoner, epic doom, progressive or acoustic, The Albion Codex managed to mix interesting genres together but they lack the conviction and skills to make it truly enjoyable. Instead you get a forty five minutes album that drags too much. The band still has some cool riffs and they're talented, I think there's a certain lack of leads though. I thoroughly enjoyed the six minutes ballad ''Swordwielder'' because it was entirely soft and has this fun fantasy medieval feel. The band is good at both doom and atmospheric prog but when it's mixed in the same song, it's like eating chocolate bacon.

Despite some flaws, I'll await a sophomore since the goods were delivered and it's a mix of genres I like. I hope they'll have a more condensed and established personality. I suggest to the fans of the aforementioned bands to check them out, it might calm your hunger for progressive whatever doom metal for two or three weeks. Summon the Ancient has a superb cover and it's showing a band that has a lot of potential, only the future will tell us if they can make a name for themselves.

Metantoine's Magickal Realm