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134 copies sold in first week?.....not essential - 70%

krozza, October 6th, 2004

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.