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Blackened, syrup-gory Belgium waffles - 85%

Byrgan, August 26th, 2010

Ancient Rites went through multiple different musical personalities through their span as a band. Even in the beginning, their demo in '90 surprisingly played a form of darker speed metal with a much different type of discernible half-singing voice. It's like they were attempting to breathe life back into an early to mid-'80s sound until other styles climbed over this and thrash with bigger boots in the '90s. Ancient Rites took the hint—probably from an omen in their blackened, syrup-gory morning Belgium waffles, or simply 3 of 4 members leaving or dying—as their sound shortly evolved on their EP in '92 and is closer to what's presented here with a form of black and death metal.

The production is on the side of digital and is more processed than other extreme metal projects of similar ilk. The guitars have a good amount of fitting effects, and the bass is right there with the same volume level to maximize its effort. But on the other hand, this sounds like it uses an electronic drum set; my suspicions came about since they have the same tone per drum and the cymbals only have a small amount of ringing after hits. The vocals have a processor on them—either with a healthy dose of pitch shift or run through a distortion pedal—making them an even lower toned growl and somewhat inhuman and demonic sounding as a result. With the shock and helplessness they give off, it's as if the Archfiend himself called your house while holding one of your family members eternally hostage. Pretty lucrative enterprise. Who's stopping him? You? Or You? Maybe even you, brave guy?

This is simultaneously catchy and mean sounding. The speed can adequately adjust to dreary slow, galloping mids and thrash-like fast sections. This isn't filled with blasterbation or a saturation of over-chugging. The guitars actually use a decent amount of strums, even at some points when going faster, or will pull out some tremolo type picking and other techniques to balance out palm mutes. Even though this has over-processed drums, it is definitely busy behind that artificial sounding throne by attaching plenty of fills and various hits to keep the listener's attention enraptured and engaged. Instead of continuous double bass, he'll use these at-a-trot type of kick drum hits; it works to the band's advantage especially when the guitarist has one of his hooking riffs going. The song writing can switch between atmospherics and aggression. "Longing for the Ancient Kingdom" is a good example of where the band mostly goes for a mood-centered track. It begins with a slow-to-mid-range beat, where the guitars play a particular set of notes with one sticking out that's higher toned of the bunch and with a keyboard choir effect following those same notes in succession. The first vocal passage, instead of beginning with his other grotesque vocals, give way to a clean and reverb-effected, almost wail-like voice. They also included some layered whispers and rasps, and then eventually break back into his regular growls to conclude this dark and emotively charged song.

"The Diabolic Serenades" is the band's most consistently sinister compared to later recordings. Although, I have to admit the production sounded funny to my ears when I first heard this with their precise drum sound and the digitalized recording quality for the type of extreme metal they were projecting. I can imagine it would have chimed a little better with an acoustic kit like they used on the demo and EP, and then, of course, helped out by the louder sound here. The band still makes up for it, as their subsequent material would record in an even more processed fashion but not hold up the musical end of the bargain for someone who got into them when they were stepping on more toes and sensibilities with their different take on extreme metal here. The band is cited as black metal, but this release actually combines attributes of black and death. They took a sidelined direction to sounding strictly like, say, American death metal a la Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse, or even the Norwegian route with Darkthrone or Burzum, as, of course, many would attempt to do so without the innovation aspect of things. Those of us who've had a run in with Ancient Rites might have different mind sets about them with the band shifting around their modes of playing on their varied albums, and I can imagine only a select few that are into the whole enchilada. Since we're on topic of food, I think of how they eventually over-heated the waffle iron with all of those keyboards, honored all of those Vikings with mead soaked waffle treats, and ended up being just another fancy breakfast platter on a list that had a shadowier past on their first but gradually lost what made them darkly delicious.