Ancient – “Back To The Land Of The Dead” (Soulseller Records)
One of the original Norwegian black metal bands dating back to 1992, Ancient’s path has been markedly different from their peers, being based in far off lands like the US, Italy and Greece, as well as venturing into different styles like Emperor’s cold atmospheric sound and later adding synths and violins, not to mention Kimberly Goss’s femme vocals. “Night Visit” in 2004 was the band’s last release, and since then all has been low key, prompting some to speculate on the quiet demise of the band. However, in 2009, a meeting between renowned drummer Nick Barker (Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Brujeria, Lock Up etc) and founder vocalist / guitarist Zel (formerly known as Aphazel) and bassist Dhilorz began the next evolution of Ancient! “Back To The Land Of The Dead” is aptly named, not just because of its epic proportions in 12 tracks (7 written by Dhilorz and 5 by Zel) plus a cover of Bathory’s ‘Candles’, but without a doubt Ancient’s most aggressive album ever – hardly a surprise though given Mr Barker’s blastbeating reputation! Moreover, rather than go for a modern sound, Ancient have opted to go for a 90s approach with an old school analogue sound and taking things to an almost perfectionist level, recorded this 7th full length release across 8 different locations, taking 18 months in total to complete. With Barker’s propelling drums and Zel’s tortured drawls still harking back to the very beginning, the rest of Ancient’s sound is a myriad of styles reflective of their diverse past incorporating Spanish guitar and keyboard atmospheres into heavy metal / commercial black metal riffs to produce something special in being undoubtedly dark but also incredibly powerful on songs like ‘Beyond The Blood Moon’, ‘The Empyrean Sword’ and the 9 minute ‘Petrified By Their End’. Although perhaps forgotten by some, Ancient’s return has been long awaited by many and with “Back To The Land Of The Dead” they have truly returned to save our souls from mundanity.