Sometimes a band comes along and releases an absolutely ridiculous debut album that proves beyond any doubt that they are for real. Anciients did just that with debut album “Heart of Oak.” This album is a sludgy, progressive, heavy, intricate, melodic, crushing work of metal art. “Heart of Oak” is just done right. The band has drawn stylistic comparisons to Mastodon, Baroness, Intronaut, and even the legendary Opeth. And while I certainly can hear these bands influences on the overall sound, I honestly think Anciients transcends comparisons. Onto the music.
The staple of this band is the riff. Sludgy, heavy, headbanging riffs. These guys just an extremely acute knack for writing solid riffs. The dudes write very memorable riffs. “Heart of Oak” is certainly not another pot of riff soup. No these guys are masters of the song. A couple very solid main riffs make up the backbone of the track. Repetition is used for effect masterfully. The band will sometimes jam on a single riff for nearly two minutes. “The Longest River” is a perfect example of this. The sludgy repetition hammers the riffs into your brain in the best way possible. The familiarity repetition provides makes for one memorable ride that isn’t overly difficult to follow, perfect for cruising along and enjoying what’s being played.
The Ancients guitarists also know how to lay down the shred. Plenty of solos dot the landscape of “Heart of Oak.” Fast, bluesy, classic rock influenced solos provide exhilarating climaxes to these masterful songs. The shred these guys summon reminds of the soloing skill and style of Mastodon, except only better and more refined. The guys sense of melody is impeccable. Whether it’s a winding riff or lick, or a blazing solo, the melodies on “Heart of Oak” are phenomenal.
The band’s sense of structure is also impeccable. Every song, aside from the minute long interlude, is over 6 minutes long. And they don’t drag on at all. They may trudge through some parts during the more sludgy segments, but this is a product of a successful artistic move. The song’s extra length gives plenty of time for extended intros, outros, and bridges. Anciients know how to build up a song. The longest track on the album, appropriately titled, “The Longest River”, features both a long introduction and extended outro, featuring solid guitar soloing. The songs always change tempo at the perfect time, kicking it into high gear, or slowly down to enjoy the journey at the perfect time. Once again, Anciients just does everything right.
Vocally, Anciients features two main styles. A clean voice, and a powerful mid ranged growling voice. Both of these styles exude manliness. The soaring cleans never enter the over dramatic high pitched realm of Power Metal. No these are cleans for bearded masters of sludge and metal. The death/black metal vocals are actually fairly decipherable and perfectly accent the heavier passages played found in most of the songs. The two styles play off each other masterfully and avoid feeling like cheesy and boring “Good cop, bad cop” vocals. What a surprise, Anciients just does vocals right as well. Who woulda thunk?
Anciients have released a masterpiece of a debut with this one. And this is only their debut. Another five albums just like this would be amazing, but imagine how much more these guys can do. “Heart of Oak” got a ton of much deserved press before and surrounding its release on April 16th on the solid label Seasons of Mist. I took some time with this review to really let the album sink in so I’m a little late to the party with this one but hey, I’m sure these Canadians don’t mind at all that people are still talking about their album. And people will definitely be talking about this album at the end of the year so if you haven’t heard it, get on it.
You can stream “Heart of Oak” on the wonderful Spotify or on their Bandcamp.
Anciients have been building a storm following this release by opening for both Lamb of God, and the Death the All tour. Both of these are incredible opportunities for a band this young. Anciients also just released a live music video featuring actual live audio. That doesn’t happen too often. “Heart of Oak” is absolutely essential listening. Spin this one, now. This one gets a perfect 10/10.