A couple of years ago, I did a favor for Underground Symphony Records, and they retaliated by sending me a package of OOP and/or hard to find old power metal CDs — much to my delight. Amongst those CDs was the 2007 debut of Sicily’s Ancestral, a work of rough-edged, chaotic, yet surprisingly aggressive and adept power metal. Skip ahead a handful of months, and the band was announcing its upcoming sophomore release on Facebook after a wait of nearly a full decade. Given my preoccupation with The Ancient Curse, I actually pre-ordered Master of Fate after hearing the album’s teaser on Youtube. The end result was one of the few instances where everything went oh-so-smoothly: the debut was great, the teaser for album two was great, and the end result in full was, indeed, great.
Opener “Back to Life” steamrolled me right out of the digipak, and the blows keep coming as the album forges on. Though Ancestral is Italian, it features none of the keys and precious little of the cheese of many of its power metal compatriots. While Fabio Lione (ex-Rhapsody of Fire, Angra) is featured on “Lust for Supremacy,” that track differs not at all from the band’s usual approach. Few acts in European power metal (perhaps Blind Guardian, Rage, Eldritch, Kiuas) manage to strike as adroit a balance of thrash-like dissonance, rhythmic fury, and shocks of sing-along melody. Master of Fate is heavy and wastes absolutely no time trying to be something that it’s not. There’s very little wasted space here, and the closest thing to power metal’s typical momentum-sapping ballad is the unusually varied and interesting “No More Regrets.”
Euro-power fans will likely find “Back to Life,” “Lust for Supremacy,” and “Master of Fate” the most appealing tracks, as they conjure the most memorable vocal lines. Those in search of more aggression and less overt melodicism are more likely to appreciate the ambitious “Wind of Egadi,” the beefy riffs of “Seven Months of Siege,” and the searing instrumental “Refuge of Souls.” The band doesn’t mind getting technical at times, such as in said instrumental and the borderline prog-thrashy closer “From Beyond” (evocative of Mekong Delta and Vektor), and it rounds out its smörgåsbord of metal stylings with a cover of Helloween’s “Savage.”
Master of Fate is truly one of the most instrumentally capable and furious power metal releases of 2017, and every cog in the machine is primed to deliver. Not only are the guitars consistently churning out new riffs and writhing rhythm lines, but the frenetic drums are routinely a highlight and the bass work is absolutely outstanding (check out “From Beyond”). Vocalist Jo Lombardo may have an interminable accent, but his delivery is quite respectable and he packs a great wail. The only pointedly negative thing I have to say about Master of Fate is that its energy and originality dips a bit during “No More Regrets” and “On the Route of Death” before things close with a bang. That, and Ancestral encounters the oft-contracted Italian plague of dreadful grammar and accented vocals. So novel is the group’s approach and so potent its execution, however, that I have no difficulty recommending this to a fairly wide crowd.
Tracks to check out: “Back to Life,” “Wind of Egadi,” “Refuge of Souls,” and “From Beyond”