Anciients - Voice of the VoidCanada’s Anciients stormed the scene with their promising Heart of Oak debut in 2013, an intoxicating if at times derivative mix of stoner, sludge, and prog. It was an enjoyable album, though it didn’t quite blow me away like it did many others. Nevertheless, my interest was certainly piqued enough to be excited by the band’s long-awaited return with the all important album number two. Right from the get-go something is different in the Anciients camp. It’s evident early on and certainly throughout the album’s 67 minutes. Voice of the Void is a significantly darker, heavier, more urgent and original creation than Heart of Oak. The ingredients haven’t changed all that much musically, with the band still crafting interesting and angular prog and sludge-infused metal, complete with rousing guitar pyrotechnics, catchy melodies and contrasting dual vocals. Although I found the stoner elements from the debut quite solidly executed, this time, Anciients have stripped much of the fuzz away, dropping some of those obvious nods to early Baroness, Mastodon, and Kylesa that led them to be pigeon-holed by critics of Heart of Oak.

Voice of the Void sounds very much like Anciients have chiseled their sound over the past several years to arrive at this exciting shot of adrenaline-fueled prog-metal. An exhilarating rhythmic intensity, confident songwriting and more adventurous guitar interplay immediately identifies Voice of the Void as a more original, complex piece of work, featuring a strong emotional pull and excellent musicianship. As intricately composed and constructed as much of Voice of the Void is, there’s an overall accessibility to the material that keeps the hooks flowing. Longer tracks like the shape-shifting “Buried in Sand” are well equipped with interesting twists and catchy moments so that individual song length is rarely a major problem. “Buried in Sand” is particularly involving and ambitious, developing from its heavy beginnings, propelled by the tight and energetic chops of drummer Mike Hannay, into a brooding, melodically vocal driven psych-prog odyssey. The violent imagery depicted in the lyrics sounds a little odd delivered with such laid-back clean singing, but the hooks are irresistible.

Anciients haven’t jettisoned all the Mastodonisms, sometimes sounding like a darker and heavier relative to Crack the Skye; progressive tendrils exploring the vast outskirts of the band’s driving sludge metal foundation. Fortunately, the impressive form of guitarists/vocalists Kenneth Cook and Chris Dyck generally separates Anciients further from their influences. The duo’s guitar work is excellent throughout, crafting some killer riffs, wonderfully bombastic solos and an array of interesting harmonies and shades of psychedelia. Further mixing things up, the versatile cleans and growls deliver ample vocal variety. Strong points aside, not everything about Voice of the Void is hunky dory. Here’s where I broach the often touchy subject of album length. As previously mentioned Voice of the Void weighs in at a hefty 67 minutes. It’s no deal breaker, however bloating does occur and tighter editing and shedding some fat would have created a more cohesive and leaner package, while several sequencing choices don’t work for me. Case in point being the momentum-halting mid-album lull, as the pretty but disposable interlude “Descending” feeds into a rather uninteresting extended intro on the otherwise impressive Tool meets Mastodon march of “Ibex Eye.” Meanwhile, “My Home, My Gallows” is full of energy and aggression, but feels a tad derivative and forced overall.

Anciients 2016

While Anciients can find success in the longer song formats, they excel in punchy form as well. Proggy, sludgy and downright rocking, “Pentacle” is a tentacled riff machine, boasting another excellent drum performance, some of the album’s stronger heavy moments and more catchy vocal melodies. Similarly impressive, “Serpents” has a wonderfully subdued, melancholic intro and keeps things downbeat and doomy with the belting clean singing a real highlight. Unfortunately, though polished and slickly recorded, Voice of the Void suffers from severe compression, compromising the dynamics of the songwriting and flattening the album’s sonic impact. With music so dynamic this really is a major hindrance on the album.

Voice of the Void is a classic case of an album featuring an abundance of great moments that doesn’t quite translate into a great album. Some bloated moments, momentum lags and the sub-par mastering job hold this otherwise accomplished and frequently enjoyable sophomore album from reaching its full potential, resulting in a very good album that could have been so much more.


Rating: Very Good!
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: anciients.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ANCIIENTSRIFFS
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2016

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  • Gaëtan Baratin

    Countless 4.0 reviews, and now a prog stoner record? Do you want to ruin me?

  • Adam Armour

    I had forgotten all about Anciients (too many great bands). I shan’t make that mistake again.

  • Zephyrus

    Being from Vancouver, I’ve got a big soft spot for these guys. I’m seeing them live this Friday and absolutely can’t wait.

    • I am jealous. I really hope they tour the US soon!

  • Excentric_13073

    I pre-ordered the vinyl so here’s hoping that much like its predecessor, the more appropriate to the music.

  • I was completely and utterly blown away by their debut as it was my ROTY for 2013. This album doesnt quite live up to the amazing heights of the first record, but this is hardly a ‘sophomore slump’ and is VERY good IMO and will definitely be on my year end best of list. Well done guys! :)

  • The Nerd.DMF GO JAYS

    I missed their first album but listening to the track you have there, I sure as fuck am not gonna miss this one.

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      Get their debut, as well. I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed.

  • I admit I preordered this on Bandcamp after listening to the opening track, but the length of the album from my one listen to the full-length on YouTube is a bit concerning. Though no matter what, Anciients took a huge step forward.

    • DrChocolate

      *Consiistency. –commences exaggerated ii roll–

    • SegaGenitals

      Liike… Vaniilla Iice…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        You mean vanilla flavoured Lice?

        • SegaGenitals

          Yes…

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Of course! what else could you be talking about? Vanilla lice, lice baby!

  • Ein Sophistry

    Love the instrumentation on this album–but, as with the debut, the clean vocals grate a bit. Something just a little too nasally/anemic/high-school-garage-band-y about them.

    • SegaGenitals

      Eh. I like em’.

  • SegaGenitals

    First album showed a lot of potential. Eager to spin this one. Album art and title are a bit pedestrian methinks.

    • SegaGenitals

      …and… not bad. I like the production.

  • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

    Their first album floored me; it received much playing time. I just bought it on a whim, something to do with the album art work if I remember correctly. I have been eagerly awaiting this one. Been on pre-order for a while. These guys definitely took me by surprise. Hope this new one doesn’t disappoint.

  • James Ingold

    Great review that gets me even more excited for the album!

    I asked Season of Mist and they said the album does have a dedicated vinyl master so I’m hoping the dynamics come out more clearly in that format.

    • Luke_22

      Thanks. Good news about the vinyl master, if only they would release it digitally. Wishful thinking me thinks.

  • Exitium

    Is it just me, or do the growls now sound quite a bit like how Christian Alvestam does them?

  • Like so much the album! A well-crafted Mastodon-with-steroids! right to the cheek! a non gentle kiss =)

  • Bryan Stroup

    This album is so good. It initially didn’t grab me as easily as Heart of Oak did however. While I still feel that the previous album is more consistent, this album has some especially killer tracks; namely Following the Voice and Ibex Eye. They are probably two of the best examples of this style of progressive music, and both really remind me a lot in many ways of the third, fourth and fifth Opeth albums.

    I’m also completely fine with the Mastodon worship, especially Crack the Skye, which I feel is their best anyway. I actually thought the previous album was liberally borrowing from it too though.

    • Chad

      Yeah to me this album screams “hey you, are you upset Opeth aren’t reallllly Opeth anymore? Well buy our record instead!’ which isn’t a bad thing.

  • ben

    Wish these guys would focus on being a little more concise. So many brilliant moments shadowed by bloated song writing. At least for me. Still, a very talented group of guys. Great album even if I feel the song writing could be condensed.