There’s something to be said about wearing influences on your sleeves. I may hail from the blackest forests of Southern New Hampshire and primarily enjoy black metal, but I have a soft spot for well-played power metal, old-school thrash, and melodic death metal. I’m known to geek out at the sound of a well-crafted guitar melody, soaring vocals, and urgent drumming. But, never in a million years would I picture it all on one album. Well, folks, HERE WE ARE!!! Toronto, Canada’s Will of the Ancients are here with their second full-length (and first in seven years), To Our Glorious Dead, bringing forth a new genre that I would like to call “Kitchen Sink Metal” (or KSM for the abbreviation fetishists out there).
And we lead off with “The Trapper,” a very thrashy number incorporating some tight riffing, a whistling keyboard patch, and some pretty solid bass work. There’s a little bit of a black metal rasp in guitarist Tristram Biggar’s voice, and his playing, whether it’s his vice-grip-tight rhythms or his tasty leads, are incredible. But what sold me on “The Trapper” is the clean vocal part that comes in at the 3:52 mark that, well… they’re not the best clean vocals, but they instill in me the need to rip a grizzly bear apart with my bare hands and present its soft, luxurious blood-stained pelt to the Elder Gods as a noble sacrifice. Yes, pretty damn epic.
In fact, “epic” is really the only accurate adjective to describe To Our Glorious Dead‘s modus operandi. There are tinges of darkness in every song, but the delivery is always interesting, as Will of the Ancients are all over the map in terms of incorporating their many influences into their sound. Yet, the results are pretty damn good. “Shield of Stone” is what Iced Earth would sound like if they kicked out Stu Block and brought in Absu‘s Proscriptor McGovern to handle both drums and screams (complete with the intro banshee shriek).
“The Stars Like Dust” has to be the most straightforward of the seven songs, with melodies bringing forth a mid-era Borknagar feel, some beautiful guitar interplay, and an engrossing sing-along/chant-along ending that many folk metal bands would kill for in terms of sheer heft and catchiness. The 18-minute title track keeps things interesting throughout due to the many, many interesting riffs, and Dave Black’s jaw-dropping drumming. To Our Glorious Dead is littered with his cymbal flourishes, insane foot-pedaling and tasty fills which should propel him to Drum God status in no time flat.
You may notice a theme running through To Our Glorious Dead, and it’s the great adhesion they take to their sound. In other words, they don’t. They go from blackened power metal (“Shield of Stone”) to more straightforward Gothenburg melodeath (the very brief “Trench Raider”) to epic folk metal (“The Stars Like Dust”) and every nook and cranny in between. It can be very discombobulating, but it’s all performed quite well. Some of the clean vocals falter a bit, especially on “To Our Glorious Dead,” but overall, it’s a strong album, and I can’t stop listening to it. Besides, many parts of this album had me headbanging with the goofiest grin on the face of the Earth, and that’s worth something, damnit!
So there is a bit of a gamble when you decide to throw everything into a giant Ninja blender and hope for the best. In Will of the Ancient‘s case, it paid off pretty well. To Our Glorious Dead is quite the enjoyable romp through a ton of metal’s finest subgenres, with some damn cool results. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bear to mangle and a growler of maple syrup to swig from…
Label: PRC Music
Release Dates: EU: 2014.11.03 | NA: 02.25.2014