Ancient Burial – Beyond the Watchtowers Review

Holdeneye said once that black metal reviewers are the cockroaches of the metal world. Why? Black metal reviewers may be gross, icky creatures, but they’re a stubborn bunch. Even when the world ends, black metal will not. Plenty of angry teenagers wearing Watain shirts and yelling about Satan during the local Methodist church Facebook Live stream will find time to record that latest second-wave album on Garageband with a keyboard, a fifty dollar Walmart guitar, and some of Mom’s tupperware. And the reviewers will be there to greet them with a volleyball block of merciless criticism. Black metal furthermore thrives in isolation, so quarantine is basically begging bands to keep spewing out frostbitten tunes, for better or worse. Does Ancient Burial fall into the better, stew in the worse, or dangle somewhere in between on debut Beyond the Watchtowers?

This Portuguese trio, although anonymous, is one that “may or may not include members of other high-profile hordes.” Drawing much inspiration from their raw black compatriot(s) Black Cilice, they profess the polarizing style of raw black metal. Ancient Burial likes to reside in the extreme, channeling rawness and chaos in cavernous measure. It certainly revels in blackened stereotypes, like blast beats, howled vocals, and I dunno, are those tremolo riffs? While on a good day, Beyond the Watchtowers might excel in its inaccessibility, it largely ends up being excessively noisy, raw, blackened drivel.

I get inaccessible. That’s the name of black metal’s game. But when that pesky old cohesion seems to get away from ya, it’s hard to say what’s explicitly good here. But I suppose that every now and then, I want to be overwhelmed by tinny raw black metal shredz, and boy howdy does Ancient Burial deliver soul-shredding rawness. There’s not a speck of straightforwardness on this record, and while I could actually enjoy having my soul shredded by Calligram or The Audient Void or Ulveblod anybody else but Ulveblod,1 listening to distant TV static guitars and tinny drums could hit a masochistic sweet spot. But most glaringly, the production does Beyond the Watchtowers no favors, as it scatters each instrument in divergent places across the left and right channels, offering little opportunity for cohesion. As such, the instruments feel like they’re practicing social distancing in these trying times, playing across the vast cavern from one another with no communication, relying on faulty riffs that have no business being a track’s foundation, predictable drumming, and senseless shrieks with seemingly little skill to boast.

If we’re really looking, closers “Hunger for Desecration” and “Eclipse de Almas” are probably the most straightforward and coherent of the bunch, relying on repetitions of appropriately dissonant riffs, feeling haunting and raw in equal measure. But even so, Beyond the Watchtowers is stubbornly directionless, sounding like an angry Goatmoon cover band interrupting rehearsal to swat at a large swarm of flies in a dark cavern. But when the dust settles, there’s still the same number of flies buzzing around. Each song begins with a swell of feedback, then a paper-thin riff and ghostly shrieking. That continues for two-and-a-half to nine minutes. There’s no apparent resolution or focus to be found in Ancient Burial other than to be trve. Chaotic black metal certainly has its merit in groups like Death. Void. Terror. and Amnutseba. Raw black metal, although polarizing, has its merits in role model Black Cilice and Satanic Warmaster. However, fusing the two styles together must be taken with the utmost care in relating to its listeners, as it has the potential to be trvly pretentious. In that right, while Ancient Burial sounds more confused than blatantly offensive, its best moments still feel like touchdowns in garbage time.

Beyond the Watchtowers is crazy inaccessible. Ancient Burial fuses chaotic and raw black metal like nobody’s business, but does so with little finesse. While it’s largely inoffensive, it still makes for a frustratingly unfulfilling listen that does nothing for black metal’s already overcrowded scene, as it emulates the worst of its Black Cilice influence. While yes, it may satisfy listeners with a masochistic need for nasty blackened ear rape, it does little else. These Portuguese blacksters attempt to serve a volleyball of solid black metal, but their “do not let thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing” approach spikes it back into their face, no reviewer necessary. They “may or may not” contain members of other high-profile Portuguese bands, but their debut’s quality (or lack thereof) is unquestionable.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Signal Rex
Releases Worldwide: May 1st, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Sorry, I flew off the handle there.
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