Ancst have put in a tremendous amount of work since assuming the metal mantle. Birthed in Berlin and born bearing the badge of Angst back in 2011, these Germans have done much more than change their name since erupting into existence under the new moniker in 2012. Six splits, seven EPs, and one excellent full-length have reared their livid heads along the way. And the beast only continues to grow, both in presence and power. There’s more Ancst and more to Ancst with each new offering, and Ghosts of the Timeless Void is no exception. A violent bastard of black metal and hardcore, the trve identity at the core of Ancst is still very much a force in the making, but one thing is certain by this point: This is some hateful shit, yo.
A brief sample from the 2017 sci-fi thriller Life re-illustrates this point and heralds the onslaught of Ghosts, providing the first evidence of accumulated wisdom by lending opener “Republic of Hatred” a little spoken-word flare without chaining a 1:28 albatross to anything à la Furnace’s “Away from Atrophy.” The same effect is employed with similar succinctness later on “Revelation and Deformity,” further implying a conscious decision to trim the fat this time around. With each track typically doing its thing for 3-4 minutes, this mission is also accomplished within the actual music itself, the songs maintaining a lively sense of brevity that keeps everything pummeling onward without being bogged down by bloat. D-beat explosions interspersed amongst blackened tremolo assaults and crusty rhythms all but fly by for 42 minutes, and not a single moment is wasted. Vocalist Tom’s wrathful hardcore bellowing navigates the high-octane environment of Ghosts superbly, his scathing damnations of society flowing along the instrumental rapids so smoothly that one might think that the vocals were spawned by the music itself, instead of emitted from a hateful human. This is Ancst being exactly what they want to be and doing an excellent job at it.
While the band are certainly coming into a sound of their own, Ghosts whispers faint warnings of a band potentially coming too much into their own sound. The globally revered Mark Z has drawn comparisons of Ancst to an angrier, grittier version of countrymen King Apathy in the past, and though this is a fair point of comparison when trying to describe the music of Ancst, the German metal mongers are also showing potential signs of Gelotte-Adler Syndrome, a condition in which a bands style of riffing becomes so distinctly unique to itself that the riffs become interchangeable and almost inconsequential. By and large the songs on Ghost are not identical, but fans of earlier works might find themselves inadvertently spitting out lyrics from the previous material as fleeting moments such as the breakdown in “Shackles of Decency” hearken almost too loudly to previous sonic conquests. However, the ghosts of Ancst’s past ultimately strengthen Ghosts of the Timeless Void with their ephemeral presence, serving more as loose blueprints to branch out from than rigid templates to be copied note for note.
While much of the songwriting here follows in the same blackened, punk-minded suit of previous outings, the band also takes a few exploratory chances that really pay off. For example, “Concrete Veins” momentarily plunges into relatively unexplored calm depths, briefly flirting with a dark and gorgeous clean guitar tone to effectively amplify a subsequent detonation. The real jewel here, though, is “Dysthymia.” Where the majority of Ghosts is full-throttle from 00:01 on, the album’s finale gathers its power more gradually, drawing its strength from an eery melody that would have been right at home at the end of Ghost Bath‘s Moonlover, of all places. It is largely Ancst’s ability to lace their militant musical misanthropy with touches of more delicate emotions such as fear and despair that allows them to pummel onward without seeming robotic and monotonous, and this further exploration of that outlet certainly hints at exciting possibilities for things to come.
In the end, Ghosts of the Timeless Void is a fine representation of Ancst, circa now. Encapsulating their steadfast spirit perfectly, Ghosts showcases a band that is at once mastering their craft and continuing to experiment with the sonic weaponry at their disposal. The album covers old ground without dully taking up permanent residence in the past, as well as explores a few new trails without ever losing itself entirely, and if the band can successfully maintain this balance of exploring and perfecting their own sound for future releases, the fabled lands of 4.0 and beyond will certainly be well within their grasp.