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Anciients - "Heart of Oak" (CD)

Anciients - "Heart of Oak" CD cover image

"Heart of Oak" track listing:

1. Raise the Sun (6:33)
2. Overthrone (6:38)
3. Falling in Line (8:20)
4. The Longest River (9:16)
5. One Foot in the Light (1:07)
6. Giants (7:47)
7. Faith and Oath (6:07)
8. Flood and Fire (7:17)
9. For Lisa (7:18)

Reviewed by on May 17, 2013

"At the end of the year, when critics think of who to nominate as 'Best Newcomers of 2013,' Anciients should have a spot on that list."

Anciients’ debut album “Heart of Oak” is a meshing of so many distinct sounds that alluding to popular acts isn’t a viable option. Do they show glimpses of Mastodon and Baroness on the album? Definitely. Do they also have a bruising New Wave of British Heavy Metal gloss on their guitar work? For sure. Is there a snide death metal approach to some of their tempos? Absolutely. Anciients' “Heart of Oak” is an expansive metal album that could be considered prog metal, though that label is not much of an improvement in pinpointing the sound. Think of “Heart of Oak” as a rewarding blend of the best features metal has to offer.

Excluding the tasteful acoustic interlude “One Foot In The Light,” these songs handle a jaunting scope. The band doesn’t seem to know the meaning of brevity, though that’s one of their appealing qualities. That’s due, in no small part, to Chris Dyck and Kenneth Paul Cook, who both split guitar and vocal duties. These two are the pillars that keep Anciients going strong, even when songs get close to 10 minutes. The guitar work never has a dull moment to zap the listener out of the album.

There appear to be no strict guidelines Anciients follows in developing these songs. The only thing that seems important to them is having a twisty structure and ample room for soaring guitar harmonies. Cook and Dyck consistently band together to unleash the kind of in-sync chemistry frequented by spectacular solos. Though the vocals mix between reflective melodic wails and biting screams, the guitars find a way to maintain that classic/traditional heavy metal flavor.

“Heart of Oak” is always shifting the perception of what the band’s main objectives are. The subtle introductions to “Falling In Line” and “The Longest River” clash with the no-frills rhythm burst on “Faith and Oath.” They love to be patient with their music, as some of the songs take two or three minutes to crackle and erupt into a sea of blazing passion. Opener “Raise the Sun” is the strongest track to engage in this dynamic, and Anciients is able to manipulate the build-up without any accusations of false motives.

With over an hour to get through, “Heart of Oak” has layers that need to be peeled off and explored. Anciients doesn’t hold back on their vision, and that kind of wild disregard can be thrilling at times. Sometimes, their ideas don’t hold as much ground as they may think, like the elongated instrumental “For Lisa.” That song should have been cut short by about two minutes.

At the end of the year, when critics think of who to nominate as “Best Newcomers of 2013,” Anciients should have a spot on that list. “Heart of Oak” is a fantastic start to their career, and one that the band should be proud to show off. The occasional irks in the songwriting, which stretches some ideas past their usefulness, are not major hindrances as the band progresses. Anciients casts out a wide range of sounds, so that it can be enjoyed by almost any type of metal fan.

Highs: A blend of many different styles of metal, solid chemistry between the two guitarists, songs never fail to have a few twists along the way

Lows: "For Lisa" pushes far beyond its worth, some ideas are stretched out too long

Bottom line: The pieces are in place for a credible and exciting future for Anciients with their debut album, "Heart of Oak."

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)