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Ancient - "The Halls of Eternity" (CD)

Ancient - "The Halls of Eternity" CD cover image

"The Halls of Eternity" track listing:

1. Cast Into The Unfathomed Deeps (1:56)
2. Born In Flames (3:59)
3. The Battle Of The Ancient Warriors (5:24)
4. A Woeful Summoning (7:01)
5. Cosmic Exile (4:29)
6. Spiritual Supremacy (5:12)
7. The Heritage (8:12)
8. I, Madman (6:04)
9. From Behind Comes The Sword (4:46)
10. The Halls Of Eternity (9:38)
11. Arrival (4:49)

Reviewed by on July 13, 2008

"While each song is interesting on its own, the majority of the tracks are similar enough to each other that listening to the whole album in one sitting can become a somewhat tedious."

Since its inception in 1992, Ancient has managed to shift members for every single full-length release, which has caused their sound to change noticeably on each successive album. Despite these frequent line-up changes, founding band member Aphazael has kept the underlying framework of Ancient’s discography cemented in the concepts of fast drums and shredding guitars interspersed with hauntingly beautiful operatic moments and a very healthy dose of black metal cheese. The Halls of Eternity is the fourth official album from Ancient, with a plethora of EP's, singles, and compilations scattered throughout their musical career. There have been some minor advancements made from previous efforts, but overall they have taken one step forward and two steps back.

Aphazael himself takes the reins of the vocal work on this album, with the loss of previous vocalist Lord Kaiaphas. Aphazael possesses a sufficiently menacing growl to fit the mood of the songs, but his vocal talent is just burgeoning here, and he unfortunately maintains the exact same tone without variation throughout the entire album, which causes several of the songs to sound tired and bland. Undeterred by the lower quality vocals, the guitar and drum work remain uniformly superb, carrying the disc on a flood of distorted shredding and quick beats. "The Halls of Eternity" cultivates enough of a heavy and oppressive atmosphere to bear the title "metal," while remaining toned down to a level that manages to keep up the sense of mysticism and magic that should be present on an album that is as steeped in the Occult as this one.

"The Halls of Eternity" follows a very similar path as Ancient's second album, "The Cainian Chronicle." The first track is an instrumental piece that builds an atmosphere of something magical, yet dangerous and evil, which transitions smoothly into the second track, where the guitar comes out front and center. While each song is interesting on its own, the majority of the tracks are similar enough to each other that listening to the whole album in one sitting can become a somewhat tedious. "The Heritage" is a standout track that breaks the monotonous mold, however. The pipe organ intro devises a very creepy vibe which gives way to a heavily distorted vocal part that actually manages to sound demonic instead of silly. Female singer Deadly Kristin's excellent purring vocals are also laced throughout the song, making it one of the best on the album.

The cheese factor, which is generally kept on a leash in the band's other offerings, has gone completely out of control on "The Halls of Eternity." The song "I, Madman" will have black metal veterans hanging their heads in shame and genre newcomers laughing uncontrollably. Keyboardist Jesus Christ! performs a speaking part throughout the song that is so ludicrously campy it effectively makes the song a parody of itself, completely ruining the mystical tone of the album. "I, Madman" also serves as this album's ego stroking song. Like the "Cainian Chronicle," which featured a track written and performed by Kaiphas, titled "Song of Kaiaphas," this song is written and performed by Jesus Christ! and is obviously supposed to be about him.

Fans of cheesy symphonic black metal will no doubt love "The Halls of Eternity." Anyone looking for something a little more heavy or serious should probably try out The "Cainian Chronicle" or "Proxima Centauri" instead.

Highs: Creepy pipe organs and shredding guitars

Lows: Aphazael's monotonous vocals and an incredibly cheesy atmosphere

Bottom line: If cheesy symphonic black metal is your thing, buy it now, otherwise it isn't worth your time

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 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)