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Album Review: ANCIIENTS Heart of Oak

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Like it or not, the two-thousand-teens are the decade of Prog. Those inclinations needn't be manifested by way of King Crimson clones – the split second time signature changes of tech death and the freeform deconstructionism of post-metal all owe a tip of the hat to the genre – but make no mistake: the 70's loom large as an influence base in today's metal, and Vancouver noobs Anciients follow in the path of recent efforts by Opeth, Mastodon and Cynic in creating intricately structured arrangements peppered with fuss-free riffs and clean, airy vocals.

Chris Dyck and Kenneth Paul Cook trade vocal duties, alternating between death-sludge howling and soaring, plain-spoken singing. The effect is hardly forced, with the guitar riffs subtly downshifting to leaden power chords for the howling and kicking back into ascending single note patterns for the more subdued passages.

"Giants" nails this dynamic with effortless endeavor, the vocalists trading off equally before coming together on the chorus, then dueling on restrained guitar solos which resolve into tandem harmony. The song also boasts one of the band's more fetching riffs, proving these British Columbians have studied up on the cross-continent stylings of Mastodon and Baroness.

Further proving the depth of their bench, album closer "For Lisa" is an instrumental evocative of Abraxas-era Santana, with a plangent rhythm section underscoring a winsome, bluesy lead that leaves behind any traces of metal or prog altogether. Heady stuff.

This is a band that is so proficient technically that they run the risk of being slighted for being too easily pigeonholed, which would be a shame. Anciients are arch-synthesists, cleverly appropriating a number of familiar, inter-related genres to fuse into a seamless ethos. That they do so while penning material that sounds like it's existed for decades is a testament to their credit, not their detriment.


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