Canada’s Anciients call upon the almighty gods of progress as well as continuum on their second full length Voice of the Void. At first blush the band’s sound, in comparison to their debut Heart of Oak, is similar in the sense that they stay grounded to their initial heavy and modern yet epic approach. But a second look reveals a band that has finely honed every aspect of themselves as artists and their craft as musicians.
Heart of Oak was immensely addictive. That much is obvious as the album garnered tons of press, found its way onto several best of lists from 2013 and was an award nominee. Quite a feat for a debut and particularly so for an album and band that seemed to come out of nowhere like a bolt of lightning. The thing is, this highly lauded debut pales in comparison to Voice of the Void. They’re still the same hard driving band they were, but heavier. Still, they can lead your mood nearly anywhere with their gentle acoustic prowess. And still, they amaze vocally. But among all this, the biggest improvement is in their prog rock moments that make this album fly higher than Heart of Oak ever did.
To clear the air, there will still be comparisons to Mastodon. Particularly Crack the Skye era and particularly on “Buried In Sand”. The elegant guitar melodies play on that same astral sound and the powerful vocal harmonies recall the broad expanse of “The Czar” suite. But these comparisons fall by the way side when the harsh growls take over. The soaring vocals are so much better this time out but the harsh vocals blend death and black metal to an absolute tee — look no further than “Pentacle” for proof. All that said, comparisons be damned, Anciients have risen above being lumped in with anyone and when a familiar tone, guitar sound or prog section reaches the ears it shows just how much they have to offer and that they don’t simply sound like any of their influences. Rather, they break free of those shackles and make each track better because of it.
There are so many highlights here that it’s literally too much to take in at one time. But when time is properly given the listener is rewarded with the many treasures this album possesses. But “My Home, My Gallows” offers the biggest view of what Anciients are in 2016 and the epic breadth they traverse with a seemingly effortless comfort is truly a joy to hear. Progressive at times and extremely harsh at others (black metal even rears its head here) it’s the most all encompassing track the band has yet to offer. And for any doubters based on whatever preconceptions you may have from their accolades, this one is for you. But just as easily as they create an amalgam of intense yet beautifully structured pieces they also conjure up a sense of yearning for days of carefree teenage youth, flying down the highway listening to your favorite rock jams (“Following the Voice”). Particularly the ones that every word is committed to memory and are screamed out into the ether with no care who is listening much less whether tomorrow will come, and only this moment is the one that matters.
Voice of the Void is an album that contains so many different styles yet Anciients have successfully merged each and every one, and triumphantly so. They’ve eclipsed their debut and by a wide margin. So, the sophomore slump doesn’t apply here. Anciients have improved exponentially and as a result have given us an instantly gratifying sophomore effort that just gets better and better with each listen. Contemporary metal has been made a better, more exciting place because of Anciients.