Anciients - Heart of Oak (Season of Mist)

A tantalising debut release from Canadian stoner prog-metal rockers, Anciients. With one foot in the door of metal rock, they're in heady company.
Release Date: 
16 Apr 2013 (All day)

The riffs resonate with strong harmonies, only a little dirty with a heavy walking bass line. The cadences borrow from stoner rock. The melodic guitar licks are tinged with the melancholic soul of the blues, with a heart of progressive metal underneath. Heart of Oak churns forth as a sturdy debut offering. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, Anciients’ debut album is rich, mellow and harmonic. With rhythms borrowed from stoner rock, jazz driven licks, heady guitar riffs, and a restrained balance of vocals, Anciients are hewing their own way down a path recently trodden by other metal driven rock acts such as Kverlertak.


Raise the Sun rises from a gentle rhythmic introduction to an addictive rocking beat. Setting up the album well, it wavers over the boundary between rock and metal, with strong harmonic timbres set against the blend of gently emotive clean vocals, and rough rasps. Overtone delivers distinctly stoner rock beats, a little extra fuzz in the distortion, resonant feedback and brief snippets of guitar solos interspersed with harmonic riffs.


With an acoustic start, Falling in Line is rich in late 90s grunge rock, with a driven walking bass line overlaid with bluesy guitar licks. Tempo changes drive the song forward heavy in melody and the balance of clean and rough vocals act as a third instrument delivering the force of rock darkened with the furiosity of metal. The Longest River uses a mix of minor chord progressions, and excellent teaming of the guitar riffs and drums. Blues elements come clearly through in the phrasing, with stoner rock vocals and pacing. Thematic, with classically styled acoustic chord arpeggios, One Foot in the Light provides a brief pause in Heart of Oak.


Giants marches in on a slow build, settling into a heavy rock beat accented by clean vocal harmonies. Anciients keep their production with a tantalisingly resonant gentle distortion on the guitar tracks. Their balance of melody-rich, heavy riffs and guitar solos are used to good effect in this track, mingling with the strong bass lines and rhythm heavy passages. Faith and Oath storms in with an almost black metal quavering entry, before stepping into a melodic dark rock beat. The drums drive this track, accenting the heavier stoner tempo, darker sound and emotional vocals.


Not as intoxicating as their predecessors, the final two songs are more progressive. Flood and Fire is slower paced with a walking base line, clear progressive rock styling and just a hint of metal with tempo changes increasingly dirtying the mix. A dramatic tempo change towards the end of the song provides brief heavy furiosity, before leading into the very different jazz tempo of For Lisa. The final track of the album, ...Lisa draws on jazz  and even trails a Hammond organ sound through the melody, blending out into progressive rock.


Harmonic, rhythmic, progressive stoner rock with a core of metal, Anciients’ Heart of Oak beckons for even better things to come, and delivers a tantalising Canadian approach to the ever growing range of metal driven rock acts. It does, however, leave me wanting just a little bit more of the promise of the early songs of the album.