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Ancient - Svartalvheim
Review: Narrative black metal gains its power from long developing phrases and epic melodies hidden behind almost mundane, simple riffs, with emphasis on structure and epiphany in each song. Ancient develop this with a prowess for using speed-picking to create flowing muscular serpents of sound self-devouring and returning to surprisingly rock-y riffs and choruses.
Rhythms ride the listener into each song with a developmental curl of ambition hiding in the nascent melody offsetting the fundamental emphatic notes of each riff. Over this the somnolent voice of a hoarse dreamer utters the combinations of monotone hinting toward similar melodic developments, always increasing the tension as each song uncurls. Echoback drumming punches a membrane and then answers it with a high-hat or cymbal hit to pull the attention between the major beats, where the subtle rhythms of strumming and fill await. Mostly here, however, the strumming moves in consistent and smoothly-shifting columns of chords, gaining its intensity from harmonic rather than rhythmic incrementation.
An almost mystical science rests in the often breathtakingly contrasting changes set up within these song structures, encompassing the simple changes of riff texture variation as well as differing types of music Ancient integrate into their stories unfolding. Like many atmospheric bands there are often long riding choruses with melodic variations, and these contain much of the eventual emotion in their integration of voice, guitar tone, and keyboard into almost ceremonial pieces.
Lead guitars define atmospheric in a new light, hearkening back to the 1970s when bands such as Pink Floyd or Camel cut the forefront of trip rock, but here are used in a much darker, more nihilistic power of manipulation. Beautiful and almost gentle though it is, this music covers a dark and compassionate side given to the night which is purely out of the romantic tradition. A good third of this album falls entirely outside the domain of black metal, being acoustic or ambient instrumentals moving slowly toward beautiful decay.
This music reserves itself from tearing into traditional metal extremes and focuses on the ambience created by its poetic tone creations, an essence brought to fruition by the dramatic and epic nature of these structures; the combination of aesthetic and insight ferments simple metal understood only in periodic ephemeral visions as it winds past, a river of melody unfurling into sea of dispersal.