Anciients – Heart of Oak

365892 Reviewing metal albums is an odd thing, especially for those of us with the disposition that metal music is something more than an entertainment commodity that can be judged by an easily definable scale of quality or set of traits. For the most part, the music coming out of the metal underground (whatever that exactly is) is not the product of some lifeless manufacturing process; it is the result of countless of hours of practice, genuine hard work, and emotional investment from bands, labels, visual artists, promoters, and so on. For a reviewer, this can often make for a difficult balancing act between the technical achievements or failures of an album, all of the factors that add up to what the album physically is, and that intangible other factor, the interface at which each individual listener connects, or doesn’t, with what has been manifested in the world by the band in question.

So, what of Heart of Oak? It’s a slickly written, produced, and played work that very naturally weaves strands of progressive and hard rock with the darker threads of black, death, and doom metal into its complex, though accessible, structure. Clean, stoner rock esque vocals riding easily alongside harsh and vicious growls, complex, almost bluesy riffs, tasteful and richly textured solos, baroque acoustic passages, streams of tremolo melody, 1970s psych jamming, pounding doom marches, and adept and active drum work all add up to an impressive whole. It’s all been meticulously worked into songs both long and compelling, and finally wrapped in a pleasingly heavy, warm, and remarkably clear production. For a debut album in particular, there is a lot for Anciients to be proud of here. Heart of Oak will rightfully draw comparisons from other ‘progressive’ bands like Baroness, Mastodon, Opeth, and perhaps even Enslaved with their combination of relatively approachable hard rock with some of the harsher aesthetics and techniques of its distant relatives in the “extreme” metal camp.

And yet, I have to say that for all of its technical achievements, Heart of Oak did little for me personally. Yes, they are accomplished musicians; the songs are catchy and enjoyable to listen to in their way, but looking back on my many listens of the album, I could not recall any instance that really moved, excited, or inspired me. That’s not to say that the album was forgettable or displeasing in any way, but only that it felt overly polished and ordered in such a way that left me longing for some grit, dirt, wilderness, unpredictability. I’m not certain that Anciients can be blamed at all for my inability to make any strong connection to Heart of Oak; it’s undeniably a technically well made album, and though it’s not one I will be returning to, I fully expect it will find a loving audience able to appreciate it to a depth that I could not.

-Jake

Season of Mist

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~ by jakemoran on April 24, 2013.

One Response to “Anciients – Heart of Oak”

  1. amen to your conclusive remarks about album.

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