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Ancient - Svartalvheim CD (album) cover

SVARTALVHEIM

Ancient

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

2.82 | 4 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Svartalvheim' - Ancient (7/10)

One look at the visibly budget-conscious and cheesy album cover of the Norwegian black metal band Ancient's debut full-length would very well lead one to believe that this was another obscure but forgettable exercise in all things blastbeat-rife and 'kvlt'. But much to my surprise, 'Svartalvheim' is an album from the second wave of Norwegian black metal that really stands out from the others in terms of its interesting stylistic direction. True, there are plenty of sounds here to root the band in with their compatriots Burzum, Mayhem and Emperor, but Ancient's adventurous take on the black metal sound here makes 'Svartalvheim' certainly worth the experience.

The closest act I could compare Ancient with at this early stage in their career would be Ulver, who was coming onto the scene at roughly the same time. Ancient uses much of the same folky acoustics here to contrast the otherwise lo-fi and simplistic black metal. 'Paa Evig Vandring' is the biggest surprise track here, a nine minute long powerhouse that goes from black metal into a longwinded baroque organ display, eventually developing into a psychedelic soundscape. The untitled closing track of this album even goes into spacey ambiance, sounding like it could have been taken from a science fiction film. However, much of 'Svartalvheim' is divided between acoustic folkiness and traditional black metal, and suffice to say, the less metallic aspects of Ancient are what they excel most at.

In terms of the black metal itself, it is not nearly the best that the Norwegian scene at this point would have to offer. Mayhem was able to capture the same blastbeats and dark riffs with a much more atmospheric quality to them, and the vocals here are a little underwhelming. Some of the riffs are darkly melodic, and while the black metal aspect of Ancient is never truly lacking here, it's not nearly as impressive as some of the other bands in Norway at the time, and is dwarfed even by their more experimental aspects. All the same, 'Svartalvheim' can be lauded for being willing to experiment with a genre that at the time was still wrapped up in murder conspiracies and church burnings. An impressive effort from this Norwegian duo.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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