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Ancient - Svartalvheim CD (album) cover

SVARTALVHEIM

Ancient

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

2.82 | 4 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 1994 was an amazing year for black metal, with seminal classics from acts like Emperor, Burzum, Mayhem, and Darkthrone - to name but a few - making a major impact on the genre for years to come. With so many big releases coming from Norway during this year, naturally a few gems have been forgotten with the sands of time. Svartalvheim, the debut album from melodic black metal outfit Ancient, is one release that has become a bit overlooked by black metal fans over the years - whether or not that's intentional is something I'm not sure of. A lot of black metal fans like to poke fun at the cheesy and gimmicky gothic style on the later releases from Ancient, so they may have dismissed this debut as something of that nature - a big mistake on their part. Though the band later moved away from anything resembling old school black metal, the primitive spirit of the genre is embraced (minus a few twists) throughout the majority of Svartalvheim. An original and captivating debut indeed, Ancient definitely got off on the right foot with this solid effort.

The music you'll find on Svartalvheim clearly has a strong influence from acts like Burzum, Darkthrone, and Mayhem, with its fast tremolo guitar picking and blast beats immediately instilling in the listener that this is not an easy listening experience. Though I wouldn't venture to say that Svartalvheim is terribly unique, it does have an identity of its own - not necessarily in its black metal portions, which are (admittedly) fairly standard, but more in its ability to incorporate folky acoustics, atmospheric keyboards, and even church organ into the mix. The heavier portions are still interesting enough, but they fail at creating the cold atmosphere that I long to hear in a black metal record. It's really the non-metallic sections that grab my attention most. Though I wouldn't call Svartalvheim a particularly progressive album, the band does hint in that direction quite often. "Paa Evig Vandrig" especially shows the band at their most progressive and experimental. This nine-minute long track sports an extremely epic, almost viking-like atmosphere that's aided by lovely acoustic guitars, keyboards (even an extended church organ section!), and creepy whispered vocals. An absolutely splendid track, for sure. You'll find plenty of other goodies throughout Svartalvheim, especially towards the second half, but it's always this one that leaves me with goosebumps.

While a good amount of the album is fairly average and the production is a bit dry at times, there are more than enough jaw-dropping moments throughout Svartalvheim to justify a purchase for anyone interested in black metal. This duo entered the scene with a great debut, and while I'm not yet well-versed in the rest of Ancient's discography, this album has certainly piqued my interest. I'd say 3.5 stars are well-deserved for this impressive, but not flawless, debut offering.

J-Man | 3/5 |

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