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4 stars Ancestors - "In Dreams And Time" 13/20

45th place album of the year 2012

I first stumbled on "In Dreams And Time" after its striking artwork caught my eye in the 'new releases' section of Prog Archives. I tracked down the band's facebook page, gave them a like, and thought that would be the end of it. But a few months later I spot a familiar cover in my local record store. I was intrigued at how a band like this could get their music shipped all the way out to my useless store in New Zealand, let alone on costly vinyl. I also thought how awesomely hipster I would be if I had a vinyl copy of an album from a band with <2000 facebook likes, and that I had never heard previously.

I contemplated purchasing it for a while, but after giving it a spin and hearing the first few seconds of "Whispers", I decided against it, because it really wasn't my thing. But for some reason I decided to download it anyway, probably because I had bandwidth to use up. Nevertheless, my strange decision to download this album which I had dubbed as "not my thing", led me to discover two tracks that were completely "my thing", and are amongst my favourite tracks released in 2012, "The Last Return" and "On The Wind".

Pirate haters rest easy, after my discovery of these two great tracks, I did in fact purchase the album, because I do that with albums I like. And after that, even the heavier side of the album grew on me, resulting in its placing in my album of the year list.

The music here has been described in many different ways, with stoner metal and psychedelic metal coming in most often, but many variants in between. Most of the heavier material draws from traditional doom metal, with majority of vocals being 'half-clean', almost yelled vocals primarily used in traditional doom and thrash metal, with occasional use of death growling (Corryvreckan), but mainly for texture as opposed to primary attention. Although naturally the music falls within the problem a lot of doom has with long and drawn out patterns becoming quite boring and repetitive. The final chorus (if it is a chorus) of "Running in Circles" is one of my favourite bits of the album, but it repeats too many times for me to bother counting. "First Light", being 19 minutes long, obviously falls into this category, and I believe the band could have got through all the themes and sections in at least 14 minutes, quite a bit of filler.

But despite being a bit long-winded, "First Light" is quite clearly the highlight of the heavier songs, showcasing some of the album's best vocal melodies, especially about 6 minutes in, the "This sea of sights will fall to rest?" section, which also shows some of their best use of psychedelic layering. As mentioned earlier, the long solo (not really a solo though) section is a bit boring, but it does showcase the band's ability to stretch a song out this much without immediately noticing it, which is a required skill for prog. The final section (last 3.5 minutes) is really worth the wait, and is one of my favourite parts of the album.

The real highlights of this album are the songs that pulled me in, where the band shifts out of the doom zone into more post-doom territory. And yes, post-doom is a genre I made up, mainly because there is no other way to describe this sound. It refers to bands who use the cornerstones of doom metal, atmosphere, texture, emotion, etc, to make music that isn't exactly doom-y, at least not in a melancholic, depressing way.

"The Last Return" is one of my songs of the year. In fact it currently sits in 11th place, on a list with some very good material. The song immediately reminds me of recent Anathema records, with the use of female vocals from co-writer Carah Faye. The song is based around some wonderful piano, which recalls some of Beethoven's sonatas in the song's climax. There is also an element of post-rock/shoegaze here (I still don't know the difference) with tremolo picking used throughout. As of today I have played this song 29 times, a real gem.

The atmospheric side of Ancestors returns in "On The Wind", which also brings elements from the heavier songs including the distorted guitar and harsh vocals. This is also the only other time piano is used, and hearing these two songs, I really think that piano can be a great asset to doom metal and should be used more, as whenever it comes in here the music is lifted so much higher. The vocal layering is also fantastically well done, layering both clean and unclean perfectly with the guitar and piano. The song ends with a lengthy solo over a Hammond organ, probably the best solo on the album.

This is a strong release from Ancestors, and I will be checking up on their earlier material, as well as watching for future releases. I recommend this to anyone who likes doom, layers, atmosphere, piano and classic psychedelic music, as this is quite an interesting modern and heavier take. I also recommend "The Last Return" to anyone with ears. Even my mother likes that song.

Stream the album for free here:

Review originally posted at my facebook page/blog

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Posted Friday, October 5, 2012 | Review Permalink

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