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ANCIENT

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Norway


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Ancient biography
Originally a Norwegian project, ANCIENT was originally a solo venture for Aphazel (vocals, bass, guitars) which started out back in 1992. With the addition of Grimm (drums, vocals) it evolved into more of a band venture, and the duo scored one demo the following year. Listenable Records then signed the band, and released their full length debut Svartalvheim in 1994, and the band subsequently self-released the 7 EP Det Glemte Riket. In 1995 the EP Trolltaar followed, issued by Damnation Records.

In 1995 Aphazel moved to the USA, and decided to continue the band project with new members Kimberly Goss (vocals) and Kaiaphas (vocals, drums). This revised edition of the band released the album The Cainian Chronicle in 1996. Following the support tour of this production Goss left the band, while Erichte (vocals) and Jesus Christ! (bass, guitar, keyboards) joined for the recording of the band's third effort Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends.

Additional upheavals in the line up followed, as Kaiaphas and Erichte opted to leave when Aphazel relocated to Italy, while Krigse (drums) and Deadly Kristin (vocals) joined for the recording of Ancient's 1999 effort The Halls of Eternity. Krigse would leave the band shortly after, with GroM (drums) replacing him and Dhilorz (bass) also joining at about the same time. This new line up recorded and released the full length effort Proxima Centauri in 2001 as well as the EP God Loves the Dead. Deadly Kristin left the band the following year.

The latest chapter in the recordiong history of Ancient appeared in 2004, with the album Night Visit. The latest official news about the band stated a current line-up consisting of Aphazel (vocals, guitars), Dhilorz (bass), Aleister (guitars) and Nick Barker (drums), but without any information concerning any future endeavours.

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Olav M. Björnsen, October 2010

Ancient official website

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ANCIENT discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

ANCIENT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.82 | 4 ratings
Svartalvheim
1994
2.67 | 5 ratings
The Cainian Chronicle
1996
1.94 | 4 ratings
Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends
1997
2.00 | 2 ratings
The Halls of Eternity
1999
2.00 | 1 ratings
Proxima Centauri
2001
2.00 | 1 ratings
Night Visit
2004

ANCIENT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ANCIENT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ANCIENT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ANCIENT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

1.00 | 2 ratings
Eerily Howling Winds
1993
2.00 | 1 ratings
Det Glemte Riket
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
Trolltaar
1995
2.00 | 1 ratings
God Loves the Dead
2001

ANCIENT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Cainian Chronicle by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.67 | 5 ratings

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The Cainian Chronicle
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

2 stars Ancient were one of those "Me too!" bands that popped up once the whole Norwegian black metal wave was really cooking. Following in the growing symphonic trends at the time, along with the usual shrieks, blastbeat sections and tremelo riffs, there's an abundance of keyboard usage for atmospheric effect, occasional female vocals and some folksy sections. All par for the course, which would be fine if Ancient were exceptional at what they did. That just isn't the case. Despite having song titles divided into "parts" and some pretty long tracks, this collection of tunes is pretty much standard mid nineties symphonic black metal that's certainly listenable with a decent production and occasional epic feel, but nothing to set them apart or approach the status of the more renowned names of the genre.

They were certainly ambitious, filling up this disc with over an hour's worth of music, including a silly interlude (sounding like some pagan rite performance art) and some epic length tracks that really have no reason to be so long. Talentwise, the musicians seem competent enough for what the songwriting entails, but don't go expecting any technical antics. The songs themselves have moments where riffs get close to being memorable and powerful, but those tides soon ebb as fast as they came. The album gets into a decent stride towards the end with the last two tracks (particularly The Pagan Cycle) in which the band finally seem to hit their stride, but getting there can be a chore.

The music here isn't terrible by genre standards whatsoever, it's just completely redundant of other acts that had more of an identity or creative edge to them. Ancient always came across to me a bandwagon jumper in a sense, wanting to be part of the big party but not bringing any presents, desserts or drinks along. Another one of those groups from the heyday of the black metal's second wave lost in a sea of corpsepaint.

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 Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 1997
1.94 | 4 ratings

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Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

2 stars With two solid black metal albums already under their belts, Norwegian act Ancient decided to take a bit more of a risk with Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends. Although the band was still rooted in their country's black metal scene, this third album sees them taking more than a few hints from gothic extreme metal acts like Cradle of Filth. As if the cover art doesn't say it all, the music here has a lot more to do with vampires and blood-drinking than your average Norwegian black metal record; although it makes for an interesting enough idea on paper, Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends is an exceptionally weak experiment from a band who exhibited tons of potential on their previous two albums. Rather than effectively conveying the dark and ominous atmospheres that Cradle of Filth are capable of, Ancient's attempt at this sound comes across as a cheap and hokey imitation rather than a valid artistic entry. Although I don't quite think Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends is the utter piece of trash that many metalheads make it out to be, it's still an entirely non-essential listen for virtually every demographic.

Ancient's previous album, The Cainian Chronicle, showed the band improving greatly upon the black metal side of their sound - while I wouldn't venture to call this a flawless album, it showed that with a bit of work, they did have a lot of potential to create a truly amazing black metal observation. Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends takes quite a few steps back from these improvements, and the black metal sections are instead supplemented by laughably cheesy gothic overtones that simply destroy any chance of creating a convincingly dark atmosphere. Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends lacks the innovative attitude of Svartalvheim and the impressive songwriting of The Cainian Chronicle - all that's left is a rather dull effort that offers very little in the way of enjoyment. Though the Cradle of Filth influence could've potentially been a good thing (after all, I am a proud fan of Dani Filth & co.), the poor production and soulless songwriting cripple any positive aspects of the release. Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends simply doesn't convey any of the bone-chilling atmospheres that I can expect when listening to a Cradle of Filth album, and the end result sounds more like an amateurish imitation than a recommendable listening experience.

I've been quite disappointed by Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends, especially considering the strength of Ancient's previous two albums. When it comes to gothic-tinged black metal, atmospheres and authenticity are key - effectively transporting the listener to a bleak, dystopian world is essential, and making it seem entirely genuine is every bit as important. Neither of these things are successfully fulfilled on Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends, and the result is an album that sounds goofy and amateurish rather than frighteningly dark and convincingly powerful. Though I've yet to acquaint myself with later Ancient albums, I hope this was more of a one-album fluke than a trend for their future releases; in complete honesty, this is not a good album in any sense of the word. 2 stars are the most I can give here.

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 The Cainian Chronicle by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.67 | 5 ratings

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The Cainian Chronicle
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After thoroughly enjoying their debut album, my next venture into the world of Ancient was with 1996's The Cainian Chronicle. Though the band's sound has largely remained unchanged since 1994's Svartalvheim (a big change in direction wouldn't occur until next year's Mad Grandoise Bloodfiends), this Norwegian melodic black metal group did show an increased level in maturity this time around. The Cainian Chronicle shows a possibly less experimental band than what was heard on Svartalvheim, but it's clear that they have also increased their ability to write memorable black metal compositions. My biggest knock with Svartalvheim was that, despite my immense enjoyment for the band's folkier side, their ability to write powerful black metal music wasn't yet quite up to par - that's fortunately been fixed with The Cainian Chronicle, and while the end result does sound a bit more run-of-the-mill than its predecessor, I think the album as a whole is just a tad stronger.

Before one goes into The Cainian Chronicle expecting an average and unoriginal black metal record, that isn't the case - though the focus seems to be in the direction of creating more memorable and less experimental black metal, Ancient still allows plenty of extraneous oddities to pervade their core sound. In addition to a few extended and mildly progressive epics, you've also got the occasional use of clean vocals (both male and female), as well as a beautiful interlude in the form of "Cry of Mariamne". The tribal drumming and strange orgasmic noises in "Exu" make for a pretty lame attempt at creating a dark atmosphere, but it is thankfully followed up by two amazing black metal epics. "The Pagan Cycle" and especially "Homage to Pan" are both excellent black metal songs, and together they stand out along with the four-part title track as highlights of the album.

At over 66 minutes, The Cainian Chronicle is a pretty long album, and not all of the songs are quite up to the standard set by the best that Ancient has to offer - that's not to say that the rest of this observation is bad, but it generally comes across as pretty average in the end. Thankfully, a few standout tracks still make The Cainian Chronicle a worthwhile sophomore effort from Ancient, and while I wouldn't venture to call it flawless, it's a recommended listen for black metal fans. The Cainian Chronicle is a less original album than Svartalvheim, but at the same time it is a more mature and professional work. Although I slightly prefer The Cainian Chronicle, I'll rate it with the same 3.5 stars I handed out to their debut.

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 Svartalvheim by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.82 | 4 ratings

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Svartalvheim
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by 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.

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 Eerily Howling Winds by ANCIENT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1993
1.00 | 2 ratings

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Eerily Howling Winds
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

1 stars Beginning as a one-man project from Aphazel in 1992, Ancient quickly turned into a two-piece by adding Grimm to the lineup on vocals and drums for the release of this early 1993 demo. Like many black metal acts from the time, the band made their first statement in the form of a lo-fi cassette demo that can be perceived more as a medium of jotting down their ideas than creating anything worth listening to. While there are a number of early black metal demos worth hearing, Eerily Howling Winds unfortunately suffers from an unlistenable sound quality and a derivative stylistic approach. Ancient would improve greatly for the release of the following year's Svartalvheim both in terms of originality and quality of production/musicianship. This one is only for the die-hard fans.

Musically, we're dealing with fairly standard second-wave black metal, albeit with little dependence on blast beats and furious tremolo picking. It's clear that the works of Bathory, Burzum, and Darkthrone had quite an impact on Ancient, and Eerily Howling Winds has just about everything you'd expect from a Norwegian black metal demo from this time period. There are actually quite a few interesting ideas and riffs scattered throughout the demo's 16-minute duration, but they're so obscured by a muddy production that the end result is hardly listenable. A bit of a shame, especially considering the atmospheric potential of a track like "Det Glemte Riket". Thankfully it, along with the rest of the demo, would see better recordings in the coming years.

While you'll find a handful of interesting ideas throughout Eerily Howling Winds, the fact that the production more closely resembles the sound of a vacuum cleaner than anything musical means this is a fan-item only. This is best avoided, and 1 star is the only fair rating in this case. If you're curious, I'd recommend hearing re-recorded versions of the tracks here instead - this demo is hardly worth your attention.

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 The Cainian Chronicle by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.67 | 5 ratings

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The Cainian Chronicle
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'The Cainian Chronicle' - Ancient (6/10)

The debut album of the Norwegian black metal band Ancient had fairly impressed me. With the sort of folkish influence that also made Ulver and Enslaved's first albums so magical, Ancient's left-of-centre approach to black metal was both surprising and effective. While this obscure band from the Norwegian scene had some great black metal riffs and howls going on, it was the more ambient and folky side of Ancient that got me hooked on them, it was something that distinguished them from the devilish hordes of the scene. 'The Cainian Chroncle' sees Ancient return again a couple of years later, and this time around, there is a heavier focus on the black metal aspects of this band. Although the black metal element of Ancient has been considerably improved from the last time around, its length and somewhat inconsistent second half puts the debut a slice above this one.

Ancient were a fairly progressive act for black metal at this stage, and the first four tracks of 'The Cainian Chronicle' compose the title track, a suite of music that seeks to tell some dark story that only black metal could be fitting of. Although this is very ambitious on paper, the music is not too much different from other Norwegian black metal this time around. There is a tad more of a melodic depth here than the par, but the music itself is fairly straightforward, focusing on giving a dark and powerful atmosphere. Aphazel's vocals here sound alike most black metal, but I find they are more comprehensible than most. Also, there are some spoken word sections which seem more for the sake of moving the story along than anything else. The music is fast paced and furious, but these otherwise generic black metal riffs become much stronger with the added melodic leads.

The first half of this album is very good, even better than Ancient's debut, I would say. Although there isn't that same folk vibe and most distinct style, Ancient's improvement in their black metal territory makes 'The Cainian Chronicle' a true feast of atmosphere. Sadly, the album goes on for far too long, and the second half is quite a bit less interesting or memorable than the first. After the title suite is over, the songs naturally start becoming less inspired. The interlude track 'Exu' is where I really noticed that 'The Cainian Chronicle' had taken a dive south, hearing convoluted tribal drums underneath what only sounds like a female and some chthonic hobgoblin reaching a state of sexual arousal together. I'm sure this may have had the intent of being a statement of primal energy or some new age philosophy, but it comes off as being pretty funny, and throws off the atmosphere that the first half of the album tried so hard to build up.

The final two tracks on the album are long enough to be called little epics of their own, but here, it definitely feels as if the album has drawn on for too long, and the riffs have become less melodic, and alot more generic. Ancient was certainly not lacking ambition here, but especially in the second half of this album, the ambition seems to turn on them, and results in something that overshoots the mark, and risks becoming monotonous before the end. If only this album had been edited and maintained that same sort of atmospheric beauty that those first few tracks demonstrated, 'The Cainian Chronicle' would have overshadowed its predecessor.

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 Svartalvheim by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.82 | 4 ratings

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Svartalvheim
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by 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.

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 Night Visit by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 2004
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Night Visit
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

— First review of this album —
2 stars The so far final album from this underwhelming Norwegian black metal combo.

I do not get the feeling this band was much missed when they stopped releasing albums back in 2004. I get the feeling this album is going to be another Cradle Of Filth copycat when the female vocals arrive at around one minute into this album. But this album branches out in other directions too. From more standard black metal to slightly symphonic, melodic and avant-garde black metal. The result is a pretty varied album. It almost feels like a cabaret, this album.

While the album is varied in styles, the quality is not great. It is pretty standard and Ancient does not add anything new to the black metal scene with this album.

In other words, this is a half decent album which underwhelms me.

2 stars

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 God Loves the Dead by ANCIENT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2001
2.00 | 1 ratings

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God Loves the Dead
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

— First review of this album —
2 stars An EP with the title track and a collection of rarities too.

This Norwegian black metal band never got the break through their labels and themselves craved. But that was not for the lack of trying.

The title track is a pedestrian black metal track with a lot of synths in addition to the guitars and the usual black metal vocal. It is nothing special and only a half-decent song. The single Trolltaar follows and does not bring anything interesting to the table. The version of Iron Maiden's Powerslave is interesting. It is not often anyone does coverversions of this track, one of Iron Maiden's best ever songs. Ancient drags this song down to the black metal underworld and that's it. Nothing special. The other songs is nothing special too and you get two videos here too.

This is an EP for their fans and nothing more.

2 stars

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 Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends by ANCIENT album cover Studio Album, 1997
1.94 | 4 ratings

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Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends
Ancient Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars In search for identity.....

Ancient took a bit of a left turn on this album and tried to find their own identity, far away from the rest of the Norwegian scene. So they found an identity..... Cradle Of Filth's identity...... and copied it from them. From cover artwork to the music. This is in the vein of Cradle Of Filth.

Cradle Of Filth is in most people's views black metal light with a lot of theatre and makeup. Ancient has copied this recipe and gone for a night in the theatre. The music is part vaudeville, part black metal and a lot of theatre music. What they ends up with is pretty dated and tiring. This album is not a disaster and those who likes black metal with a lot of dramatic female vocals, black metal screams, a lot of keyboards and the usual black metal.......phew........ will find an album they will like here. I am missing the good tunes here and disliking the whole sound and the wholesale Cradle Of Filth concept. So this album does not rocks my world, I am afraid.

2 stars

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