Success is a weird intangible thing. There are so many levels and different views of what success is and how to attain it. This is true especially in more anti-social leaning music such as punk and metal, where success can be considered bad if there is too much.
Last September, during Safe Amplification Site Society’s S.P.A.C.E. Camp conference, Minor Threat/ Fugazi’s Ian Mackaye said that he felt success in every step of being an artist. He felt success picking up his bass, writing a song, putting out a record and playing a gig. Certainly no one with any common sense is going to argue with a guy that has toured the world over and runs the very respectful label Dischord.
Does one measure it by the size of their bank accounts or perhaps how much buzz they generate on social media and blogs? Or is it through artistic freedom and expression?
One thing is for sure – the boys in Anciients don’t care, even with their album being named as “one of 2013’s most anticipated albums” by Decibel and getting a nod from GuitarWorld, it’s about the music and the friendships made through it.
Along with having a healthy local following, the band is set to hit the road with legendary metal act Death, on a tour that unfortunately doesn’t hit Vancouver.
Singer-guitarist Chris Dyck seems like a little kid that was just given a puppy when he talks about the tour. “Human, the record which they’re basically going out to play with that lineup is not only my favorite Death record, it’s probably my favorite death metal record and one of my favorite metal records. It’s fucking ridiculous. If they told us they were only playing the Leprosy album only I would have said ‘Yup! We’re going!’ Or if he said ‘We’re only doing Symbolic or the new stuff.’ ‘Yup! We’re still going.’ Acoustic! Still would have gone.”
Hannay has similar feelings touring with Death. “Just as a musician, we’re at a good opportunity to watch from behind the scenes all the musicians that are already well experienced. With the Death tour, I can just watch Sean Reinert behind the drums for the whole tour.”
Meeting the guys at Bully’s Studios, their rehearsal space located in New Westminster, you would be lead to believe that they have the same line of thinking as Mr. Mackaye. This nonchalant attitude isn’t one of posture for any type of anti-marketing dollar; it’s the love between a musician and their instrument and the love of writing a killer tune.
Now in its tenth year of operations, Bully’s provides a home for some of Greater Vancouver’s heaviest acts such as Black Wizard, Three Wolf Moon and, of course, Anciients. It’s the type of place where you can easily spend an evening hanging out with friends while drinking beers, playing arcade games or just chatting. This is the perfect atmosphere for some good ol’ fashioned riff-rock. As you walk up the stairs past the front office and arcade machines, you’ll open a door to a blue room with nothing but a couch and gear. Dyck is walking around the room making sure everything is on and in working order. This is very fitting considering that he also co-runs the promotion company Nothing is Heavy, who are responsible for bringing such acts to Vancouver as Yob and also playing a huge part in supporting the local heavy music scene. You can tell by the way that he talks about music that his heart is in it for the right reasons. He’s no fly-by-night promoter or hack musician; he’s a lifer.
Dyck always has something to say and is never afraid to say it. “In this band we can do whatever the fuck we want, I could give two shits, really! We already made a record where we could give two shits and people seemed to be stoked. So that’s great, can’t get any better than that, you know?”
Bassist Aaron “Boon” Gustafson adds, “To be honest, and I’ve said this a million times, I’ll be 60 and playing in my garage regardless of what happens but its going to be rad if we get to tour a lot. Money? I could give a shit. I play because I love to play music.”
Anciients, which also includes vocalist/guitarist Kenny Cook and drummer Mike Hannay, recorded their debut Heart of Oak and were quickly signed by the American heavy weight label Season of Mist. Season of Mist is the perfect label to release a band that has so many influences rooted in all aspects of heavy music and it’s also the home to such bands as Mayhem, St. Vitus, Morbid Angel, Kylesa, Leng Tch’e, and dozens of other metal bands in various sub-genres.
Cook explains the band’s song writing style by stating, “The album was basically ideas that start at home. You bring them all in and arrange them. There is never anything preplanned, its more of writing a riff that sounds awesome to you and getting the band to take it further to make it a song.”
Dyck adds, “We didn’t have any preconceived notions towards the album. Some of the lyric ideas started as a story that I wrote; point form, almost like a screenplay that I could go back, choose ideas or themes and write lyrics for it. We just wrote new stuff and looked back at the lyrics and went ‘Oh, these are the same themes that we’re touching on and let’s use a little more of that imagery.’”
The album was recorded over a weeklong session with Jesse Gander at the Hive Creative Labs in Burnaby. Even though the fall closure of the notable studio brings communal sighs, Dyck looks to the future with Gander joining Stu McKillop at Rain City Recorders in September.
“I hope we get to work with Jesse for the next record, personally. I don’t know what everyone is thinking but I personally hope too because he’s so easy to work with and such good friends. Stu is also awesome. We were just talking to Jesse and bugging him that maybe both of them should team up on our next record. We could get Stu in there for his ideas and get these two brains creating this monolith of a record, a fucking beast of an album.”
“If you have the time it’s great. To be rushed in that situation would be horrible. We were pretty well prepared so it was relaxed. Recording is pretty fun. I like that aspect of being in a band, chilling out and trying to write stuff,” notes Hannay on his time at the Hive.
Even though the band has just released their album, they have the eyes set on writing more songs and recording more.
Cook loves the recording process.
“Hearing the different layers, for me, from start to finish, and hearing at the end of the day what’s built up. The whole process is just awesome, it’s like going home everyday with a new record because there’s something new on there everyday,” he says.
“To be honest, if we had more time the record would just have been longer. We were in that mode where we would have just written more songs,” adds Dyck.
Luckily you don’t have to wait for their second record to hear their beast. Heart of Oak lands on April 16 and contains all the riffs one needs to get through your day. Songs like “Raise the Sun” and “Giants” bring on epic riffs that are infectious as they are powerful. This is a success that some bands never truly get to enjoy and Anciients did it with their opening track on their debut album. That’s no easy feat. The soulful solo on “The Longest River” balances out the vicious growling on “Faith and Oath”, just as “Falling in Line” keeps “For Lisa” in check. The entire album is a thinking headbanger’s gift. All in all, Heart of Oak is a success.
Anciients releases Heart of Oak on May 11 at the Astoria.
By Joe Smiglicki
Cover photos: SHIMON