By Heath Fenton
VANCOUVER — In 2013 Vancouver metal band Anciients seemingly came from out of nowhere to release their debut record, Heart Of Oak, on renowned Philadelphia-based label Season Of Mist to large fanfare; so large in fact that they were nominated for a JUNO Award and also were on the long list for the highly-coveted Polaris Music Prize. Not to mention the spottings on many year end “best of” lists; all this after tours with so many bigger and more likeminded bands, chief among them being opening slots for Death and Lamb Of God. It was simply an amazing feat for a tiny metal band coming out of the West Coast of Canada.
“It was a strange thing when it happened,” guitarist/lead vocalist Kenny Cook says. “We had no expectations of the record even getting out of Vancouver. It was quite an amazing feeling to get recognized at that level.”
Fellow guitarist/vocalist Chris Dyck reiterates: “It was motivating. We must have struck a chord with somebody. It was pretty awesome to be all of a sudden thrown to the wolves as far as the touring that was involved with the record doing so good. We got to go out and play with some pretty crazy legendary metal bands and it all happened so quick.”
It’s been a hurricane for Anciients, who are rounded out by bass player Aaron “Boon” Gustafson and drummer Mike Hannay. With the exception of young Hannay, they actually all weren’t rookies at the game. Gustafson, Dyck, and Cook have all been around Vancouver for many years and committed a fair share of their time to the local music scene. Mostly in death metal bands and hard rock party bands that had done nothing outside of Western Canadian mini-tours. Nothing near the level that Anciients has achieved. For Hannay, when he joined the band he was a 19-year-old freshman. The “golden child” as Dyck puts it. Sometimes it just takes some time to get your shit together and find the proper outlet.
With Anciients, they have all found the proper outlet, covering so many realms of what metal’s vast soundscapes revolve around. The quartet can spiritually enhance your vibe with acoustic interludes, then lead you into the abyss with pummeling fists of furious mind bending riffs, all while having you nod approvingly in a haze of a hypnotic smoke and mirrors. It’s a combination of so many styles that somehow they take precious time to arrange in such a prog-rock type of way that molds perfectly. The songs soar, they are epic, and, most of all, they can keep the interest of the most basic metal head as well as the nerdo aficionados. It’s sort of like Opeth on quaaludes teaching High On Fire in math class.
After Heart Of Oak, for the four lads a turbulent year was to follow as Cook’s wife (also Dyk’s sister) dealt with life-threatening postnatal complications. They would take a year off to decompress and compose. Eventually they would get back to work writing again and doing what they knew best. They figured it all out and returned to the studio with Jesse Gander at Rain City Recording. The results are a stride up to the highest most standards and their new album, Voice Of The Void, is gonna be a game-changer. It’s a bit darker and a bit heavier, but every bit of what Anciients have become. The new album breaks out harshly from the opening menace “Following The Voice” and does not relent and hardly repents. It’s moody, violent, fierce, soulful. The sweetness still lingers on songs such as “Descending” and “Incantations,” but overall there seems to be more crushing aspects of the riffage than the previous album.
“The first record was kind of finding out what we sound like,” Dyck explains. “We never really heard the music recorded. We played a lot of gigs locally that year, but other than watching them on someone’s phone we really didn’t know what we sounded like recorded.” It is safe to say that there is no sophomore slump for Anciients. They are just finding their groove.
“I thought we could be a heavier band, a faster band. Because we knew with Hannay, he had way more speed and double-kick crazy shit he could do that he didn’t really get to throw down on the last record,” Dyck points out. “Kenny’s vocals are so crushing now. From touring all the time, everybody is better at what they do and in some aspects a whole lot better. When I played on the last record I was freaking out. On this one I felt more confident. I am a better musician now, which is awesome. There was a lot of pressure to kick ass because we all of a sudden were on such a professional level.”
Cook conveys this, “the overall sound of the new record is amazing in comparison. The melodies are stronger, the vocals all turned out better. We did try to take it in a different direction, but still keep the same vein we established.”
Voice Of The Void officially comes out on October 14th, but it is getting mad streams right now from metal web sites like Blabbermouth to mainstream sites like Billboard and the feedback has been amazing. Anciients are ready to take the next step into the void with their new album. A humble bunch with a stellar prowess that will be realized by a whole whack of new fans when the new opus is upon us. They haven’t even touched the rim of what they are capable of slamming down. Their new music proves that point. It bleeds of growth and a maturity of what was already a sturdy existence.
Anciients album release just happens to coincide with an opening local slot for Gorguts. More bucket list stuff for the boys. “If you told me five years ago that I would even meet Gorguts, then be playing with them, and actually becoming good personal friends?” Dyck says. “It’s crazy. I had Gorguts’ debut album brand new in 1991 on tape. It’s a huge deal.”
Anciients perform at the Rickshaw Theatre on October 14th with Brain Tentacles, Intronaut and Gorguts.Anciients, BC, British Columbia, Rickshaw Theatre, Voice Of The Void