Thursday, August 6, 2009
Ancestors - Of Sound Mind  [Review]
Over the last few months I have briefly conversed with band guitarist Justin Maranga through blog comments and the odd email with regards to the band's first release, and this, their sophomore release - due out October the 6th on Tee Pee Records. Judging from his opinion and my own excitement, i had huge expectations for this record. I was lucky enough to score a full preview the other night.
I really enjoyed 'Neptune' last year. It was so different from everything else i'd heard at the time. I came into this one expecting to be surprised and certainly was. For starters the riffs are just as gigantic as Neptune, but we knew they would be! This time around they have tightened it all up.. adding and including all different sounds, dimensions and themes to keep it fresh. Structure wise, there are 4 monster tracks - each clocking in at around 15 minutes give or take - and a series of short and contrasting interludes.
The opening track 'From Nothing' is the shortest on the album and is filled with all kinds of bizarre fidgety sounds, as if the band were preparing to deliver the collective wallop you know is on it's way. It leads into the doomy beginning of 'Mother Animal', which after 3 minutes of slow thunder turns into a short funky desert-like groove you can't help but smile and nod along with. The song builds and builds with momentum. You think you're at the peak of it and bam! Things eventually simmer down as the vocals re-appear, returning us to the stable gravity pull we know - if only for a moment! The bass and percussion keep it driving slow and doomy throughout, while the mesmerizing guitar and haunting organ paint all over the open canvas.
'Not The Last Return' is the first of two short and great piano pieces, letting your ears adjust. You can be sure another ass-kicking is waiting for you in a few moments. 'Bounty of Age' is currently streaming on the Tee Pee site, check it. The bluesy guitar playing in the middle parts is absolutely breath taking. It actually kinda reminds me of something from Neil Young's 'On the Beach' album, one of my favourites. Again the organ is just pushing the entire thing along from the background, it seems to be a common theme throughout the record and works very well. 'A Friend' is a new and interesting dimension to the band, making use of electronics and synthesizers, sounding like a lost part to Jean Michel Jarre's 'Oxygene'.
It leads in to arguably the greatest song the band has created to date, 'The Trial'. The moment i heard the guitar come in i was amazed, the tones are just so damn powerful and majestic. This is clearly Justin's time to shine and he does as it slowly burns along. It's truly incredibly how these guys can turn the most sonically beautiful sound into such an evil, menacing beast. Such is the case as the song dips down into uncharted darkness, at which point Sera Timms of label-mates Black Math Horseman enters. I've been obsessed with their own album since it's release, and needless to say the Ancestors setting suits her to a tee! Never mind the fact i can't understand a word she says, she possesses one of the most distraught and powerful voices i have heard in a damn long while. She seems to be buried a little low in the mix, granted she still sounds great.. perhaps just a little quiet. I'm sure this was the sound they were going for though, and therefor is but only a minor quibble.
'Challenging', much like 'Not The Last Return' sees the return of the lonely piano as it's chord patterns pulsate throughout the quieter track - this time accompanied by some lovely acoustic guitar playing, which was a pleasant surprise. It serves as a great intro to stylistically, the most straight-forward of the longer pieces. Consider it the melodic ending to the insane trip, the rockin' journey back to our home planet! It moves quick, stays just long enough and kicks a great portion of ass before slowly coming to a close. This really sounds like all that 70's hard rock influence just gushing out. An outstanding closing to an outstanding album.
You can really tell the production has been amped up a few notches here. I absolutely love the keys spread all over this album, the bluesy guitar solo's are very tasty as well. Every track was firing on all cylinders, but if i had to I'd say 'The Trial' definitely blew me away the most. It's not very often you get that stunned in amazement feeling that this song left me with. Running in at just over an hour usually pushes it for me, but i still didn't want this one to end. I can tell i'll be revisiting it over and over again.
Be sure to pick this one up when it drops. Album of the year material for sure.
Tee Pee Records