By Kyle Harcott
Having watched Anciients grow since their inception in early 2010, it’s a fair assessment that Heart of Oak has been long-awaited by us locals. And their momentum is only gathering steam throughout the metal world at large. Your Humble narrator’s been warning that 2013 would be a big year for the band; and that prediction is about to come to fruition. Heart of Oak, the band’s full-length debut on Season Of Mist, has been strongly-hyped, and to my ears, justifiably so: the record plays like something the four-piece have been waiting their whole lives to release. There’s a strong sense of new-band hunger to what Anciients do, but at the same time, the spiraling, cromlechian riffs they weave so well mark them as old souls. Born from the ashes of local scene vets Sprëad Eagle, the four-piece Anciients have conquered by sheer instrumental prowess, lording their Rain City realm by way of intensive riff development; gnarled-root, Zeusian, BC-hydrolized riffs – hasher headbob delight, invoking as they do early-days Baroness, or well-before-they-went-weird Mastodon – but truly, that’s oversimplifying it. Put even simpler, this is lumber, beard, and weed metal, homegrown with Columbian ocean/mountain/sky pride.
Feel that anticipatory rush as the first chords ring on “Raise the Sun” – slaked with a soaked-sun hope, the song’s intro is a struggle to shed its chill above the damp, like the first buds of spring – as must be done when you come from a place that gets non-liquid sunshine four months of the year. When the distortion -that [savage] Viking-on-horseback- comes hurling all a-clamor, you can almost feel the sheets of October rain in your beard. It’s all here – smoky-mountain riffs for raising horns to, Boon’s bass reverberating in your guts like hooves hitting earth, Mike Hannay’s drums like Kw-Uhnx-Wa’s wings beating thunder to the sky.
Cornucopious sweet, crushing riffs aside (so many!), when they get heavy, the boys get heavy: “Falling in Line” is Anciients at their downright teeth-gnashing finest , Chris Dyck’s svartsnarl divebombs the song’s intricate math-wail straight to thrashing hell (see also: “Giants”). “The Longest River” couples hell-or-highwater gallop with obeliskian doom slabs, and “Faith and Oath” opens thrashing with precise abandon before conjuring a Neurosesque juxtachorus between the two vocalists, the whole thing culminating in an immense guitar solo that carries the song home. “Flood and Fire”, saved for (almost) last, encapsulates the heart of Heart of Oak and really, everything that Anciients have worked so hard to achieve, from its mellow, ominous intro all the seven-and-a-half-minute-way down to its resolutely Sacrificial thrash outro. Finally, in loving tribute, there’s the heartfelt swamp jam “For Lisa”, showcasing the Anciients’ gentler side, and revealing their love for Allman-esque breakdowns.
For such a glorious amalgam of sounds, though – does Heart of Oak still sound like Vancouver? Mission? The Lower Mainland? The Fraser Valley? It’s moot; we’re gonna have to share them with the rest of the world real soon anyway. But I can tell you, when the hairs on the back of my arm stand up during Kenny Cook’s you don’t have to be afraid line in “Overthrone”, well – you god damn right it does; to me, it sounds like home.
(Season Of Mist)
Heart of Oak will be released by Season of Mist in Europe on April 12th and in North America on April 16th