Second wave Norwegian melodramatic black metal, pretty cool but rapidly degrading into commercially-purer music. However, pretty melodies and vaguely amusing eeevil lyrics make even the second album better than most stuff.
flag of Norway Ancient - Svartalvheim (1994)
Ancient - Trolltaar (1996)
Ancient - Det Glemte Riket (2000)
Ancient - The Cainian Chronicles (1996)
Ancient - Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends (1997)
Production: Deep atmospheric treatment of guitar music by amplification until background fill is achieved, floating vocals and drums on a seething mass of distortion with tonal peaks.

Review: Narrative black metal gains its power from long developing phrases and epic melodies hidden behind almost mundane, simple riffs, with emphasis on structure and epiphany in each song. Ancient develop this with a prowess for using speed-picking to create flowing muscular serpents of sound self-devouring and returning to surprisingly rock-y riffs and choruses.

Rhythms ride the listener into each song with a developmental curl of ambition hiding in the nascent melody offsetting the fundamental emphatic notes of each riff. Over this the somnolent voice of a hoarse dreamer utters the combinations of monotone hinting toward similar melodic developments, always increasing the tension as each song uncurls. Echoback drumming punches a membrane and then answers it with a high-hat or cymbal hit to pull the attention between the major beats, where the subtle rhythms of strumming and fill await. Mostly here, however, the strumming moves in consistent and smoothly-shifting columns of chords, gaining its intensity from harmonic rather than rhythmic incrementation.


1. Svartalvheim (1:35)
2. Trumps of an archangel (3:50)
3. Huldradans (5:53)
4. The call of the absu deep (5:26)
5. Det glemte riket (6:55)
6. Paa evig vandring (9:14)
7. Ved trolltjern (4:18)
8. Eerily howling winds (4:16)
9. Likferd (7:20)
10. - outro - (2:12)
Length: 48:54

ancient svartlvheim 1994 osmose/listenable
Copyright © 1994 Listenable/Osmose

An almost mystical science rests in the often breathtakingly contrasting changes set up within these song structures, encompassing the simple changes of riff texture variation as well as differing types of music Ancient integrate into their stories unfolding. Like many atmospheric bands there are often long riding choruses with melodic variations, and these contain much of the eventual emotion in their integration of voice, guitar tone, and keyboard into almost ceremonial pieces.

Lead guitars define atmospheric in a new light, hearkening back to the 1970s when bands such as Pink Floyd or Camel cut the forefront of trip rock, but here are used in a much darker, more nihilistic power of manipulation. Beautiful and almost gentle though it is, this music covers a dark and compassionate side given to the night which is purely out of the romantic tradition. A good third of this album falls entirely outside the domain of black metal, being acoustic or ambient instrumentals moving slowly toward beautiful decay.

This music reserves itself from tearing into traditional metal extremes and focuses on the ambience created by its poetic tone creations, an essence brought to fruition by the dramatic and epic nature of these structures; the combination of aesthetic and insight ferments simple metal understood only in periodic ephemeral visions as it winds past, a river of melody unfurling into sea of dispersal.

Production: Grey and sparsely distributed into the background, giving the strings a tarnished effect under thing distortion and masking drum tones. Vocals are purely projected however and preserve an immanent presence in this work.

Review: These two metal songs and one mellow instrumental prove simultaneously the power and simplicity of black metal. These compositions are extended but reduced in simplicity at the same time they are brought closer to the underlying compositional tastes of a mainstream society, which although disappointing is done in the style of an older almost stadium rock extravaganza that provides some humorous basis to enjoyment of these songs. However in the simple beauty of the fusion of function with frivolity is found the projection of epic fantasy that Ancient seek.


1. Trolltaar
2. Nattens skjonnhet
3. Fjellets hemmelighet
Length: 20:26

ancient trolltaar 1996 damnation
Copyright © 1996 Damnation

The songs are composed more like the songs from Enslaved's second album than any other black metal, with long cyclic riffs coming to emphatic closure and restarting, overlaid periodically by melodic guitar or background instruments without distortion. Each song moves through several riffs that are basically appended to one another in repeating sequences, and in a way reminiscent of Burzum almost randomly break into even broader structural revelations which although seemingly misplaced bring vast potential into motion with their context.

Over these moments of importance a jauntily inconsistent and straightforward melodic guitar solo stretches for life, sometimes revealing clearly the limitations of its player but placing a strong presence into the song.

The classic rock n roll cheese afflicting these songs does not detract from their epic nature, which creates itself in the illusion of communication that is only gesturing of a vast fantastic world. One can sense this EP is a transition process as each song projects a world and begins to reveal some of its nuance, drawing the listener into creating the world in his/her own mapping of reality.

The final track, a sound collage based around a simple guitar/keyboard riff evolution duet, builds an atmosphere of frigid lucidity in simple, inevitable elements that few ambient repetition freaks could do in a piece this simple. It's good stuff, although aesthetically unsettling and not as musically rewarding as the Ancient full length albums.

ancient det glemte riket
1. Trolltaar
2. Nattens Skjonnhet
3. Eerily Howling Winds
4. Det Glemte Riket
5. Huldra Dans
6. Paa Evig Vandring
7. Fjellets Hemmelighet
8. Algol
9. Sweet Leaf
Length: 54:31
Det Glemte Riket (Hammerheart, 2000)
Most of us in the present time cannot imagine this band not being terrible overblown gothic heavy metal, but they were once great, and this compilation of 7" tracks and the undernoticed EP "Trolltaar" from 1995 is convincing in establishing the strength and vitality of this second-wave Norwegian act. While the digital bedroom studio cover of "Sweet Leaf" is excessive, the rest of this material provides an essential vision of the band during their three most productive years.
ancient the cainian chronicles 1996 metalblade
1. Ponderous Moonlighting
2. The Cainian Chronicle - Part I: The Curse
3. Part II: Lilith's Embrace
4. Part III & IV: Disciplines of Caine / Zillah and The Crone
5. At The Infernal Portal (Canto III)
6. Cry Of Marianne
7. Prophecy Of Gehenna
8. Song Of Kaiaphas
9. Exu
10. The Pagan Cycle
11. Homage To Pan
The Cainian Chronicles (Metal Blade, 1996)
Staying within black metal and straying toward a filtered and nearly technically-credible sound, Ancient venture closer to mainstream music with a Uriah Heep styled concept and aesthetic in roomy songs which borrow from rock and blues to flesh out their ballad-structured lyrics. Parts of this are quite decent and show the maturation of riff-writing and playing skills, but others are so deadset predictable as to kill as future hope for this band. It is descent into the commercial void, in the vein of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, for this band after this, so for what it is worth enjoy this late night radio fodder.
ancient mad grandiose bloodfiends 1997 metal blade
1. Malkavian Twilight
2. A Mad Blood Scenario
3. The Draining
4. Um Gonho Psycodelico
5. Sleeping Princess of the Arges
6. Her Northern Majesty
7. Blackeyes
8. The Emerald Tablet
9. Willothewisp
10. Netpune
11. 5
12. Hecate, My Love and Lust
13. Vampirize Natasha
14. Black Funeral
Length: 67:06
Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends (Metal Blade, 1997)
Trying to take black metal in a gothic direction with melodramatic, theatrical narrative to epic styled metal, Ancient extend the concept which was stretched thin on their last album past the breaking point. Instrumentally, they are growing with every release. Artistically, death has visited and left in his wake more music devoid of personality, will, imagination or passion. Like obvious clone-targets Cradle of Filth, Ancient build a dinner theatre opera around heavy metal and put black metal vocals on top, hoping we'll buy it.
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