VOLCANDRA - The Way Of Ancients

April 12, 2024, a month ago


Mark Gromen

Rating: 7.5

review heavy metal volcandra

VOLCANDRA - The Way Of Ancients

From the depths of that metal hotbed, Louisville, KY comes a pleasant surprise: the missing link between the jangly pomp of Dark Tranquillity (and by default, in part, The Halo Effect, due to moonlighting singer Mikael Stanne) and vintage Opeth (read, initial trio of albums), before Mikeal Akerfeldt discovered the Camel/Cactus back catalogs. There's a definite European vibe cocooned within these eight compositions, utilizing fluctuations in dynamics (including acoustic guitars) and multi-dimensional vocals, ranging from guttural harshness, to the melodic.

The disc kicks off with a tuneful buzz/drone of guitars, gradually rising in volume and intensity as they're joined by the rest of the still voiceless bands. The voice lands an opening punch, but soon goes even deeper, barking out orders, as a melodic swirl of guitars, parts the seas, for a moment of subtlety. "Fouled Sanctity" immediately jumps in the deep end, in terms of heaviness, intensity and death growl. Yet, half way through, a switch is thrown and it's lilting six-strings to the fore. Rest assured, it ends, much as it began.

A few distance, echoing piano notes and eerie effects precede "Nemesis Confession", perhaps the most straight forward black metal construct, but even here, it's not mere screams and bashing throughout, briefly adopting a haunting, more sedate tone. Spitting out the lyrics, a bit of rock ‘n’ roll groove (ala Satyricon) creeps into mid-tempo "Maiden Of Anguish". Released as a single, "Seven Tombs" begins with pizzicato strings atop an airy keyboard. It all end abruptly, as the bellicose instrumentation takes over. That doesn't mean the serene sounds are lost forever, as they make a valiant, last stand, in the final third, but ultimately lose out to the more brutish noises. At 3:32, it is the shortest track.

A thrashing headbanger, from jump, "The Blackened Temple" retains a strong sense of melody, throughout, despite what might be the disc's most vicious vocal performance. The first two-thirds of "Not Even Death" are uninspired, by-the-book, open chord black metal, until the acoustic guitar passage (out of nowhere!). The calmer feel segues into the lengthy titular finale, truly the masterpiece, overall. Owing a great debt, in terms of instrumentation, tonality and structure (but NOT actual melodies/sound), to the aforementioned Opeth classics, it features another unsuspecting drop off the proverbial cliff: from electrified rage, to pastoral acoustics and (eventually) back again.

Something brewing in those Kentucky hills, besides moonshine, just as sweet and maybe more lethal. Enjoy!

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