I don’t smoke marijuana. I can’t, I’m allergic. I have been around enough people in my lifetime who do smoke to have had plenty of opportunities to do so. I would have tried it if I could. Instead, I just drank a lot of beer! I know you do not have to smoke to enjoy listening to many of the stoner metal bands like High On Fire, Orange Goblin, The Sword, and Spiritual Beggars. A new band that could be put in this category is Anciients from Vancouver, B.C. Canada. Seasons of Mist records released their first full-length album, “Heart of Oak“, on April 16, 2013.
Upon the first listen to “Heart of Oak”, you will know that Anciients is not your a-typical stoner metal band. They are much more progressive than that. They can be smooth, organic, and melodic like Baroness, then turn around and be ferocious and bludgeoning like Mastodon, sometimes all within the same song.
All the tracks on “Heart of Oak” kill thanks to Kenneth Paul Cook and Chris Dyck’s infectious and brutal guitar riffs. However, some tracks really stand out to me. ‘Falling In Line’ opens with an easy-going, harmonized guitar lick that sounds like it could have opened many a hair ballad in the 80’s. This shifts into a ballsy, blues infused guitar solo followed by a galloping drum beat. The vocals switch back and forth from melodic and soulful to harsh and intense depending on the feeling of the song. At the end, they even lay down some serious death metal scream growls.
‘One Foot in the Light’, a classical inspired guitar interlude that sounds like something from an Yngwie Malmsteen album, bridges the gap between ‘Falling’ and ‘The Longest River’. ‘River’ is aptly named not just because it is the longest track on the record, but also because this song gains energy as it flows on. Starting out easy and mellow, it swells to a punching double bass attack like hitting a patch of furious rapids. Finally, you are thrust out into smooth waters at the end, soaked, shaken, and exhilarated.
“Heart of Oak” ends with ‘For Lisa’, which starts out with a lonesome train whistle in the distance. This introduces a slower, jazzy tune, reminiscent of something off one of Sabbath’s first five albums. The song then builds into a 70’s Yes-like jam before simmering back down to the Sabbath-like groove.
“Heart of Oak” is definitely not your standard stoner metal album and Anciients are definitely not your run-of-the-mill stoner metal band. They have a lot more going for them and use many more influences than I typically hear in this vein of metal. I hope they continue to grow using their influences and push the boundaries of the genre, because the direction they are headed is very, very, promising. Progressive stoner metal? I think so!