At the risk of prejudice and stereotypical profiling, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that large portions of the fans of progressive subgenres of metal enjoy smoking marijuana. The Venn diagram of herb tokers and fans of spacey, prog epics is pretty close to a perfect circle. As the Opeths, Mastodons, Priestesses and Between the Buried and Mes have diverted their paths, those following in their wake are rising. At the crest of this wave is the skyrocketing force that is Anciients, smokers of the great old gods (among other things).
Having only been a band since 2009, the British Columbian quartet have made massive strides and have accomplished more in four years than most established bands could ever dream. With their debut EP, Snakebeard (2011), and the recently released full-length, Heart of Oak (2013), the band is already signed to the often-excellent label Season of Mist. Between extensive touring throughout North America, festival appearances and a slot as support for Lamb of God with Decapitated, things have moved quickly in the Anciients camp.
“Good karma,” guitarist and vocalist for the band Chris Dyck says simply. “That’s what our lawyer Eric Greif always says: ‘Good shit happens to you dudes because you’re fucking nice!’”
These nice guys have found a way to effectively reproduce the prog metal sound with a deftly subtle touch. Guitarist Ken Cook and bassist Aaron Gustafson employ stonerish, fuzzy, low-toned heavy strings, which are compounded and juxtaposed by the extreme metal drumming tinges of percussionist Mike Hannay. Double kick is used frequently throughout the band’s recordings, but sparingly and tastefully for emphasis instead of drowning the listener in relentless low frequency oblivion. The songs are simultaneously easy to follow and even catchy at times, yet have a layer of depth in the riff writing that keeps the pacing in most songs interesting. Think Mastodon, but less emphasis on technicality and more emphasis on emotion and resonance, even if the band’s lyrical impact is somewhat of an afterthought for Dyck.
“It really works for us personally,” explains Dyck. “Unless people really identify with some fucking bullshit I’ve said about burning the beast or whatever, then that’s cool and great. Otherwise, it’s just lyrics. Some of them are just to fill in rowdy noises when we want it,” he says with an honest chuckle.
This honest and hardworking attitude continues to pay dividends, as Anciients will soon be embarking on yet another tour with technical prog acts TesseracT and Scale the Summit. Later this year, they will provide direct support for Sepultura alongside French Canadian death metal act Kataklysm and Boston metalcore group Unearth. To top it all off, they were announced for the 2014 version of Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands, curated by none other than Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt.
“We have been pretty lucky so far with everything… things have got quite a bit more awesome since the record came out,” says Dyck. “Seems like we struck a nerve with some people. That’s the best part to me: when someone is really stoked on the music, we do this for ourselves ultimately, but when people actually connect with it…” he pauses. “Well, it’s rad.
“We are setting our phasers to smoke.”
Watch Anciients with Scale the Summit and TesseracT on October 12 at the Gateway.
By Tanner Wolff
Photo: Shimon Photo