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Ancient Lament : Messages From The Crystals

Ancient Lament's debut sees the extraterrestrial Funeral-nauts off to a good start.

You would have had some excuse not to have heard of Frozen Light, a small, eclectic and underground Russian label with little in the way of Doom in its back catalogue. That may be changing, however, given last year's joint release (with Moscow Funeral League) of the excellent Unmercenaries debut, and the just-released Abysmal Growls Of Despair/The Cold View split. And, in between those two, there was this: the Ancient Lament debut, and perhaps the first album ever to carry the official Doom-metal.com logo on its cover. The reason we received a very polite request to use that is simple: the band formed online, having 'met up' on these very forums.

At least one of the members should be familiar: Hangsvart, of the aforementioned AGoD, and possibly the busiest man in all of Doom at the moment, taking time out from his many solo projects to contribute his familiarly cavernous growls. The other half of the duo, instrumentalist and writer Borgion - aka (Lord) Doomhead - may not be so well-known in these circles, having spent more time with Black/Forest Metal projects (Salamander Funeral and Vinterforst).

'Messages From The Crystals' is something Ancient Lament describe as extraterrestrial Funeral Doom, inspired by various paleoastronautic theories and myths. That's territory which has seen some coverage in the past, out of which one could draw comparisons with a less melodically-inclined The Howling Void, and a downtuned, murkier Rostau. The latter, particularly - with their emphasis on purity of concept and application of both ancient and modern texts within their sole release 'To Die and to the Stars Ascend' - capture a similar sort of cold vastness, shaped by disciplined yet experimentally free-form musical explorations.

In Ancient Lament's case, this is largely conveyed by guitar, against a somewhat muted and homogenous background of low-level noise, synthesiser tones and occasional choral moments, and stately, minimalist percussion. Hangsvart's trademark vocals rumble across this soundscape like pure texture: though they are voicing lyrics, the slow, indistinct flow of them may as well be a wordless exercise in pitch and modulation. (For those interested in the lyrical content, these are printed in the digipack, taken from sources such as the Icelandic Eddas, the Sanskrit Mahabharat, or written by Borgion). Clean, semi-spoken vocals do also feature in places, effectively blended in to the sound so as to give a similarly obscure incomprehensibility.

Accompanying - or sometimes opposing - that rhythmic, steady pace are the twin guitar lines, comprising a heavy, distorted, layer of often-crashing, frequently-chorded sequences and a freer, clean, more improvisational and wandering melody. There's no detail given, but the former is so often down in the lower registers that if it isn't a bass, it might as well be. And the latter isn't especially melodic, except in the sense of carrying the main thrust of the musical direction. Shards of Eastern rhythms mix with more conventional lines, each improvisational-sounding and covering the full range of elements from harmonic to dissonant. There is, in short, a good deal of variety conveyed within. That may make it difficult to follow, or predict, exactly what twists and turns are being explored, but it doesn't detract from the overarching image of stellar distance projected by the music. Though lacking in warmth, and often cruelly atonal or harsh, it nonetheless ebbs and flows like a cosmic tide: trippy and meditational - like a galactic version of whale song broadcasting out into the night.

All of which hangs together extremely well, in my opinion, throughout the majority of this voyage, peaking at the ethereal and compelling 'Messages In The Crystals'. Try as I might, though, I can't say the same of the monolithic closer 'Ancient Lament Of Quantum Race', which has the most blatantly antagonistic and discordant guitarwork to be found on the album: if the point was to portray a hellish cacophony, then it succeeds admirably, but I find it very hard, and not terribly palatable, going indeed (though the second half of the 22-minute piece does relent a little).

Still, for my money, there's more than enough good stuff in the first 45 minutes to compensate for that, and the general attention to atmosphere and detail throughout make it an interesting prospect for anyone who finds the more unconventional ends of extreme Funeral to be worth exploring. For added collectability value, it's packed in a very attractive 6-panel digi, limited to only 111 copies, though those are already sold out on the parent site, so you'll have to be quick to track one down. Take-away lesson: I recommend keeping an eye out for both Ancient Lament and Frozen Light in future.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Maze Of Prometheus
2. The Fall Of Lemuria
3. Escape To Agartha
4. Messages In The Crystals
5. Ancient Lament Of Quantum Race

Duration : Approx. 69 minutes

Visit the Ancient Lament bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-06-07 by Mike Liassides
Rotten Copper
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