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Ancient Spell : Forever In Hell

A fairly hit-or-miss result from Ancient Spell's sophomore: their Death/Sabbath approach needs more consistency.

Doom/Death has existed long enough to have grown and branched off in several variations. Some bands aim for a unique sound rooted in both influences. Some play recognizable Death metal at consistently slow speed. Some add one or two of Death metal's ingredients over otherwise pure old-school Doom music. Ancient Spell are a west coast U.S. band in the latter group, playing hard-driving, high-impact Metal with rasping Death vocals over it, adding shades of 90s Alternative/metal to the pot. Their Minotauro Records release 'Forever In Hell' lays its cards right on the table with the first track, a routine headbanger that uses square riffs and gruff, unmelodic vocals. It's soon obvious that Ancient Spell aren't much concerned with artistic ambition, preferring to showcase a stomping gorilla groove.

'Forever In Hell''s seven tracks mix the good with the not so good about equally. 'Cease to Exist' includes a pretty neat heavy riff early on, but doesn't offer enough A-grade material and is marred by some underdeveloped vocal lines. The next track has precisely the same problem: a promising shuffle with only filler to follow it up. The vocals, in their several forms, are inescapably bad. At times they hover indecisively between a committed howl or an on-the-cusp-of-tunefulness singing voice, and the harsh variant is grating on the ears. Basic Sabbath-style Metal riffing with harsher vocals is a niche that has room for growth, but it needs to be done better.

Ancient Spell's music isn't quite primitive. Some interesting harmonic ideas are offered by the bass, maybe the album's best-employed element, and Jeff Clark has dialed in an absolutely delicious tone. And while the guitar riffs are somewhat "blocky", with predictable start and stop points and patterns, the solos are slick and enjoyable. The second half of the album avoids pitfalls in the early songs and makes for slightly improved listening. Bright spots include 'Eternal Embers' and the tempo-shifting 'Black Flame Ritual'. Admittedly, Ancient Spell haven't set the bar very high with 'Forever In Hell', but they do hit the mark. It's just that the good is evenly cancelled out by the bad, making for a result that shows potential but is presently unmemorable.

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Reviewer's rating: 5.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Under Your Spell
2. Cease To Exist
3. Fall Ov Humanity
4. Beyond The Gates
5. Eternal Embers
6. Black Flame Ritual
7. March To Your Grave

Duration : Approx. 37 minutes

Visit the Ancient Spell bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-03-13 by Mark Rzeszutek
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