Ancient album review – Back To The Land Of The Dead

Idiosyncratic Norwegians Ancient make a prodigal return with new album

Ancient 'Back To The Land Of The Dead' album cover

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Ancient are a somewhat unusual entry in the Norwegian extreme metal canon. Their very early works, dating back to the early and mid-90s, are regarded by many with respect but they quite quickly morphed into a more commercial – and less credible – proposition, a sort of sub-par Cradle Of Filth complete with vampiric themes and unconvincing band photos.

Now they’ve returned after over a decade of silence, with veteran former Cradle/Dimmu Borgir drummer Nick Barker amongst the ranks to boot.

Despite his presence, however, Back To The Land Of The Dead is actually far less Cradle/Dimmu-indebted than earlier efforts and is surprisingly aggressive, with guitars, high-paced percussion and, to a lesser extent, restrained use of synth and tasteful clean guitar forming the basis of most songs. Lengthy, epic and embittered riffing is probably not what many would expect from the band, but that’s the basis of most of the music here, the end result being if not a classic to rival their early releases then a highly proficient album of 90s-style black metal with a distinctly Swedish overtone.