You’d have to forgive Vancouver’s Anciients for falling slightly short of the mark with their 2013 LP, Heart of Oak. With only one — albeit excellent — EP under their belt and thriving on their high energy live performances, Heart of Oak was placed squarely on the immensely unforgiving tracks of the hype train. I enjoyed the higher points on Heart of Oak but was ultimately left underwhelmed by it after the one-two punch of their EP. Voice of the Void does a lot to address my main criticisms of the first record, and it is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the more melodic sludgy offerings on the market these days.
If I had to quickly describe Voice of the Void to someone who felt Heart of Oak was a little lacking, it would probably be louder, heavier, and more importantly, more consistent. The songs on this LP just feel more cohesive in general, and the record fits together more readily as a result. Anciients is so capable of delivering technically impressive and savage sounding riffs, it was frustrating to hear those parts tacked on more like a second thought in Heart of Oak, which was more about delivering hooky, singable passages. Voice of the Void delivers its heavier moments in a more consistently forceful way and avoids the sags in momentum that ultimately dragged down its predecessor.
This record does deliver on that front. There are riffs, riffs, and more riffs. Every square inch of this record (apart from obligatory mid-album breather, “Descending”) builds around that fundamental concept. Voice of the Void seems to be a more immediate album, despite its slightly longer run time. I would argue that this record is a little less dynamic than Heart of Oak, but it seems to serve the material rather than work against it. The blending of prog and stoner elements that has become the cornerstone of this band’s writing style is here in spades and mostly prevents the material from getting stale.
There are definitely highs and lows to this record. For highs, I would point to album opener “Following the Voice,” which is the remarkably consistent high energy track that kicks off the record. Other high points include “Pentacle,” mid-album crunch-fest “Ibex Eye,” and the high energy galloping of “My Home, My Gallows.” Huge, organic sounding production accentuates these moments. Listen to the drums in “Pentacle” to get a good example of the depth to which I’m referring. Voice of the Void is still a guitar-centric album for the most part, and it would have been encouraging to hear the bass and drums to get more solo airtime during some of the instrumental breakdowns in some of the tracks. Still, the sounds of this record are genuinely improved from its predecessor in almost every measurable way. Some of the longer tracks constitute weak points, as I found my attention wandering during some of the cuts that breached the eight-minute mark.
Voice of the Void seems like the record that Heart of Oak should have been. It’s darker, faster, crunchier, and more cohesive. It is, all things considered, a superior record when placed in contrast with their debut. It is not a massive step forward, nor is it a significantly groundbreaking change in style for Anciients, but I do not believe that is what they set out to achieve. If you skipped Heart of Oak and are looking to fill the void of riff-centric, prog-infused stoner metal that has been mostly on vacuum the last few years, then I can heartily recommend giving this album a listen.