Album Premiere: Ancient Mastery – Chapter Two: The Resistance

Writers and artists build by hand little worlds that they hope might effect change in real minds, in the real world where stories are read. A story can make us cry and laugh, break our hearts, or make us angry enough to change the world. – Grant Morrison

One of the curious twists of fate in the black metal tale is the early, almost immediate injection of high fantasy themes into the music. Of course, this isn’t new to metal at all, but there aren’t a whole lot of generally known bands that came before the second wave that built their entire identity around The Lord Of The Rings, for example. Or, and perhaps more fitting to the subject at hand, creating their own mythos in the way Immortal crafted the mighty world of Blashyrkh.

Release date: December 2nd, 2022. Label: Northern Silence Productions
While the scene around Oslo was busy eating cornflakes and all generally trying to out-evil one other, Immortal were busy reigning as the Northern Chaos Gods of their own realm. They created this world and opened portals to it through a slew of undeniably classic records. Whether they realize it or not, everyone who has heard, is listening to, or will hear those albums play a part in bringing Blashyrkh a little closer to our own realm.

Austria’s Erech Leleth has been planting seeds of his own over the past few years with a handful of projects in and around the metal sphere. A storyteller as much as he is a musician, Erech’s Ancient Mastery project first drew breath and blood at the beginning of 2021 with Chapter One: Across The Mountains Of The Drämmarskol. An impressive work of fantastical epic black metal in its own right, the first installment blew the gates wide open, revealing the living world of Valdura. As a first chapter should do, it sets the stage for the world in which Ancient Mastery was born.

The latest installment, Chapter Two: The Resistance hones in with a dramatic, cinematic zoom on elements only hinted at in the sonicscape of Chapter One. Those greyscale flirtations between the rich atmospheres of Summoning and a smoother, softer touch to the icy wall of sound of Paysage d’Hiver blossom with an explosion of technicolor as Ancient Mastery really begins to take shape.

The vocals on The Resistance are more pronounced and forward in the mix–Erech clearly wants the story to be heard and not occulted through an entirely indecipherable voice–in fact, the Immortal nod comes full circle when it comes to the reptilian croak of Erech’s gurgling esophagus. As a counterpoint, the soft contralto of Circe’s haunting, feminine vocals that were only hinted at upon the conclusion of Chapter One take a more role central role in the plot of the music on Chapter Two,

Meanwhile, the music itself is bleeding with old blood power metal. The epic mid-tempo at the heart of “Entering Valdura” reeks with the stench of The Hall Of The Mountain King smell’t by the nostrils of At The Heart Of Winter-era Immortal and written around a story with the heart of Rhapsody. (I mean, if “City Of Broken Dreams” doesn’t evoke the way in which Rhapsody tell a story then I would implore you to listen to more Rhapsody).

Approach Chapter Two: The Resistance as a black metal album, and you’re sure to be disappointed. Approach it as a symphonic power metal album, you’re sure to be intriuged. Approach it for a love for both, and you’re in for a treat. Erech’s talents as a musician, a storyteller, and a world builder collide on his latest work. Even if it’s a bit limited by the fact it’s not recorded by a full orchestra in a symphony hall, it’s not all that difficult to listen to it as though it were. Imagine that breakout from the climaxing riff on “The Uprising,” that bit where it hits hard on “The Trooper” around the 3:48 mark and just bleeds Iron Maiden over everything.

Chapter Two is delivered from a crimson curtained stage. Something about it begs for grandiose comparison to the likes of Symphony X or Dream Theatre or Rhapsody, where the music is often overly crafted around the story. Sure, it’s buried a bit by the constraints of homebrew production, but the ideas are HUGE–someone give Erech a proper hall to record in and a live symphony orchestra, he’s one hell of a composer. If anything, Chapter Two more than proves the band’s commitment to their vision, and makes Valdura feel a little closer, a little more engrained, and a lot more defined.

(Either way you end up feeling about it, if you click the link below, be forewarned: Conscious or otherwise, you bring Valdura a little closer.)

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

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