As Ancients sit in the control room of The Hive Creative Labs in Burnaby, mid-way through recording their debut album, the four members of the band ponder what motivates them to play music. After some thoughtful discussions of their passions and inspirations, guitarist/vocalist Chris Dyck sums it up, “I just like smokin’ joints and crushing fuckin’ riffs! Big doobs, big riffs! Smokes. Doobs. Riffs.”
He’s only partially joking, but while there is a relaxed and jovial vibe among the band and an obvious love for the simple of joy of playing loud and heavy music, it is also clear that they take what they do very seriously. This is evidenced by the focus and drive displayed as they plough through new tune “Seeking Death Beneath the Waves,” which they nail in only a handful of takes. It’s an impressive demonstration of their talent considering the song’s complexity and, more pertinently, the weed that they’ve just consumed.
Dyck, guitarist/vocalist Kenny Cook and bassist Aaron Gustafson formed Ancients two years ago after their previous group Spread Eagle disbanded. In September 2010, after original drummer Eugene Parkomenko left to focus his efforts on local stoner rock heroes Black Wizard (in which Cook now also plays), the band was on the search for a new man behind the kit. Cue current percussionist Mike Hannay.
“We were kinda fucked for a couple of weeks there and then the miracle child, the golden drummer child came along,” Dyck describes of the situation. “We auditioned other people, and they were really nice guys and everything…”
“Apart from the one whose favourite band was Korn,” interjects Cook.
“…but they didn’t really learn the songs” continues Dyck, “Hannay came and he fuckin’ knew the songs! There may have been little flubs or whatever, but he fuckin’ knew ‘em and we got through one song and then half another one and we just stopped and we were like ‘Hey do you want it? You’re the guy!’ It was pretty simple.”
Since then the band has focused most of its energies on writing material and jamming in their rehearsal space in New Westminster, opting to only begin playing live in earnest just over a year ago. “We’ve made it to Kamloops and the island, but we’ve just been trying to get a little buzz going around home first.” Cook explains.
Last summer the band released a self-titled, two song sampler. Featuring “Humanist,” a potent mixture of death, thrash and trad metal influences, and “Built To Die”, which married furious riffage with huge melodies to stunning effect, it was a definitive statement of intent. Despite the strength of those two songs, the band isn’t content to tread water and neither will appear on their forthcoming album.
“We’re constantly exploring. That’s pretty much our vibe and we don’t really sit in one pocket all the time, whatever sounds cool.” Indeed, the new record sees the band branching out beyond their established template to incorporate everything from jazz-inflected guitar solos and flashes of black metal menace, as on “Faith and Oath,” to the bluesy lament of “For Lisa”, which commemorates the recent passing of a beloved family member of Dyck and Cook.
The band chose to record their eight-song, as-yet untitled album with the talented Jesse Gander, who has produced records for countless acts in Vancouver, including some of the best local metal bands of the last few years, such as Bison B.C. and Weirding.
Much like other exciting bands in the contemporary metal scene (Mastodon, High on Fire, Kylesa), Ancients skillfully assimilate forty years of heavy metal history, not to mention influences from other genres, into a cohesive style that evades sub-genre categorisation and tedious homogeneity, resulting in a sound that’s relevant yet timeless.
Having enjoyed the privilege of an unmixed preview of the collection, Discorder can confirm it’s an absolute monster. Beautiful acoustic passages segue into monumentally heavy riffs, and every song is punctuated with dramatic time changes and is brimming with ambitious ideas.
Dyck admits that one of the main reasons he’s in the band is simply because he likes “Feeling the fuckin’ pure, crippling, crushing tone in my feet and my fuckin’ eyeballs and big, heavy riffs,” but what’s particularly striking about the album is the finesse that Ancients brings to its every aspect. Every song has been meticulously crafted with exceptional prowess; never does a riff seem superfluous and never do juxtaposed passages feel ill-matched.
The band’s adventurous approach to music is carried through into their search for lyrical inspiration. “When it’s an Ancients song, it can’t be about fuckin’ boning chicks or fuckin’ shotgunning beers or something,” Dyck says with a laugh. “I read tons of books about weird shit. Lately I’ve been reading this book about weird healing powers of water. I’ve been reading the Quran, and I’ve been reading Zecharia Sitchin; books about the Anunnaki and Sumeria. Me and Kenny are into cool space documentaries and stuff like that too. I like symbols and symbology, there’s no shortage of stuff. I’ll read some weird Egyptian passage about some chant they used to do or some hymn to whatever particular god and I’ll get that line and then take it off on my own tangent.”
Now with a stunning debut album almost done, to be released later this year, the band hopes to get signed. “We’re really motivated to go on tour this year and just tour the shit out of it,” Dyck says determinedly, “so to have someone to put it out and distribute it would be ideal…it’s just tough coming up with that much money, you know?” Considering the successes of friends and fellow Vancouver metal groups like 3 Inches of Blood and Bison B.C., the band’s aspirations certainly don’t seem too fanciful. The future looks pretty damn bright for Ancients.