Thursday, 21 February 2013

#253 Ancient VVisdom - Deathlike

Without a doubt, Ancient VVisdom's music has an interesting recipe. I remember buying the début - A Godlike Inferno - blindly one day, and, after a few listens in which I acquired the taste, being thoroughly impressed by the minimalistic and unique blend of Americana with the occult and sensually dark music. As soon as I realised the band were releasing a follow-up album, which I believe was released earlier this month, I knew I'd be acquiring a copy. Now begins the adjustment period of deciding how I feel about it. the question on my mind, and probably on many minds, is whether this is a worthy follow-up.

I don't know how most people feel, but when a band has a thoroughly unusual and thus-far not-emulated sound, as Ancient VVisdom do, I can't help but have a greater notice than I might usually have with regards to the changes between albums. What, for instance, have the band decided to incorporate? Where do they seem to be taking the sound which they have themselves spawned? Deathlike seems to be the sort of sophomore album which, to review, one has to cater not only to the changes, but to also examine the rods of consistency which run through it and it's predecessor. To first examine the latter, it's safe to say that there are numerous elements which are being used to a similar effect on Deathlike - pleasingly, the album is still composed of primal, thudding percussion, acoustic guitar and dark, crooning vocals, deployed in much the same way as they were in A Godlike Inferno. In some places, the similarity is almost palpable, with some very similar lyrical and vocal structures with regards to rhyme and intonation, and the occasional guitar lick which you could be sure you'd heard somewhere before. A pessimist might call it re-hashed, an optimist might call it clever use of recurring motifs. For me, the jury is still out. Personally, my enjoyment of the record hasn't been compromised at all; The music seems more mature, and there's a degree more depth to it in places - perhaps the simplistic, plodding charm of A Godlike Inferno gets left behind occasionally, but Deathlike certainly comes at the listener from a greater number of angles, and for music which is largely acoustic in nature, the whole album carries a lot of intensity, pound for pound, and often more intensity than it's predecessor, too.

In terms of atmosphere, the album seems to be much more diverse. A Godlike Inferno was almost uncompromisingly dark, occult and velvet, even among the songs which were more catchy and warm. While Deathlike isn't merry by any stretch of the imagination, there are certainly songs which take on a more shimmering, whimsical mantle - not necessarily more catchy in and of themselves, but certainly less dark, earthy and brooding at times - songs like "Here is the Grave" are positively...positive sounding. The previous album had these too, but perhaps to a lesser extent. Once again, the optimist can see this as a natural change in style, the pessimist as a concession the growing mainstream forces behind occult-rock as a genre. Ultimately, however, what the optimists and pessimists say need not have bearing on your listening experience - the album is without a doubt one I've enjoyed listening to, whatever causal chains trail behind it's writing. Perhaps I miss the utter, bleak and sensual uplifting-darkness of A Godlike Inferno, but at the same time I'm perfectly happy to accept that Deathlike is a different animal, and while it's still dark, it's also different. The title-track and single which came before the albums release, named, of course "Deathlike", easily makes up for the general shortage of infernal invocation elsewhere, and is quite easily one of the bands most stirringly dark and dynamic pieces to date - My mistake, perhaps, was expecting an album made entirely from similarly vast epics.

In this review, to be quite frank, I've sounded more negative than I usually do - perhaps disproportionately so. I want to end by emphasising that I really did enjoy Deathlike, but at the same time, it wasn't what I was expecting. By releasing the title track, and indeed what I'd consider to be the strongest track as a single, I was mentally prepared to be blown away, but instead I am presented with a respectable, pretty-good album, and and will no doubt enjoy more when I eventually "get" the changes in the bands sound - perhaps enjoying every bit as much as A Godlike Inferno. As an album, Deathlike is, I feel, a lot more human.

This is a 7/10 record.

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