Some bands manage to captivate the attention of the metal community, even though their sound is far removed from metal. Much like The Devil’s Blood before them, Texan-based acoustic-rockers Ancient VVisdom have managed to kick up quite a bit of dust since their début split release with Charles Manson (yes, you read correctly). Their bleak lyrical content chalks up well to metal’s usually despondent topics, but in place of pummeling the listener into submission, these guys take a more sedated approach. Deathlike, much like their début A Godless Inferno before it, lulls the audience with simple folk melodies evoking images of shamanic rituals. The exchange of frostbitten Norwegian influences for old Americana and roots-rock artists results in an album that is, to say the least, haunting.
One can instantly draw from the titles that the songs deal with mortality: “Let The End Begin”, “Waiting To Die” and “Never Live Again” all add a catchy spin to such a gloomy topic. The former track, drenched in acoustic strumming and tribal drumming, sums up much of the band’s sound throughout the album. While other elements seep in, the campfire-like acoustic guitars are a permanent fixture, along with the lilting croon of vocalist Nathan Opposition. His lyrics carry an emotional gravitas that befits the solemn musical tone: “Death angel, show me a sign, end humankind”. However, he’s no one trick pony, as “Waiting To Die” infuses an upbeat approach to accepting one’s demise: “Don’t look down, hold your head up proud”.
That all being said, each track has its own individuality. The occasional electric guitar melody wails through in a Pink Floydian fashion (see title track, for instance), while the Nietzsche-homage track “Far Beyond Good & Evil” has a sinister wall-of-sound hum usually found in shoegaze. “Rebirth” displays a prominent Pentagram-like electric riff intro, although the peak of heaviness is reached in “Death Or Victory”, the most electric-driven track of the bunch. Unconventional instruments also find their way on board, such as the bowed bass in “Waiting To Die”, and a subtle amount of ambient synth that peppers many of the tracks. The final track “Here Is The Grave” ensures the album goes out with a bang, the hypnotic repetition of the title becoming forcibly ingrained in the listener’s head as wind-noises sweep the album to a close.
Drawbacks are few and far between across the 40 minute run-time; every spin unearths a small novel aspect that adds enjoyment to the overall atmosphere. It’s easy enough to alternate listening to this as a music album or a lyrical album, the production facilitates both. The tribal cacophony could be perceived as a lack of variety, but that’s not the case; the album just flows very smoothly. And while Nathan’s voice itself, while occasionally seeming to falter on quieter moments, excels when he raises his voice, singing his message with a range that covers from Townes Van Zandt-lows to a higher warmer register.
For a band that effectively limit themselves in both lyrical and instrument aspects, Deathlike is a surprisingly diverse sophomore. Ancient VVisdom have achieved a phenomenal goal in cementing a unique musical approach in the space of two albums, while also managing to win the attention of metalheads and non-metal listeners alike. I personally remain curious as to where this band will turn to next for lyrical inspiration, after two albums with novel takes on Satanism and the war between life and death, although one thing remains certain: this album is definitely not one to pass up.
1. The Beginning
2. Let The End Begin
3. Life On Earth
5. Far Beyond Good & Evil
7. Look Alive
8. Waiting To Die
9. Death Or Victory
10. Last Man On Earth
11. Never Live Again
12. Here Is The Grave
Ancient VVisdom are:
Nathan Opposition – vocals/guitar
Justin “Ribs” Mason – acoustic guitar
Michael Jochum – electric guitar
Mitchel K. Morris