ANCIIENTS Shred Through “Cloak of the Vast and Black”

“Big, melodic and fun” – New Noise

“A blend of soothing acoustic rock melodies and crushing heavy metal” – Guitar World

“It’s exciting stuff, really – often complicated without seeming excessive, skillful but soulful, approachable but not pedestrian” – Pitchfork

The rock ‘n’ roll landscape is still shaking from the news: after eight years of searching, Anciients have emerged from the Canadian wilderness. The heady and hearty Canucks recently announced Beyond the Reach of the Sun, their first album since winning the coveted JUNO Award for Metal/Hard Rock.

Today, Kenny Cook, Mike Hannay and their new cast of shredders are releasing a smooth but still positively crushing guitar playthrough for their new album’s second single. “Cloak of the Vast and Black” sheds light on the darkness that nearly overshadowed Beyond the Reach of the Sun by blazing a new trail with the same spirit that’s made them a guiding light for progressive metal.

Watch the guitar playthrough for “Cloak of the Vast and Black”.

Beyond the Reach of the Sun comes out August 30, 2024 on Season of Mist.

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Ask any hard rock enthusiast about Anciients and their shock and awe might lead you to believe they were describing Big Foot. The band left a sizable imprint on the scene after just two albums, but then seemingly disappeared without a trace. So what led them to go into hibernation?

“Basically, right after Voice of the Void was recorded my wife had our first kid”, says Kenny Cook, who on top of vocal and guitar duties also handles the bulk of the band’s songwriting. “She ended up having heart complications and almost died”. Everyone is happy and healthy now, but caring for his wife and new baby put a lot of stress on the typically laid-back frontman’s mountainous shoulders. “It was a bit of a road”.

“Cloak of the Vast and Black” also comes out of the shadows. The first single from Beyond the Reach of the Sun began by leading us through a field of bright keys and folksy acoustic plucks, but this time around, the guitars are so dimmed with reverb that even the leads twist and turn as if trying to navigate maze-like cave tunnels.

“This song is about mental illness and living under the cloak of depression”, Cook says. But despite the many bumps in the road over the last eight years, like the high beams of a monster truck, Anciients found a way to come barreling out of the darkness. Just as the  playthrough video bursts into full-blown color, the band strike upon a riff that burns as fast as a stick of dynamite.

Searching for a new way of life“, Cook growls with renewed force, as if woken by the sudden explosion of psychedelic power chords.

The concept behind Beyond the Reach of the Sun does venture into heady territory. Society is enslaved by forces from another dimension who are so towering in their tyranny that they blot out the sun. Still, at its core, Anciient’s third album is about perseverance. Cook’s road is a little easier to envision. “Working on these songs helped clear the negativity that had clouded my thoughts”, he says. But the albums’ narrative arc winds up floating in the same enlightened headspace.

Ancient knowledge buried deep in the sands of time“, Cook sings, practically beaming as Dead Quiet axeman Brock MacInnes shreds a dizzying alternate path right beside him. “Awake on the other side“.

Of course, headbanging helped, but Cook credits his bandmates for helping him see through Beyond the Reach of the Sun. Mike Hannay can still kick down the door to any metalhead’s mind with a well-timed blast beat, but by the time “Cloak of the Vast and Black” finally tapers off, he’s locked into such a massive flow state with new bassist Rory O’Brien, that Anciients sound like pre-historic giants who’ve returned to roam the earth.

“The hiatus is over” Cook says. “We missed out on a huge block after the last record. But with a new album to go along with our new band members, we’re ready to hit it hard“.

The video for the guitar playthrough of “Cloak of the Vast and Black” was directed, filmed and edited by Claine Gorgoth Lamb (@claines_world).

More Praise for Anciients

“Heady stuff…arch-synthesists, cleverly appropriating a number of familiar, inter-related genres to fuse into a seamless ethos” – Metal Injection

“Proggy, sludgy and downright rocking” – Angry Metal Guy

“When the riffs rumble out of the speakers, you’re moving” – No Clean Singing

“Combining powerful drumming with Thin Lizzy inspired riffs, while sounding like the musical equivalent of Game of Thrones” – Echoes and Dust

“Parts progressive finesse, classic rock grandstanding and grass-roots bludgeon” – PopMatters

To celebrate the coming of Beyond the Reach of the Sun, this fall, Anciients will play three record release shows in their native British Columbia. This special run includes one night at The Rickshaw Theatre in the band’s hometown of Vancouver.

“We are beyond excited to play our new album in a live setting for the very first time,” Cook says about the band’s upcoming shows. “It’s going to be epic! More show announcements are coming soon”.

Anciients will be supported by five fellow Canadian bands: metal-punks Fearbirds, progressive metalheads Black Thunder, metal stoners Waingro, thrashy death metal trio Bloodrhine and post-metal doomsayers Empress.   

Anciients Beyond the Reach of the Sun Record Release Shows

September 20 – Victoria, BC @ Lucky Bar with Fearbirds and Black Thunder [TICKETS]
September 21 – Nanaimo, BC @ The Queens with Fearbirds and Black Thunder [TICKETS]
September 27 – Vancouver, BC @ The Rickshaw Theatre with Waingro, Bloodrhine and Empress [TICKETS]

Anciients Cover240521

1. Forbidden Sanctuary (8:16)
2. Despoiled (5:19)
3. Is It Your God (7:07)
4. Melt the Crown (7:08) [WATCH]
5. Cloak of the Vast and Black (6:20) [WATCH]
6. Celestial Tyrant (5:52)
7.Beyond Our Minds (4:12)
8. The Torch (4:13)
9. Candescence (4:10)
10. In the Absence of Wisom (6:35)

Style: Progressive Metal
FFO: Opeth, Mastodon, The Ocean

Photo by Shimon

It’s been a rough handful of years for British Columbia-based extremity-laced progressive rockers, Anciients. When the quartet unleashed their Voice of the Void album in 2016, the world appeared to be their oyster and things seemed ripe for the picking. They were coming off the success of their Heart of Oak debut from 2013, its ascendancy due in large part to a collective uptick in interest for involved, forward-thinking music. The public had moved beyond toe-dipping and tire-kicking, and were instead doing headfirst dives into exploring the likes of Opeth, Mastodon, Baroness, The Ocean, Intronaut and others who originally hailed from the extreme music underground, but had since grown, matured and scrubbed behind their ears to include heaping and healthy chunks from the outskirts of their record collections and influence pools.  

The Band That Auto-Correct Loves to Fuck With™ shared stages with everyone from High on Fire and Goatwhore to Boris and Lamb of God, were in the midst of a European tour when they discovered they were JUNO Award (Canadian Grammy equivalent) winners in the heavy metal/hard rock category. The world was ready to accept Anciients into its welcoming arms. Anciients was gearing up to employ takeover methods, specifically their brand of thunderous rhythms and labyrinthine riffing bolstered by a road warrior mentality. And then, the momentum petered out and the band seemingly fell off the face of the earth.  

Today, Anciients are ready and poised to resume their spirited quest for heavy metal paramountcy. There’s no doubt the band is back and with a stunning and beautiful collection of ten songs on offer in the form of new and third album, Beyond the Reach of the Sun, they are positioning to reestablish themselves as a dominant force for those who love windmilling their tresses around thoughtful tempo changes, complex harmonic layers and driving power chord shifting. But what the hell happened and where did they disappear to?

“Basically,” explains guitarist/vocalist Kenny Cook, “right before Voice of the Void was recorded, my wife had our first kid. She ended up having heart complications and almost passed away from it. We recorded the last record and once it came out, I was kind of just focusing on her, dealing with her health issues and keeping that in check. I wasn’t at the stage where I could be gone for half a year, especially with a new kid. Long story short, she’s happy and healthy now, but dealing with family issues was the main priority. It was a bit of a road.”

Adding to that bit of Anciients camp turmoil, guitarist/co-vocalist/co-founding member, Chris Dyck and the band parted ways in January of 2017. This left a gaping lineup hole at an inopportune juncture in the band’s timeline. Not only did Cook have to deal with the absence of his long-term song and lyric writing partner, but Dyck was also someone he had been splitting vocal duties with since the pair formed the band in 2009. And then, while helping his wife with her recovery, raising their new born and “because we wanted to raise our son in a small town environment,” the Cook family uprooted to Columbia-Shuswap four hours east of the Vancouver area, where drummer Mike Hannay, Brock MacInnes (Dyck’s replacement) and brand spanking new bassist Rory O’Brien still reside.

“We knew Brock from other bands he’d been in and we knew he’d be a great fit,” explains Cook. “He actually filled in for Chris on a tour we did back in 2015. As far as the vocals, I just found myself picking up the slack on both ends. It felt somewhat natural, it was definitely different. Doing the lyrics myself for the first time was somewhat daunting, but it was also something done out of necessity. But even when Chris was in the band I handled 80-90% of the vocals anyway, so it didn’t change all that much.”  

Then, that whole COVID-19 thing you probably heard about once or twice hit in 2020 and put another restraining bolt on Anciients’ activity, especially touring as the Canadians found themselves dealing with stricter travel restrictions and mandates than many other countries; most notably, not being able to cross the border for almost two years. Once the dust settled, Cook had to adjust to being the lone vocalist and how that impacted the material he was writing while navigating being creative with distance between Anciients’ members for the first time. Not a biggie, as in-person writing sessions are more of a rarity these days, but because of the time elapsed since Voices of the Void, things/interests/influences changed and the band ended up scrapping half of an album’s worth of material and starting fresh. When they put their heads down at the end of 2021 with the focus being Beyond the Reach of the Sun, what was revealed a year later was more streamlined and slithery, more chest-thumpingly direct, more epic and triumphant sounding. Riffs come in explosive layered packets. Leads, harmonies and melodies are more on par with wind-tussled mountain tops instead of sweaty bar shows and the band moves with finely honed, martial accuracy as conducted by Hannay’s rocket-in-the-pocket staccato swing and accents.  

Songs like “The Torch” blaze with the shirtless glisten of ‘70s stadium rock power. “Cloak of the Vast and Black” swirls and whirls with a combination of hardcore intensity, grunge groove and expansive six-string parries. “In the Absence of Wisdom” is a hurricane-sized maelstrom of classic and prog rock elevated to grandiosity by a return to their growling sludge/death early years as the song/album concludes. The album’s first single, “Melt the Crown” mixes cues from legendary fellow hosers Rush and Harlequin, turn-of-the-millennium post-metal and the most psychedelic corners of the Rise Above Records roster.

“The new record has a lot more of our rock side,” Cook offers, “and leans towards those elements of our sound and personalities, whereas Voice of the Void was pretty crushing all the way through. With the new material we’ve tried to add more dynamics to the music and give the songs more room to breathe.”  

Album opener “Forbidden Sanctuary” is the soundtrack to exploration, of new worlds and sonic arrangement as sine-wave guitars pull from vintage Mercyful Fate covens and Krautrock communes with synths opening up novel textural avenues, as they do on the ethereal wispiness and space rock/sci-fi soundscapes of the instrumental “Candescence.” Beyond the Reach of the Sun sees synths and keyboards making their first appearance on an Anciients record and were played by producer/mixer Jesse Gander and Justin Hagberg at the former’s Rain City Recorders studio. In addition to augmenting the album with his skill on the black and whites, Hagberg — a member of the recently reunited 3 Inches of Blood —  also helped Anciients navigate a significant last-minute hurdle, one that threatened to pull the reins back on their comeback roar.

“We lost our bass player literally a month before we were going in to record and were kind of up shit’s creek. Justin also plays in a band called Ritual Dictates with Rory and is the one who brought his name up.”

O’Brien, a former member of Vancouver’s Bushwhacker, was absolutely interested when approached by Anciients.  

“We got lucky and he saved our asses at the last minute.”  

Cook stepped up to the challenge of being the sole lyricist to drape Beyond the Reach of the Sun in deeply personal expressions of the inner turmoil, fear and isolation he’d experienced in himself and saw in others over the past few years. There were moments where he didn’t know whether loved ones were going to pull through and what life was going to look like were tragedy come to pass. Mental health and people living life without being able to see any light at the end of the tunnel became a very prevalent theme to tracks like “Despoiled” and “Beyond Our Minds.” And while the line that became the album’s title is taken from a David Attenborough-narrated Planet Earth documentary, it speaks more to the coming and going of despondency when one doesn’t know how dark the darkness is going to get, as in “Is It Your God,” which pulls from the manifestation of grief and how it can shatter belief systems.  

“That one is a little more personal to me and my situation,” Cook says somberly. “I had a good friend of mine from when I was younger pass away from cancer. His mother was super-religious and there were ideas taken from her questioning how could something like that happen to her when she had such a strong faith.”  

The title and themes of stripped away hope and piled on anguish and tumult were parlayed into the album’s spectacular cover art. Created by Adam Burke (Nightjar Illustrations), the drawing is part-pulp novel cover, part-Franzetta landscape, part-sci-fi movie poster and all a vast illustration one can easily lose themselves in while the record spins in the background.

“We gave him the concept and basic outline of how we wanted the cover to look and he took it to a whole new dimension. It turned out pretty wild!”

With all being said and done, Anciients have returned! They stand ready to ascend the prog metal ladder and get back to doing what they do best with a weighty and dense, but wholly accessible, album. It’s a collection of ten songs that possesses the ability to have those furiously banging heads also tapping into their power of self-reflection and contemplation to ponder the finality of existence, the value of life and their place in the universe.  

“Totally! We’re going to take as many of the opportunities that come to us. The hiatus is over and I think with the new members and everyone being on the same page we’re ready to get out there as soon as possible. We missed out on a huge block after the last record, so we’ve got to make up for lost time. Now that everyone is happy and healthy, we plan to hit it hard.”

Kenny Cook (vocals, guitar)
Mike Hannay (drums) 
Brock MacInnes (rhythm guitar)
Rory O’Brien (bass)

Guest musicians
Justin Hagberg plays keyboard on “Forbidden Sanctuary”, “Is It Your God”, “Melt the Crown”, “Candescence”, “In the Absence of Wisdom”.

Jess Gander plays synths on “Candescence” and “Cloak of the Vast and Black”.

Recording studio
Rain City Recorders

Producer / sound engineer
Jesse Gander
Assisted by Szymon Wojciech

Mastering studio and engineer
Stu McKillop @ Rain City Mastering

Mixing studio and engineer
Jesse Gander Rain City Recorders

Cover artwork artist 
Adam Burke @ Nightjar Illustrations

Follow Anciients

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