Ancient Entities – Echoes of Annihilation


Ancient Entities stormed the stage at the Milwaukee Metal Fest this year as hometown heroes. Formed in 2021, they took their time writing their debut album, preferring to emphasise quality over quantity. This is often a wise strategy, but maybe not for an extreme metal band who see no need to distinguish between their songs with anything approaching variation or experimentation. Of course, this is not a problem if no-nonsense death metal is your music of choice.

And yet Echoes of Annihilation starts with a vivid sense of place in opening mood-piece, ‘Cenote Sagrado’. Here, a timpani and ominous drone combination transport you to the planet of a hostile race of humanoids that want to use you for biological experiments. Unfortunately, it’s the only time that Ancient Entities do anything other than throttle their instruments at maximum velocity. The guitars fire at you from the first note in ‘Empire in Ashes’ under a volley of double-kick drums. It’s clear after one stanza that the vocals will be a drab monotone pitch of hostile words. Yet a deeper analysis of the guitars and juddering blast beats reveals a modicum of neo-classical posturing. The idea here is to update the death-thrash sound of the early 1990s with a faster and harder reach. One must praise the audio engineering, especially the clarity of the rhythm guitars during the scale-shredding solo. You think they want to prepare a breakdown at 03:12, but it’s a new riff slowed down to give you a chance to work your neck in a slower looping motion.

A common complaint about death metal is its grinding monotony. How difficult is it to differentiate between the next four songs on this record? The ‘bomb blast’ technique from the drummer in ‘Creatures from the Sand’ imitates the force of an artillery gun in feeding mode. You can see the benefits of triggered drums here because it means that the double-kick pads receive the same velocity for each note. The bassist does a good job of making his instrument heard in the mix for most of ‘Blood Upon the Stone’. Likewise, ‘Ritual Autopsy’ conjures images of a pack of wolves fighting over a carcass. At least it dares to explore the mid-range frequencies. Can you imagine if a windmill could operate its blades as fast the drummer works his double-bass pedal here?

It’s regrettable that the vocals are innocuous for most of this LP even though you can hear them in the mix – that’s because they have no imagination. ‘Hidden’ at track six is the point where the mind wanders to the food shopping list for the week ahead, yet the intensity of the guitar chugging pulls you back into its violent orbit. You can find snippets of enjoyment among the monotony if you try hard enough – listen to the pinch-harmonic riffing in the outro to ‘Pierced by Obsidian’. This would be much more effective as shortform death-grind or even grindcore. Here, vocalist, Brian Gulliford, sounds like he swallowed a razor and cannot dislodge it from his throat.

The battlefield is tiring, and this music hammers home that message at penultimate track, ‘Wall of War’. In fairness, the sweep-picking tag at the end of the main riff is stupendous. Imagine the stress this will cause the guitarists before they go on stage. If this isn’t tech death, what is? Yet the levels of interest at closing song, ‘Damnatio ad Flammas’, vary between extreme apathy and boredom. That’s a shame because, in isolation, this is a thrilling chance to put yourself in the gunner’s seat of a tank and obliterate all signs of sentient life in front of you.

Ancient Entities prove that they can write competent death metal. Now the hard work begins to distinguish it from every other band in their eco-system.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 21/06/2024

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Empire in Ashes, Ritual Autopsy, Wall of War

Suggested Further Listening: Werewolves – From the Cave to the Grave (2022), Street Tombs – Reclusive Decay (2023), Six Feet Under – Killing for Revenge (2024)