posted on 1/2008 By:
I’ve been ringing in 2008 with power metal goodness thanks to the release of Cage’s monstrous Hell Destroyer and the new Helloween record. So with my rejuvenated interest in all things bombastic, I thought I’d check out this Ancient Creation disc. The bio for this batch of Midwesterners starts with this no-bullshit statement of intent: “Ancient Creation is Heavy Metal in its purest form, with no concern for being modern or trendy. The only goals are to push the limits of their ability and create great progressive old school power metal.” While those are admirable goals, and while Evolution Bound may very well push the limits of their ability, it’s not quite good enough yet to make them anything more than an opening act for the likes of Cellador and Nevermore.
My first and biggest concern is with the production. Power metal needs to have…well…power. Here, the mix is off and the recording is sub-par, and together, those two issues make for an uneven listen. The lead guitars are too loud; the vocals are a hair too low. The guitar tone is ragged and tinny. The cymbals sound like someone banging on a shopping cart, and the snare sounds hollow. The whole affair sounds like it was recorded on a small budget in a tiny analog studio in 1983, which may be part of Ancient Creation’s “classic heavy metal” aesthetic. Unfortunately, twenty-plus years later, many of the records that feature that particular sound only hold up because of their legacy—not because of their production. Whatever traction Evolution Bound may gain through performance or the occasional burst of good songwriting is completely sabotaged by the “1984-demo” production.
Vocalist Steve Bentley sticks mainly to a clean midrange with a few underwhelming forays into death growling. He never ventures into a Halford falsetto, and there are no harmony vocals anywhere throughout, so there’s plenty more that he could have done to ratchet up the vocal performance and really hammer home the “power metal” part of this. (Man, listen to Sean Peck on Hell Destroyer for an absolutely staggering performance.) Aside from the tonal issues, the guitar work is great, even if, like the vocals and the songwriting, it never strays from the standard blueprint—chugging riff, legato solo, some quiet arpeggiated moments, and the occasional odd-time riff for the proggers. Guitarists Jason Johson and Peter Nisenkier both possess admirable chops, tossing off fleet-fingered solos and runs with seeming ease.
As you can imagine from the band’s mission statement, most of Evolution Bound sticks close to classic power/traditional metal territory with a dash of prog (best comparison: early Fates Warning). There’s also a decided folk influence that crops up in the riffing throughout (witness the Riverdance-able hoe-down in “Taste Of Mortality”), and when that’s combined with the vocal approach, it’s reminiscent of Amorphis circa Elegy, only sans keys, atmosphere, and Kantelatar-based lyrics. (Y’know, many of the very things that made Amorphis stand out back in 1996…) The biggest problem with the songwriting is the same one that afflicts the majority of independent releases: all of this is good, but only bits and pieces of Evolution Bound are memorable enough to remain in your head after the next song begins… There are some cool moments—like “The Brotherhood” or the acoustic intro to “Heritage” (even if it seems a little off the beat by the end). “Carrion – The Horde” is both the best tune and probably the best single distillation of the band’s approach, with its driving main riff, bouncy folky guitar leads, and a catchy vocal melody. Overall, though, there’s just not that much in the writing department that really reaches out and grabs you by the big horn. Ancient Creation may better serve the gods of old-school power metal by somehow improving upon the tried-and-true formula.
Final judgment: cleaning up the production would make a world of difference here, but there are still bigger problems at play. Ancient Creation is a tight band, with a good start, and I hope this record is only the inauspicious beginning of better things.
Register to post comments.