Release DetailsLABEL Prosthetic
RELEASED ON 2/5/2013
TAGGED Ancient VVisdom
Ancient VVisdom have successfully tapped into that rare sweetness, but a little patience could grade them more deeply dark.
My experience with Ancient VVisdom in 2012 was one of reluctant acceptance. Despite unconscious red flags, A Godlike Inferno still secured a spot in my heavy rotations list come year's end — the beast was too much infectious fun to ignore. Strange, considering AVV's ostensible sincerity. It’s difficult to draw a bead on them because their delivery in official video form thus far appears too stilted or jumbled to take seriously or be impactful. Like AVV via AVP, sans simultaneous franchise tainting.
I dug that their devilish dirges were acoustically rooted, with harmonies reminiscent of EP-mode Alice in Chains …or a stripped-down BÖC if you hark farther back. Initial cursory listens suggested Satanic slants, but the more accurate lasting impression is ‘earthbound’ — even with a chthonic focus, devils and demons were ancillary in the overarching scheme. Whether or not you agree totally, at least cede their sharp hooks; A Godlike Inferno was dangerously catchy.
What I like less about Deathlike is the 6m20s protracted intro, delaying said catchy hooks. The midsection of "Let the End Begin" feels rushed in both content and execution; those first three separate tunes could probably be condensed into a single multi-part epic. The title track’s sparse, tribal, electric-laced acoustic harmonies do channel that special arcane magic, which was implicitly promised when [wisely(?)] released as lead single. But since “Deathlike” memorably repeats I am the end from the beginning, it appears meant to accompany the intro(s). Sometimes you gotta reel it in a bit to keep everything taut, dudes.
That much said, the well-layered "Far Beyond Good & Evil" is the most expansive on Deathlike, incorporating light tambourine and the mournful cello that occasionally surfaced on their last album. "Rebirth" syncs the tamb up with the rest of the hypnotic percussion, and the band breaks into five deadly layers of a half-time chorus. "Look Alive" returns to the KISS principle and smoothly transitions into "Waiting to Die", where the looming theme of death shows strongest in the near-mantric refrain. When Ancient VVisdom hones on a single subject — however loosely tied — they are most engrossing.
"Death or Victory" broadens their scope somewhat; it works in war themes, and includes a chopper sample at the beginning to set the mood. The whoa-ohs in the chorus are beefed up by a thundering backdrop, but they don’t quite snuff the Rooster. Now they don’t screw the pooch or choke the chicken or whatever-verb-the-animal either — the lyrics are simply conversational as opposed to poetic. Cantrell brevity don’t come easy.
"Last Man on Earth" sports a driving drum beat alongside drawling guitar strains that hint toward their Texan origins. Still, it seems short and underdeveloped; every time it plays, I keep waiting in vain for a bridge to materialize. (Then again, waiting in vain is what I am Legend was all about.) Instead, it slowly bleeds into "Never Live Again" — a deceptively listless and mellow meander until it hits the powerful chorus. Its sentiment echoes that of other despondent souls like David Gold (Woods of Ypres), who was expressly obsessed with the finality of death and the finitude of mortality. They end on a high note, though, with the folked-up swinging tempo of “Here is the Grave” likely to twist a grim smile onto your face, in spite of the subject matter.
Every so often it does feel like they’re stalling until the next rhyme of “tonight” or “alright” and I just wanna hurl a thesaurus at them. That, and I’m ambivalent toward the ‘-like’ suffix in the last two albums. On one hand, it suggests a tentative approach or lack of imagination; on the other, greater possibility and personal interpretation. Ancient VVisdom has successfully tapped into that rare sweetness, but a little patience could grade them more deeply dark.