|Musical Style: Melodic/Thrash Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: Germany|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Ancient Prophecy|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 80%|
Pounded by Our Sins is available for download at the following resources:
Melodic thrash. Is there a bigger misnomer than that? If you are like me and are not a connoisseur of the thrash genre then you understand the meaning behind the question at hand. No disrespect to the many that are, but I find the segment overbearing and heavy handed to be near unlistenable, with the main point of contention revolving around its lack of accessible appeal (at least to these ears). Melodic it is not. Further compounding previously referenced incongruous terms are a harsh and abrasive vocal style that one can describe - and I put this in the most polite manner possible - as an ‘acquired taste’ at best. Never mind attempting to understand the lyrics.
Hence, the near occlusion at Angelic Warlord of anything that potentially falls within the thrash category. One of the few exceptions, of course, is Deliverance, which brought a groundbreaking ‘Metallica cross Queensryche’ sound on its acclaimed 1989 self-titled debut and every bit highly regarded Weapons Of Our Warfare from a year later. What made the ‘Big D’ so successful was its ability to cross multiple style boundaries to be one of a small minority to embrace both sides of the fence- the thrash and melodic. Thrash in terms of the groups focus on all out aggression and speed metal riffs but also melodic from the standpoint of vocalist Jimmy P. Brown II, who can reach for the sky with a soaring vocal style not unlike that of Geoff Tate (Queensryche).
Imitators have been the rare exception and not the norm- how many bands can you name that dare combine the aggression of thrash with melodic vocals? Wetzlar, Germany based Ancient Prophecy represents one of the few. A group also specializing in fusing diverse forms of metal, thrash in addition to traditional, power and melodic side of things, Ancient Prophecy got its start in 1999 with its full-length debut Days Of Doom prior to following up in 2015 with sophomore effort Pounded By Our Sins, both released independently. Of note is how the group makes use of mostly clean female vocals, courtesy of Jaqueline Kunz, interspersed with occasional growled or aggressive vocals of an extreme nature.
Deliverance is the first that comes to mind in terms of direct comparison, but that might not be entirely accurate. Whereas Deliverance is more traditional thrash with melodic overtones, Ancient Prophecy offers an equal balance between both aspects: Yes, the group hits hard with the best of them but also understates some of its thrash qualities in favor of a more melodic emphasis.
Finland’s Venia also deserves mention from how it also features a female vocalist while accentuating equal parts power metal and thrash. Where the comparison ends, however, is due to how Ancient Prophecy imbues its material with the more pronounced commercial leanings. Another Northern European band to consider is Divinefire. In similar fashion, Ancient Prophecy reinforces aspects of the (mostly) melodic and (periodic) extreme, albeit it would be unfair to place Ancient Prophecy within the same symphonic metal category as Divinefire.
Ordained Fate and Boarders offer closest comparison. Former recorded a pair of albums in the nineties, 1992 self-titled debut and sophomore offering Glimmer Of Hope from 1995, in which it also aligned the heaviness of thrash and classic metal with female vocals. Latter gained renown for playing up melodic sensibilities with aggressive thrash influences on its albums The World Hates Me and R-Existence released in 2007 and 2013, respectively. Setting Boarders apart are the male vocals of Egidio Casati.
Despite its clichéd title and cheesy acapella vocal opening, “Metal Is Still Alive” provides a good indicator of the Ancient Prophecy sound. Rooted in sincere heaviness - riffs crush with the best of them and period harsh vocals adorn the backdrop - but exuding the trademark Ancient Prophecy melody from the catchiness of its refrain. Also of note is how the group makes use of highlighting (but not to a fault) keyboards. Along the same line, “True Trinity” plays up an accessible component with touches of growled backing vocals. Albums shortest at three and a half minutes, the song exudes a symphonic flair for its instrumental opening prior to smoothly traversing its refined verses only to peak for a catchy chorus embraced by pounding drums. I particularly enjoy the highlighting organ throughout.
Impression left by the two is how Kunz delivery wise resides upon a fiery foundation, but she can also reach for a lower register imbued with heartfelt grit and soul. In other words, she complements the heavier and more melodic material equally. If a fan of Nancy Jo Mann (Barnabas), Christine Steel (Arsenal) or Pam Scott (Ordained Fate) then you should feel right at home with her style
Also reflecting a thrash influence is “Pounded”, one of the albums heaviest with its pulverizing guitar riffs and driving vocal penchant, but also tempering (even if just slightly) as extreme vocals step forward to shoulder its pensive refrain. Instrumental moments reflect a technical power metal feel as some riveting lead guitar shines. “Eternity” proves another barnburner. This one comes across even catchier, with a near infectious basis formed from how once again extreme vocals cut in to interweave with quite the gripping (almost commercial) refrain. I might otherwise describe the song as melodic metal as guitars are not quite as pronounced, while keyboards lend a texturing effect (observation and not critique either way).
“Brightness In The Dark” finds Ancient Prophecy at its most aggressive. The song takes a dual lead vocal approach, with brazen, thrash heavy male vocals commanding the acerbic verses and Kunz’s contrasting elegant style the sweeping refrain. Coming to mind in the process (particularly when Kunz takes a harmonizing background role) is Sacred Warrior’s “The Flood” (off Master’s Command) in which Rey Parra traded off with Roger Martinez.
Maintaining the heaviness but backing away from the thrash nuances is “Look Into My Soul”. This one takes a slower and darker stance in touching upon traditional metal, as Kunz aligns a lower register delivery with an aura straining towards the creepy and ominous (do I detect a faint hint of Brutal Planet era Alice Cooper?). Also distancing itself from a thrash basis is “The Fall Of Vanity”. With melodic power metal its centerpiece, the song mirrors a technical fortitude (the groups drummer exhibits quite the intricate timekeeping proclivity) with its climactic refrain and borderline progressive instrumental moments. Male narration delivering a salvation message adorns the final minutes.
Ancient Prophecy can also give rise to a melodic metal heading. “New Chapter” is quite classy in this capacity, adorned front to back with riffs ranging from the mordant to catchy, while interweaved with keyboards and distant piano. No, this one might not be heavy as some but is solid all the same. “Still Dying” ups the heaviness and speed in maintaining a similar heading, with a lightening touch provided by the layered vocal harmonies as impetus tempers for the smoothly flowing refrain.
Akin to most European metal bands, Ancient Prophecy delivers quality production, as manifested in the heavy-duty guitar crunch and commanding rhythm section. Packaging consists of a 2-panel digi-pak with a 12 page mini booklet featuring easy to read lyrics and liner notes. The problem, however, is that no attribution is given to the individual band members performing on the album. A band roster of ‘current members’ resides at the groups Facebook page, but I am not certain if these are the same musicians that appeared on the album (I am assuming that they are).
Lyrics are bold and upfront in leaving little doubt as to the faith of Ancient Prophecy, noting how the liner notes reference ‘Jesus Christ our Saviour and biggest friend in eternity’.
The group makes a strong statement of faith on “Brightness In The Dark”:
There’s brightness in the dark
A view of hope You gave
Please open these closed eyes
And let me see grace in the Light
Follow Him and come on home
The Holy Ghost is leading you
And everywhere I am
There’s brightness in the dark
As well as “Eternity”:
There is no reason to run away
Death comes for us all
But we believe the risen One
And He will appear, yes, He will reappear
The devil tries to pull us down
In every single way
So raise your hands and pray
Search for eternity…
“True Trinity” proves aptly entitled:
True life, true love, true grace, true Trinity
You are my Father. You are the Holy Ghost
You are the Son of heaven saving our souls
You are my Father. You are the Holy Ghost
You are the Son of heaven
“Metal Is Still Alive” focuses on spiritual warfare:
We don’t fight against people on earth
Or wrestle against flesh and blood
It’s a spiritual fight against the invisible might
And cosmic powers of this dark age
Against the principalities
The powers of evil, and authorities
When the evil day comes
Put on the armor of God
After fighting to the end
You will still hold your ground
Pounded By Our Sins is well worth the time and effort to locate as an import. Accordingly, Europe continues to be an ongoing source of quality metal bands, with Ancient Prophecy proving no exception. If a fan of acts that merge multiple styles of metal - in this case the aggression of thrash with the greater accessibility of melodic metal - then I can see Ancient Prophecy being of interest. Those into female fronted metal bands should find a lot to like here as well. Let’s hope it is not another 15 years before we hear from Ancient Prophecy again.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Metal Is Still Alive” (5:35), “New Chapter” (4:56), “True Trinity” (3:35), “Pounded” (6:29), “Look Into My Soul” (4:31), “Brightness In The Dark” (4:28), “The Fall Of Vanity” (6:22), “Still Dying” (4:07), “Eternity” (4:14)
Jaqueline Kunz - Lead Vocals
Tobias Buss - Guitars
Florian Kraus - Guitars
Timothy Bostick - Bass
Lynn Neissner - Drums