Released: 2001, Hammerheart Records
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Every so often, an album arises that is of the rare, highest caliber. It is an album that amazes and enthralls the listener upon first spin of the disc, and refuses to let go its grip, even improving in quality upon subsequent listens. Operation: Mindcrime is one such disc, Painkiller is another. Most recently, this honour has been claimed by Virgin Steele-House Of Atreus Act I. These albums have immediately stood out as some of metal’s finest moments, and now, barely over a year since its release, I can say, without a doubt, that Ancient Rites – DIM CARCOSA is one such album.
“The Return” opens the album, a piano and orchestral instrumental piece with some female vocals towards the end, and clocks in at just over three minutes in length. About this time during my first listen to this album, being unfamiliar with Ancient Rites, I started wondering what kind of album, metal or not, lay in store until “Exile” rips into force as a battery of fast, tight riffs and solid drumwork lay the foundation for this album. Gunther’s vocals cut into the mix, a sort of croaking/singing, and I start to think that this is a pretty damn good black metal album. Then, the keyboards start to creep in, adding an epic, melodic dimension to the thrashy metal, and the vocals change to a powerful, cleaner sound. Impressive, most impressive. “Victory Or Valhalla (Last Man Standing)” continues much like “Exile,” only growing even more epic. By this point in the album, I am most thoroughly enthralled by DIM CARCOSA.
The musicianship of Ancient Rites is quite good, and the songwriting skills of founding member/bassist Gunther Theys create some great epic metal driven by guitarwork that is simultaneously powerful, heavy, and melodic. As with any black metal band, the concepts and lyrics of this album cover all topics Pagan, ranging from conquest in battle, the glories of Viking Europe, as well as Pagan ideals regarding the concept of organized religion. My only complaint about the album, though, comes at this point. DIM CARCOSA is a concept album about Pagan Europe, and between each song are passages explaining the story behind the album. Unfortunately, to read the story, one must angle the page just so under a bright light in order to read the printing, black lettering on a dark background that is very difficult to read.
DIM CARCOSA is such an excellent album overall that every song (minus the three instrumental intro, interlude, and outro pieces) could be considered standout tracks. The tracks on this album that stand out to me are “And The Horns Called For War,” “On Golden Fields (De Leeuwen Dansen), and “Lindesfarne (Anno 993),” detailing the Viking attack that year on the Lindesfarne monastery in Ireland.
During the height of August 2001, shortly after acquiring this album, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my friend and fellow Metal-Rules staff reviewer, Mr. Michael De Los Muertos on his layover in Detroit, while on his sojourn to Wacken. Discussing metal over lunch, I introduced Los to the brilliance of DIM CARCOSA. Following my advice, Mr. Muertos picked up the album, and his review appeared in the November 2001 album reviews.
Since my first listen to DIM CARCOSA almost 1 year prior to my writing of this review, the album has literally not left my stereo. In this time, it has come to rank among my favourite albums of all-time, and has firmly earned its place as one of my most highly recommended albums. You must check this album out!