It is really hard to not succumb to over-enthusiasm and hyperbole when an album comes across your desk late in the year that you really enjoy and you have your ‘Year-end’ lists in the back of your mind. However, that is where my mind was at when I heard this, SOULDANCE by Ancestral Dawn, the greatest Heavy Metal album ever recorded in the entire history of mankind. Well, Ok, maybe not quite, but now I’ve got that out of my system, but this album is really damn good.
Ancestral Dawn are from Peru and have released their debut album SOULDANCE in March and in November I picked up the Japanese Spiritual Beast pressing (with bonus track!) as a blind buy/recommendation from an on-line seller. I wish I had discovered this earlier so I could have enjoyed it all year!
The CD is very well presented. It has an introductory note from the main man Jorge Higginson and the booklet also includes lyrics and notes to each song. It is a concept album about a young doctor who, on New Years Eve in 1899, goes on a mystical quest into alternate realms and alternate treatments to save the life of his young fiancé, who has been struck down by a disease. I believe much of the content is based on Peruvian mythology that gives it (to me at least) a very exotic and unique style. I’ve always felt it is brave of a band to have their very first album a concept album.
As with many concept albums you have many guest stars! There are some really heavy hitters contributing to this fine story, each playing a vocal part. Here is a quick breakdown. (listed alphabetically)
Rick Altizi (The Shaman)
Mark Boals (The Souls)
Jonas Heidgert (The Ancient God)
Fabio Lione (The Warlock)
Nathalie Markoch (The Mistress of Illusion)
Amanda Sommerville (Jessica)
There are many other musical guests including Roland Grapow and a number of local artists so the album is packed with Power Metal titans!
As you might expect, (based on the impressive guest list) ANCESTRAL DAWN plays Power Metal…to the max. Every key elements is present, fast songs, high-speed drumming, blazing guitars, soaring vocals, intense, note-dense compositions…it is everything you would expect and demand from an album in this style. One key element that I really enjoyed was the injection of Peruvian traditional elements, panflutes and such to make this a very authentic sounding record. Imagine what Angra used to do 20 years ago with some of the South American tribal/tradition influences, but taken to the next level. The album has it all, from fast to slow, piano led ballads, raging fast parts, orchestral elements, flying keyboard solos, it all ebbs and flows wonderfully but still largely heavy all the way through. The vocals of Chilalo Segersbol mark him as one of the new young vocal gods reminiscent of Kiske in his prime, yes, he is that good.
I love these mega projects, they always catch my ear. Will SOULDANCE, a new album I’m admittedly excited about and only heard a few times, withstand the test of time? My gut instinct is yes, so that’s why I’m giving this world-class debut a very high score.