Nostalgia is something that can randomly hit any of the senses, sometimes when you least expect it. Music is a given for taking you back to a particular point of time and it is often a pleasure when listening to something and finding yourself transported back through the years. Ancestral Lore are a one man outfit from France courtesy of Christophe Florian (and note no Tolkien laden nom-de-plume) also of Vanguard X Mortem and Lords Of The Cemetery. Having had a brief crash course in both bands over the years this is definitely more in the vein of the former, Ancestral Lore playing in a (nostalgic) fantasy black metal vein. Due to the prolific use of keyboards on the project people are also going to be making mention of the dungeon-synth term which also seems to have become very fashionable of late. One thing is for sure just one listen to Behind The Night Horizon is going to take you back to times before the light and the growing formation of black metal harking back to an era of around two and a half decades ago.
As keyboards form a medieval and sorrowful hue over opener ‘Enter The Bastion’ we are very much at the gates opened by a wizard known as Mortiis back in these very early mists of time. It’s atmospheric and intriguing, the production a suitable match before rugged drums cut in and we gallop off into the title track. Keyboards weep and guitars pick up jagged and metallic furrow before we are confronted by suitable craggy vocals sounding like the work of an evil goblin. Melody is extremely strong and there is a magical feel about the compositions, the keyboards really having a dreamy and hypnotising flow about them. Guitar work is intricate and cascades with strong classical definition, headily tumbling away through tracks augmented by the filmic synthesized work which has an ominous horror soundtrack vibe about it. The Monster Slayer definitely gives the impression something evil is approaching through the fog and the craggy vocals seem like they are almost taunting it for a confrontation. The keyboard melody here is sombre and funereal, the morose melody counterpoised by some clattering drumming as the battle draws closer. As a counterpoint there’s some jolly motifs too and a sudden calm symphonic swirl, all of which paints pictures in the mind of distant past lands and heroic feuds and battles. It could almost be like a certain popular TV show and one has to wonder when that is going to take over from the aforementioned Tolkien infatuation that this type of music has always drawn comparisons to. Thankfully though it feels like Florian is playing by his own rules and telling his own tale, anything can happen in it including a patch of near Spanish guitar at this songs conclusion.
Some gorgeous Gothic sounding guitar work takes into ‘On The Wave Of Eternity’ and here with the vocals rasping and the care free near pomposity of the music one gets more than a nod towards masters of this craft Summoning. Each of the seven songs here have their own definition and something about them, all illustrating the skills in playing and composition of their composer. I found some movements invigorating and others having me dreaming along, lost in them despite the fact the tracks being compact and not overstaying their welcome as others within the genre can be prone to. In fact the 34 minute overall playing time has had me coming back to this for plenty of repeated spins. A walk in the mist with a wizard flows with tenebrous and glistening guitars leaving you wandering with wonder at the spells being cast, the biggest one is clearly the skill of having these songs stick in your head. Sphere From The Blackwing is probably the most immediate track for a quick listen as it gallops away and has plenty of exuberance and chops about it and the whimsical closer The Bard Tells You A Secret is the perfect closer to bring you down gradually from this adventure and back slowly into the real world.
Ancestral Lore have provided a bit of an unexpected surprise here and a very enjoyable one. Hopefully it’s not a one off trip to mystic lands and there will be further journeys in the future. For the time being you can immerse yourself in the night horizon via the Bandcamp link below.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)