Ancient Rites - Laguz
Massacre Records
Epic Black/Power Metal
10 songs (45' 38")
Release year: 2015
Ancient Rites, Massacre Records
Reviewed by Andy
Album of the month

As rambling as it is dense, Laguz is the metal-album equivalent of reading Tolstoy's War and Peace. There are some bands that produce symphonic black metal, and a lot of it's good, but this is really a metal symphony. Like a symphony, it's hard to get into or truly appreciate for some time, but Ancient Rites have put as much care into this one as they did into Rubicon nine years ago, and this effort has paid off in the form of an epic album that is worthy of their post-Dim Carcosa sound.

Carthago Delenda Est reveals a very similar sound to Rubicon, though they've pared the group back down to two guitarists instead of three. Bassist/vocalist Gunther Theys recites the lyrics mostly in a gravelly but clean spoken-word style with a strange and rather bemused-sounding diction, while the symphonic part of the music soars over the high-speed drumming and almost subsonic rhythm guitar. Like most of their songs, the overall subject is that of forgotten worlds and sidelined or vanished movements in history -- the destroyed glories of Carthage and Julian the Apostate's failed attempt at bringing back paganism to the Roman Empire both make an appearance --, but there is plenty more. The lyrics are brilliant, an integral part of the listening experience, and every once in a while the lyrics are shouted like a battle cry. Really, the closest band I can think of that comes near to what Ancient Rites are doing here is Bal Sagoth, but without the fantasy (most of the stories are historical) and with a more understated approach than the pure bombast that marked Bal Sagoth albums. But the mix of power and black metal is similar, though it's a unique creation of its own with merely some traits from those genres.

Though the symphonic part is never absent, metal is always embedded throughout the songs, be it the harmonized tremolo guitars of Legio V Alaudae or the epic solo guitar work on Frankenland. Frankenland was one of my favorites, in fact; the band pulls out all the stops here and makes this one even more heroic-sounding than usual -- the additional melody on here doesn't hurt, either. The last song, Fatum, sums up the theme of this album with a soft ode to possibilities cut short, missed opportunities, and to emphasize this, uses the same melody as the much fiercer Under the Sign of Laguz, which was about fearless Viking sailors -- who, themselves, are also long-vanished in the mists of time.

This might take some getting used to, especially if one is not already an Ancient Rites fan; it took me a few listens to start appreciating what they were doing here, and it's not helped by the sheer density of Laguz. Just like listening to a full symphony, it's not something you do every day, but is ultimately a very rewarding listen.

Killing Songs :
All, but Frankenland is my favorite
Andy quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Ancient Rites that we have reviewed:
Ancient Rites - Dim Carcosa reviewed by Khelek and quoted 90 / 100
Ancient Rites - Rubicon reviewed by Crims and quoted 92 / 100
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