The Way of Ancients is a heavy metal melting pot from Volcandra, brimming with riffs, hooks, and sword and sorcery goodness. Stay awhile and listen.

Release date: March 1, 2024 | Prosthetic Records | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

The entire genre of heavy metal is evidence that the spark of inspiration can be produced from many flames. As artists have continued to experiment and push the sonic boundaries of this highly malleable form of music, we’ve ended up with a seemingly unending number of subgenres, from technical death metal to Viking folk metal. For the uninitiated, there are a multitude of documentaries predicated on the exploration of this topic. That said, given how passionate the fans are for this music, it’s understandable that there would inevitably be some crossover with other subjects and fandoms, as well.

The influence of horror and sci-fi films, Dungeons & Dragons, and the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft, for example, has all found a way into countless band names, lyrics, and concept albums. The rich worlds of video game series like The Witcher, The Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls, and more have also begun to permeate the genre. Which brings us to Volcandra, who might be the first band – or at least the first band to my knowledge – to fashion songs and lyrics inspired by the universe of Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo games. Rest assured, though, that you won’t need a doctorate in Diablo lore to fully immerse yourself in this melodic tempest. In the immortal words of Deckard Cain, ‘stay awhile and listen.’

The Way of Ancients puts what might be its best foot forward with “Birth of the Nephalem”. I’ve always been a believer in the notion that the best melodies are the ones you can easily sing. If you’ve ever witnessed an Iron Maiden concert, you’ll know exactly what I mean by this. “Birth of the Nephalem” soars out of the gate with a huge, uplifting guitar lead and triumphant vocals and takes us on a dynamic journey, weaving together elements of black metal and melodic death metal. Every time the band returns to that central melody in the chorus, however, it’s like coming home from an epic adventure. It’s a melody that gets buried in your head and just demands crowd sing-along and participation.

“Birth of the Nephalem” and many other tracks on The Way of Ancients almost seem like they were written with live performance in mind. The thrash-infused “Fouled Sanctity” further exemplifies this idea, but as the album progresses, Volcandra starts to introduce us to a darker, more introspective side, as well, with the bleak and blackened “Nemesis Confession”. This song calls more to mind the frozen soundscapes of bands like Emperor or Immortal while eschewing some of the speed and blunt-force riffing found in other offerings throughout. “Maiden of Anguish”, too, flirts more with these black metal stylings, even managing to inject a gnarly, hardcore punk break in the middle. It needs to be said at this point that Volcandra has a knack for pulling together all these different sounds, while still managing to keep it cohesive and maintain their sense of identity. “Seven Tombs” even features gang vocals, which I’ve never been fond of, but in the context of this heavy metal melting pot, it all just somehow works.

The Way of Ancients closes, perhaps, just as strongly as it started with the title track of the album. At nearly eight minutes, “The Way of Ancients” is a progressive masterwork in the vein of Ghost Reveries-era Opeth. Guitarists River Jordan and Jamie DeMar make very interesting and tasteful usage of major chords and modal choices here that lend to the experience an almost tangible sense of place. It’s a perfect culmination of the voyage we’ve been on with Volcandra to this point. The album finally comes to an end fading out on the same melody that started it, bringing everything full circle in the most beautiful way possible.

This is really an ambitious record that has a little bit of something for everyone. There’s so much variety that purists seeking a more straightforward approach to one genre might be left scratching their heads. But it’s here where I believe Volcandra’s strength as songwriters lies, as they’ve managed to pull it off and pull it off well at that. The Way of Ancients is all killer and no filler. It’s brimming with hooks and memorability, and each song has something unique and exciting to offer. In reviewing this album, I lost track of just how many times I listened to it, but I never once found myself skipping a track or getting bored, and I think that’s a testament to the band’s ability to write great music.

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