Ancient Creation – Moonlight Monument
This is my first review with Black Wind Metal, so one thing to know about me before I start: I absolutely love European Power Metal, with its emphasis on speed, melody and an overall epic sound. US Power Metal? Not so much. I often struggle with the more aggressive sound, and a lot of the time it doesn’t even seem like Power Metal to me. So when I first started up “Moonlight Monument”, the third full length album from American band Ancient Creation, I didn’t exactly have high expectations.
Surprisingly, the album managed to impress me in ways I didn’t expect. The biggest strength of the band is their high quality of musicianship, which combined with the flawless production makes for a very smooth sound throughout. The music can be aggressive at points, but it’s more of a controlled aggression that’s used in short bursts, and there are certainly some great melodies to be found, along with some pretty epic choruses. Many of the songs are lengthy, at over six minutes, but this isn’t a problem for me, as each song has some memorable moments. In general, I find the instrumental portions to be the best, with one particular section near the beginning of “Black Reflection” being the best example of what I mean when I describe the sound as “smooth”: It’s fast (just like I want my Power Metal), the guitar sound is nice, the bass can be heard clearly, the drums are excellent, and everything comes together perfectly. That song is my favorite, and it also shows off another strength of the band, the guitar solos. These are very technically proficient and very nice sounding, without ever becoming too overbearing.
The songs are mostly mid-tempo, and quite dark in tone (something the two guitarists pull off nicely).There is the occasional burst of speed, though no song is fast the whole way through. “Profane Destiny”, “Stories in the Snow” and the title track are probably the fastest for the longest amount of time. And this leads me to the negatives: The songs start to feel a bit similar after a while, so towards the end I was hoping for something of a different speed the whole way through or a pure ballad (there is a nice softer section on “With Anguish” that lasts a couple of minutes, but that’s it). “Through Prophet’s Eyes” stands out for being heavier than everything else, but it’s still not very memorable. While the title track is strong overall, there are some annoying voice-overs during the chorus towards the end, and these kill the mood as they are incredibly cheesy.
But the biggest flaw for me is vocalist Steve Bentley. To start with he has a very unpleasant, very raspy lower pitched voice, the kind that is most likely to annoy me on any melodic album. But he also needs to work on his technique, because sometimes he is noticeably out of tune, and his delivery seems forced, so it gets frustrating when the band is attempting an epic chorus. In fact, the choruses are the worst part of this album, and the band is certainly not to be blamed for it. He sounds the worst on “Apocalypse” and ruins what could have been an excellent song. I’m sure some people will like his voice more than me, but his technical flaws definitely need to be worked on if the band is to ever become anything special.
Overall, Ancient Creation still have a lot of room to grow, particularly in the vocal and songwriting department, as there are some flashes of brilliance throughout, but only “Black Reflection” manages to impress me the whole way through. If they can work on this and find a better singer, they can become a great band. As it is, I recommend “Moonlight Monument” to fans of slightly aggressive and darker Power Metal, who are willing to look past the flaws and appreciate the overall talent displayed.
Travis Green’s rating: 3.25 out of 5