Review Summary: Ancestortooth are determined to grab you by the sack and not let go until you're sterile and screaming.
What I love most about Ancestortooth's Elephant Boneyard
is that regardless of what mood I'm in before listening to it, as soon as I throw myself into its unforgiving clutches I'm quickly whisked away into another land where everything is in service of a haunting atmosphere. Be it the dark shadows ghosting on prickly bushes in the nighttime forest, or the snow falling furiously to the ground, or even the apparitions floating up from the snow intent on scaring your balls out of your scrotum, it's a crushing place to be in. But it's just so ***ing atmospheric that calling it anything other than utterly engrossing is almost criminal, if a bit ironic, seeing that its intentions are easy to figure out. I mean, drone metal has been done to death before, with grueling and slow instrumentation that builds in density and atmosphere more so than it focuses on any recognizable structure, so the band's cruel intentions and misanthropy are expected from the get-go. Yet this comes out as a good thing because Ancestortooth make a pact with you from the start and they don't let you down.
Ancestortooth are determined to grab you by the sack and not let go until you're sterile and screaming.
Now pardon that last hyperbole, but I find it essential to emphasize just how grueling of a listen this can be, as this seven song compilation is all about being profoundly grim. It's a collection of blustering lo-fi distortion as well as sustained chords that transform into some unexpected riff-fests with relatively speedy tempos. Of course both sections are at times equally intense with their layers of sonic assault, but the members of Ancestortooth are masters of subtle changes which make outrageous changes in the effect of their sound. Slow crescendoes are portentous of doom - where cathartic howling and dissonant chords collide, completely opposite to the slightly quieter passages that more closely resemble melancholy than misanthropy. This goes on for over an hour, swirling you into its noisy vortex of impenetrable hatred which makes it an emotionally gratifying release in ironic terms. Such terms being that Elephant Boneyard
is the musical equivalent of a depressant.
However, it's cinematic and effective in transporting you to a wintry Hell of a place. And musically, the album focuses on both suspense and the rolling of the wheels which bring you to your destination. On the latter half of the album, apocalyptic doom slowly gains speed until its once lo-fi, sludgy appeal is a cantankerous jackhammer of grinding guitars and maniacal drum patterns several times. And both the slow crescendoes and the focus on expanding pre-existing atmospheric tendencies are vital to its effectiveness. Without them both, you might still be dwelling in your dark basement and not in the dark, static hole or the bleak midwinter that Ancestortooth is so adamant in bringing you to.