Ancestral - Master of Fate - (9/10)
Published on February 14, 2017
One is often advised against judging a book by its cover, but there also has to be some sort of caution when it comes to modeling a certain thematic and artistic style after another band’s album, especially a band as established and revered as Rhapsody. Ancestral’s sophomore album, Master of Fate, released 10 years after their debut, might understandably be mistaken for a Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus clone at first glance but appearances, it is also said, can be deceiving. What’s on offer is something wholly unique in inspiration, composition, and execution, an album that draws influences from everything under the power metal sun except Rhapsody and creates its own distinct persona, and in so doing, a detailed and promising picture that excites just as much as it surprises.
One of the finer details to Ancestral, in fact, is that there are many that add to the overall picture, so much so that enumerating them all in terms of which bits of which bands one can extrapolate from the overall mix would be too monumental a task to bear. From the opening track, “Back to Life,” Ancestral comes off as high-octane speed metal, played how Dragonforce might perceive such a style through a thrash metal lens, with a matching complexity of riffing that arguably is more than necessary but simply adds to the scorching nature of the song.
Indeed, Ancestral is all about the details, from the overly technical nature of the riffs to the solo-stacked nature of each song that when accompanied by pure thrash and randomly placed Iron Maiden melodies, makes the band something of an anomaly even within power metal. Combining, say, Bay Area thrash with Jeff Loomis styled leads, one can’t be faulted for expecting a cameo from Chuck Billy; or even Bruce Dickinson during “Wind of Egadi” or “Refuge of Souls,” the latter of which happens to (coincidentally) feature Fabio Lione.
Grounding this entire album squarely in the power metal realm, however, despite its heavy thrash orientation, is singer Jo Lombardo who at any moment might come off as ordinary but at many others as undeniably standout, such as on “Master of Fate,” where his range truly and finally comes to the fore, which is fitting considering how much it’s modeled after Gamma Ray.
If it seems Ancestral can’t ever decide where to go, that is, which power metal style to employ (Germanic, in the vein of Brainstorm, Gamma Ray, or Helloween), whether to finally come out of the thrash metal closet, or to be a (superior) Dragonforce clone, then worry not. Sometimes, odd bedfellows can make for the most intriguing and successful formulas and Ancestral proves that. These guys are a lot darker than other German inspired power metal bands, arguably more nuanced and varied, more unpredictable and therefore much deadlier and versatile. They play everything at such an accelerated rate that it’s hard to keep up, and even when you think you know what’s going on you really don’t. These guys will run laps around you and you’ll never even notice.