Antiquus Scriptum - O Vale de Guadalquivir - (7.5/10)
Published on January 29, 2018
One of the latest releases in an ever-expanding discography, O Vale de Guadalquivir is the sixth compilation release from the Portuguese project Antiquus Scriptum. In a discography that features six full length albums, seven splits, and three demos, the band’s release schedule has been remarkably consistent over the years. Most of the band’s material focuses on some type of progressive black/folk/viking metal, though they have been known to add lots of melodic segues, folk-ish interludes, and classically inspired pieces to the album, pushing the average length of their albums to well over the seventy-five minute mark.
So this is kind of where O Vale de Guadalquivir comes in at: it’s a compilation that solely focuses on these interludes and segues. That means that there is zero metal on this release. I don’t even think there’s an electric guitar in sight, let alone distortion. For the most part, the tracks here are rather soothing, with a very relaxed, almost medieval atmosphere. Acoustic guitars; piano; harpsichord; handheld percussion; this is mostly an instrumental affair, though there are segments with folk-ish singing. Samples of flowing water weave the tracks together, bridging together the different approaches to medieval sounding music, which is quite fitting given that the title is named for the Guadalquivir river valley.
O Vale de Guadalquivir serves as pretty cool background music when reading or just sitting back relaxing. Subtle acoustic guitar passages, medieval percussion, and classically inspired keys flit in and out, sounding much like a soundtrack rather than a collection of random tracks. That being said, I did find myself losing focus and zoning out at times, but that just speaks for the meditative quality of the music. The entire compilation moves forward nicely, though two tracks deserve mention for going against the grain. The opening track, “Spring Is Coming”, sounds campy at best, with female vocals singing in the key of “Frere Jacques”, and was an immediate turn off, while the closing track, a cover of Sting’s “Russians” laden with samples from Trump and Bush, which sounds more than a bit out of place on such a medieval sounding release.
Aside from those two seemingly strange choices, the rest of the album offers tranquil, medieval sounding music. If you’ve listened to anything from Antiquus Scriptum before, you know what to expect; just take the metal out and you have an idea of what’s going on here. Acoustic meandering, classy pianos, and percussion that sounds like something from a King Arthur movie, O Vale de Guadalquivir may be a turn off to some, but fans of acoustic folk and ambient would do well to give this a listen.