Volcandra - The Way Of Ancients

Artist: Volcandra

Album Title: The Way Of Ancients

Label: Prosthetic Records

Date of Release: 1 March 2024

When someone on social media suggests an album to listen to if you like melodic black and death metal, I’m going to dive right in. You all know me by now – give me some heaviness and then lace it with melody and I’ll be happier than a pig in muck. It was inevitable that I’d immediately take the recommendation about Volcandra, then, with this, their second album, ‘The Way Of Ancients’. One look at the cover only further enhanced the likelihood of listening too, as it screams ‘I’ll like this’.

Knowing nothing about the band, other than they have a name similar to another personal favourite, Thulcandra, I headed off to do some research as I listened. I wasn’t expecting the band to be American, I must admit but Volcandra hail from Louisville, Kentucky and formed in 2018. Their debut, ‘Into The Azure’ was released in 2020 and they are signed to the pretty reliable Prosthetic Records label. A quartet currently, they are comprised of guitarists River Jordan and Jamie DeMar, vocalist Dave Palenske, and drummer Mike Hargrave.

Right out of the blocks, the four-piece literally knock me sideways with ‘Birth Of The Nephalem’, one of the most immediately striking songs I have heard this year so far. It is everything I want from a melodic black metal band, setting the bar incredibly high from the get-go. There’s no pointless intro, just a building guitar melody accented by sweeping, atmospheric keys. It could be argued as ethereal female vocals whisper within the gradually building introduction that the song is more of an atmospheric black metal entity, but I simply couldn’t give a flying whatever, because I love this song.

Even when the song explodes, it does so modestly. The killer melody remains, and it gets stronger with every listen. Harsh vocals eventually arrive as the song deviates from the ultra-melodic intro to deliver a harsher, more abrasive verse with hints of thrash and raw death metal blended in. Dave Palenske is able to switch from a higher-pitched black metal rasp to a much deeper death growl as the song flits between the two with ease. The lead guitar solo over blastbeats and more melodic beauty is a masterstroke. Indeed, the whole five-minute affair is out of the highest of top drawers and will almost certainly end up as one of my favourites of the year.

If truth be told, I’d have been happy with another seven or eight songs along the exact same lines. But Volcandra have other ideas, mixing things up nicely across the digestible forty-minute run time. In response to the magnificently moody and melodic opener, we’re then hit with the much more angular and caustic ‘Fouled Sanctity’, demonstrating the Americans’ ability to explore other realms. The result is a song that still has snatches of catchiness and icy black metal melody, but there’s a greater emphasis on thrash and death metal elements. The great thing about this song, as well as others on this record, is that they offer that ‘grower’ factor, getting better with repeated spins.

Volcandra - The Way Of Ancients

Three songs in, and all three are different. ‘Nemesis Confession’ begins with a creepy piano intro that’s pure black metal cinema, akin to those instrumental intros and interludes with which we’re so familiar. However, out of nowhere, Volcandra release their most intense and aggressive side, literally battering the listener around the head with fierce drumming and a cold, uncomfortable fast-picked black metal riff. What this heavier track ably demonstrates is the quality of the production which manages to sound a little raw and ‘old-school’ around the edges, but provides clarity to all of the instruments, even when the band are in complete attack mode. The bass guitar, in particular, pierces the tumult strongly, which is something to be commended here.

The intro to ‘Seven Tombs’ is a delicate guitar/bass delight, bathed in atmospheric synths, offering a lovely melody in the process. It’s a bit of a shock, then, when a much more thrash-infused track develops, complete with ‘gang vocals’ in the chorus. If I’m being honest here, this isn’t one of my favourites on ‘The Way Of Ancients’ and at this point, I yearn for a reprise of the intro, or to return to the formula executed on the opening track. Admittedly, the melodic lead guitar solo section is cool, but it’s not quite enough for me.

‘The Way Of Ancients’ finishes strongly, however, thanks to ‘The Blackened Temple’ and the closing title track. The former features some wonderfully icy staccato lead guitar work that creates an increasingly catchy and memorable blackened death metal track that gets better and better each time I hear it. For the finale, however, there’s something of a return to more atmospheric climes. The longest song on the album, it takes its time to explore it surroundings, mixing up the pace and allowing a more measured mid-tempo to take the lead for much of the time. I hear a smattering of NWOBHM within the track, too, as it skips along at various times. The mid-song melodic pause for breath is a delight, allowing the song to build again to a rousing finale before reprising the opening track in the final throes.

I’m so glad I didn’t let this record slip through my fingers, because it has delivered much listening pleasure since I first pressed play. I do honestly wish more of ‘The Way Of Ancients’ followed the course of the opener, because that song is, for my tastes, all kinds of perfect. Nevertheless, what Volcandra do deliver is of a very high quality, varied, entertaining, and sure to be a hit with anyone who enjoys either melodic black metal, or melodic death metal.

The Score of Much Metal: 84%



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