Ancestral Curse – In Dreams of Endless Darkness Review

Since the first chords of “Black Sabbath” rang out from Tony Iommi’s tipless fingers, horror and metal have been intertwined. Horror can be injected into a record any number of ways, be it through gratuitous slasher samples, thematic lyrical content, or a general focus on terrifying atmosphere. New York new bloods Ancestral Curse claim to brandish a “horror-themed concoction of melodic blackened death metal.” In Dreams of Endless Darkness is the self-released debut from this quintet, which always tempers expectations, but the band managed to pull in a couple of notable guest spots that caught my eye. Spooky season—my favorite season— officially ended two weeks ago, and I’m hoping for an extension with these 8 tracks of terror, malice, and gore. Can Ancestral Curse keep my Halloween horror high going?

The late, great Trevor Strnad lends his talents to a track on IDoED, no coincidence since much of Ancestral Curse’s DNA comes straight from The Black Dahlia Murder. Shadow of Intent is cited as an influence (think rich, prevalent orchestrals), and I hear Æther Realm in the swaying riffs and folk-ish melodies, but by and large, this is BDM-core. Guitarists Mike Tinghitella and Chris Jones alternate between melodic tremolo lines and Gothenburg-inflected riffs, while making sure to meet the required deathcore-adjacent breakdown quota. The rhythm section mirrors the guitars in oscillating between blasts and unison rhythmic patterns, and the harsh vocals stay firmly in a mid-range snarl, with occasional cleans provided by Chris Rulon (“Terror at The Big Top,” “From the Depths”). If all of this sounds familiar that’s because the band opts to stay on the safe side of blackened death, working within a proven framework. While sidestepping innovation doesn’t necessarily spell doom, getting all those elements to gel together is paramount for any album to succeed.

In Dreams of Endless Darkness by Ancestral Curse

Unfortunately for Ancestral Curse, IDoED is neither groundbreaking nor focused. Tracks with solid verse-chorus structures (“In Dreams of Endless Darkness,” “Terror at the Big Top”) are weakened by messier through-composed songs that blur in the listener’s memory (“Curse of the Blood Moon,” “Attack of the Mutant Mud Monsters”). Catchy meat-and-potatoes melodeath riffs abound but their impact is neutered by chuggy, standardized breakdowns (“In Dreams of Endless Darkness,” “Curse of the Blood Moon”). The orchestral additions are well-written but they’re often mixed so low against the band that it’s difficult to make out any details to enhance the atmosphere (“In Dreams of Endless Darkness,” “Attack of the Mutant Mud Monsters”). Finally, and most egregiously, the horror concept of IDoED seems shoehorned in, only emerging in atmospheric opener “Sleep…(Intro)” and closer “From the Depths.” The lyrics spell out the conceit a little clearer, but given the vocal delivery of this genre, it’s futile to rely on words to deliver the intended horror effect.

It’s not all discouraging doom and gloom. Although proper opener “In Dreams of Endless Darkness” clocks in at a whopping 8 minutes, the rest of the tracks make good use of time so as not to wear out the listener. Embedded “The Dread Sea” is one of the better cuts, a triple-time blackened sea shanty with ear-worm melodies and an almost-there song structure. But it’s mid-album “Terror at the Big Top” that deserves special mention as an example of what Ancestral Curse can do when everything falls into place. Tightly edited riffs that don’t overstay their welcome? Check. Memorable sing-along chorus? Check. Bridge with guest vocals and genre-appropriate breakdown? Check. Aside from a cringe-inducing spoken word section about clowns and circuses, this is the track we’ve been waiting for the whole record, and it’s all the more frustrating that it sits alone amongst its peers.

While there are moments of promise, In Dreams of Endless Darkness is plagued by inconsistency and a lack of perceptible horror. “Terror at the Big Top” is a real standout, and it’s great to hear Trevor’s voice in new material. I’d be remiss not mention that Ancestral Curse are donating a portion of their first-run sales to a crisis center for adults and youth in distress, a fitting and altruistic gesture. While I don’t relish handing out low scores to young bands just finding their footing, I can’t say I’ll be returning to this debut album. There is potential lurking in these madmen, but they have a hill to climb from IDoED to unlock its chains and deliver a real horror metal spectacle.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3

Label: Self-Released
Websites: | Bandcamp

Releases Worldwide: November 16th, 2023

The post Ancestral Curse – In Dreams of Endless Darkness Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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