Antiquus - _Ramayana_
(Independent, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (6 out of 10)
Concept albums are a tricky business; almost always shooting for the epic (in music, often taken as length over atmosphere) rock and metal rarely succeed equally in both attempts at narrative and score, either doing too little or too much in one direction or lacking the dynamic to express source literature accurately. Not every band has the skill to execute such lofty aims. This is partly the case with Canada's Antiquus, who make an admirable effort to relate the titular Hindu poem in the context of power metal; a bold way to start off a career.

Antiquus' debut consists of ten tracks broken into two sections. Only the final six deal with Ramayana itself, as the preceding four tracks are concerned with the Napoleonic Wars and ubiquitous technology that brings to mind the aesthetic of Sabbath's _Dehumanized_ record. _Ramayana_ brings together quite a few influential traits throughout the album, setting the smooth melodies of Iron Maiden against the grating demon screeches of Slayer's twin guitar riffing. While they never come up with anything quite as memorable as even the lesser works of those bands, they do manage to mold an appropriate atmosphere to thoughtful lyrics with some sticky hooks along the way.

Both evocative and plagued a kind of aridity, _Ramayana_ grows with each listen but is still slightly disjointed by its meandering length and by the inconsistent vocals (a variation of both Dickinson and Messiah Marcolin's operatic style), at times underproduced, but also not quite in step with the ominous guitar scales. Rising in a shaded dance, these melodic verse open the way to the prerequisite sitar intro that starts off the mythology portion of the record. Antiquus' best efforts here culminate in the airy "Hanuman", begun with a light acoustic bounce that perfectly captures the jungle world of the tale's primate warrior. The song is then carried by a psychedelic zephyr into a chorus of eerily overlapping vocals crying from above the brush. Unfortunately the closing piece is a not nearly as devastating or poetic as its boastful title hints, and at nearly eleven minutes proves that length is an overvalued component for this arena.

This release should interest fans of power and prog metal, and while it lacks in key areas, there's enough talent to stain the mind with, at least for a little while.


(article published 30/6/2005)

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