I was going to leave this little beauty alone as this album has been covered by all the main bloggers and in the case of one blog twice! I tried to resist, I really did but after giving it a spin today I thought what the hell this deserves all the plaudits it can get. Anyway this is MY review....
It seems like an eternity since Spelljammer released Vol. II way back in 2012 and although rumours persisted that the band were working on something new nothing materialised until this year (2015). "Ancient Of Days" arrived with very little fanfare just seeming to appear from nowhere, one day nothing the next appearing on my Bandcamp feed like an early Christmas present.
The albums first track "Meadow" opens with distorted guitar and bass droning noisily with moments of shrill feedback and white noise underpinned with the occasional drum beat and shimmering cymbal. The track continues to build slowly until eventually settling into a bass heavy groove with Robert Sörling's guitar laying low in the mix yet adding just the right amount of colour and added texture to the songs sonic cannon. Niklas Olsson's vocal roar adds yet another dimension to the songs dynamic sound, as well as supplying his exemplary bass skills he also supplies a vocal that sits somewhere between a sludge-like bellow and a clean monotone mantra. At the mid-way mark the song breaks down into an ambient space rock episode before exploding once again ,this time harder, louder with new boy Jonatan Rimsbo underpinning the mayhem with his slow deliberate but immensely effective drumming. The relentlessness continues until Sörling takes things to the fade with some scorching lead work. As an opener for a new album this is a monster!
Second track "Laelia" is a short acoustic affair and reminds me of the sort of thing Tony Iommi would throw in on those early Sabbath albums. It's pretty but only really works as a moment of respite before its business as usual with next track "From Slumber"
"From Slumber" enters stage right with an ambient space-like intro, Sörling's guitar sitting higher in the mix, soaked in effect laying down echo drenched licks with an almost Gilmour-esque beauty. Olsson then enters with more mantra like phrasing before all hell breaks loose after the first verse, Rimsbo tearing into his kit like Keith Moon on steroids, Sörling wailing like a banshee on his six strings and Olsson using every inch of his fretboard to create fluid bass lines and fills. Olsson's voice steps up a level to match the cacophony all around it by going full sludge bellow, roaring his lyrics like a demented Furher at a night rally. Things settle down again for the songs last quarter, the vocal dropping back to a croon against a backdrop of spacey ambience that takes it to the close.
"Pathfinder" finds the band exploring their classic/hard rock side, albeit with a thick slow doomy distorted edge, grooving on a riff with Sörling adding solo's Page and Iommi would be proud of. Olsson and Rimsbo lock in tight creating a wall of noise that will not only shred your speakers but also melt them
"Borlung" closes the album with just over eleven minutes of pure Spelljammer magic, incorporating everything from droning distortion, shifting time signatures, scorching solos, passages of funereal doom and powerful vocal tones. In fact everything you want from a Spelljammer track
I was a little apprehensive when approaching this album, it had been a while since Vol. II and with line up changes bands can often shoot off on a tangent heading into different directions of sound but I need not have worried, although Spelljammer have explored other areas with "Ancient of Days" they have still managed to maintain that core of sound that make them such an exciting band to listen to and enjoy.