When Gunther Theys founded ANCIENT RITES in 1988, he hardly could have imagined the band to become one of the forerunners in the Black Metal genre, or the band to expand to the seven-headed giant it is now. For indeed, ANCIENT RITES has expanded, changed even, yet remained much the same. Changed, because the band isn't the same band as during "Dim Carcosa" or "Fatherland". Four members have joined the ranks since their former album, and raised the bar in terms of live playing and song writing and changed a few musical roles along the way. Remained very much the same, because three of these new members aren't really new; they rejoined the fold after years of absence. And there seems to be some kind of logic to it as well.
Original member Bart Vandereycken was the first to return to his old home. With him, he brought back the vibe and feel of the early days, the days of "The Diabolic Serenades" and "Blasfemia Eternal". Back in 1996, Raf Jansen replaced Bart for a six month stint with the band, around the time Erik Sprooten joined. He also returned to the fold at the end of 2004, which saw ANCIENT RITES expand to a veritable guitar army of three guitar players. At the same time, ANCIENT RITES welcomed back Domingo Smets who left the keyboard duties in the capable hands of Davy Wouters, who has the honor of being the only really new member over the past four years. Much to everyone's surprise, though, Domingo took over bass duties from Gunther Theys, who wanted more freedom on stage to sing and interact with the fans. Several live gigs in the first half of 2005 proved that this expansion was to the benefit of both ANCIENT RITES and the fans' live experience, and it didn't stop there.
With the expansion, ANCIENT RITES laid the foundation for what has now become their fifth studio album : "Rvbicon". The band pulled out all the stops to ensure that the follow-up to 2001's "Dim Carcosa" would become another step forward, and they've succeeded. Under the capable guidance of veteran ANCIENT RITES producers Oliver Phillips and Christian Moos, the band recorded "Rvbicon" in their Spacelab Studio. Both in songwriting as well as orchestrations, the album proves that ANCIENT RITES has once again progressed and pushed the boundaries of their genre in their unique way. As well as brutal riffing and pounding war drumming, melancholic interludes, atmospheric intros and endings whisk the listener away, right into the heart of the songs which are, as always, represented by the lyrics of Gunther Theys. Like no other, he succeeds in capturing a historic event or a certain mood. Take, for instance, the meeting with the ghostly apparition of a young World War I soldier at the Meense Poort Memorial in "Ypres", or the frustrated outcry in "Cheruscan" of Emperor Octavianus Augustus to Varus, in which he demands to return to him the legions defeated by the Germanic Cheruscan tribe.
With three songs at least referring to the times of the Roman Empire, one can rightly conclude that "Rvbicon" is an appropriate title for this new ANCIENT RITES album. After all, it entails all the classic ingredients of an ANCIENT RITES album : powerful and at times epic songwriting, strong lyricism and an overall loose concept, capturing the spirit of the album. However, there's more to "Rvbicon" than one might surmise.
The album's title wasn't merely chosen because of its historical merits. There is an underlying theme there, one which is close to home to the band and its history. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon back in 53 BC, he knew he was going against Roman Law. He faced serious opposition and would most likely be brandished an enemy of the Republic, a status punishable by death. Nevertheless, he chose to do what he felt was in the best interest of both himself and the Roman people and pushed over the set boundary that was the Rubicon river. Julius Caesar gave himself no other option than pushing forward toward victory. ANCIENT RITES have always operated in much the same way. Over the course of the band's history, they have stared into the face of adversity and firmly pushed ahead, regardless of whatever problem, setback, boundary or opposition lay ahead. And they are more than committed to continuing in the same spirit. Their new album and its title certainly prove they are ready, willing and able to do so. Nevertheless, the spirit of "Rvbicon" is not just about the band itself, but at the same time a call to anyone listening to this album to cross their own "Rubicon". This is certainly illustrated when one listens to the title song, where Gunther clearly makes this call : 'If Caesar crossed the Rubicon, so can thee!'
Looking back and learning from the past in order to progress has always been a strongpoint of ANCIENT RITES. "Rvbicon" illustrates this point even further and continues the band's will for progression with total disregard for boundaries. It sets the pace once again for a bright future, firmly rooted in the band's ancestral past.
|Walter Van Cortenberg||Drums|