Ancient Glacial Resurgence by Imperial Crystalline EntombmentRelease date: September 1, 2023
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
What’s the best way to return after decades in the musical wilderness? There’s the My Bloody Valentine/Portishead route, where you drop a new record out of nowhere, or there’s the punk favourite of a high-profile reunion with a record to follow when they find the time, á la Refused. Then again, you could tease a few choice slabs of new material, open your comeback album with a scream of, “We are still. Fucking. Iiiiiiiccce!” and beat the listener senseless with a blastbeat blitzkrieg. That’s exactly the route Imperial Crystalline Entombment, the US-based glacial black metal collective, opted for and honestly, how could that not work?
The fact that they chose to lead with a nod back to their 2004 debut is a telling one as in many ways Ancient Glacial Resurgence makes it feel like they never left. This is breakneck black metal, an adrenalised take on the second wave’s coldest, bleakest melodicism that never gives the listener time to catch their breath. That’s not to say that there have been no improvements over the past decades. The melodies are simply majestic, each one lingering just long enough to burrow into the brain before shifting course and hitting you with another stormer. Additionally, production this time around is much crisper, letting the clinical precision of the drumming have maximum impact while bringing every riff right to the forefront of the mix.
Even beyond those improvements, the songwriting on offer is incredibly rich. There’s a definite focus on speed and aggression from the outset, ‘Into A Frigid Bleak Eternity’ never halting for a moment as it shifts from one needle-sharp flurry of tremolo to another, but the patchwork way in which they piece together each song from a vast library of riffs that even on first listen manage to sound iconic is impressive. There’s no break in energy, giving it an effortless simplicity that belies the effort and precision that has evidently gone into each of these ten songs. When they do slow things down, as on the hulking ‘Cataclysmic Glaciation’, they retain a sense of urgency even as the riffs plough steadily onward like mankind’s inevitable icy extinction. Meanwhile, ‘Savage Blizzard Stabbings’ takes things to weirder territories, one moment a tight stop-start feast of technical aggression and the next a strange, twisting soundscape that borders on psychedelia.
In Ancient Glacial Resurgence, ICE have managed to craft an accessible, exquisitely produced metal record that could appeal to fans of black metal’s OGs, to death metal aficionados looking to expand their musical horizons and even to fans of heavy metal, thrash and prog thanks to a knack for grandiose melodies, even grander lyrical motifs and dense, intricate songcraft. That’s an impressive feat but they have evidently approached this with a degree of reverence for their forebears. This feels like an old-school black metal record, relentless and bloody-minded, but rather than settle on mimicking their influences there is a genuine desire to advance the genre, an ambition that they seemingly live up to. This is truly apocalyptic black metal and even if humanity goes out in a flash of heat rather than a slow, creeping frost-death, this would be a hell of a record to go out on.