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Ancestors - Suspended in Reflection Award winner

Suspended in Reflection
by David Nowels at 17 September 2018, 10:06 AM

ANCESTORS call Los Angeles, California home. “Suspended in Reflection” is their fifth album, and their first since 2012. The band has scaled themselves down from a five piece ensemble, to quite an effective three piece band that still maintains a significant amount of sound. It’s fascinating really. I don’t know that I would even suggest this is Metal.  Rather, I’d say there’s more of an avant-garde, psychedelic sonic experimentation happening here that defies a label. Whatever you want to call it, it’s breathtakingly fresh and stunning. Sounding like a heavier Sigur Ros, ANCESTORS have an ambient, cacophony of sound happening here. If pressed to compare them to a similar metal band, I don’t think I’m giving them justice. Perhaps NEUROSIS?  Maybe Al Cisneros’s OM? This is just far too unique of a sound to properly or fairly compare.  Multi layered instrumentation of guitars, keys, percussion and vocals. Every song contains elements of the previous and future songs, and everything seems tied together by a similar theme.

Opening with “Gone”, guitarist and vocalist Justin Maranga quickly sets the tone, with the aforementioned multi-layered guitars, droning lead vocals and haunting harmonies. Continuing on the established theme, the song constantly evolves even taking on the feel of improvisation as it seamlessly segues into “Through a Window”.  With softer approaches, the song still maintains intensity, and in fact, it manages to build upon it as it reaches its peak and descends again into swelling organ and cymbal crashes. In “Lying in the Grass” the keyboards seem to channel the masterful Richard Wright of Pink Floyd. Utilizing the keys to sound similar to horns, pianos and organs, Jason Watkins is a master at work here. Most intriguing, there are whispering spoken portions contained within the song that beg for closer inspection. “Into the Fall” begins almost franticly, perhaps the peak of the album’s songs. Utilizing violins and cellos, the song takes on new paths in a genre that seems to be ever evolving. This is really a mesmerizing track, continuing on a theme of no beginning or end, it ultimately simply becomes “Release”“Release” is sprawling. In the best way possible. The song builds and builds, almost frightfully so, before taking on an almost “jazzy” theme.  The intensity builds and again returns briefly, before all at once, the theme continues as it had before into a new track. This time, “The Warm Glow”.

“The Warm Glow” might be the ‘heaviest” track overall. But it’s only momentary. Like the other songs, it maintains the main theme while announcing its own individuality from the others. The song breaks down into a foreboding guitar solo from Maranga, as Pouliot flails away purposely on the drums. Not to be overlooked, not that he could be, Watkins utilizes every tool at his disposal impressively and effectively. These songs are unexpectedly strikingly, and even shockingly beautiful. There are no wasted notes here. Every single note played expands upon the theme existentially.  It is indeed, music that feels otherworldly. There’s degrees of torment, horror and loss here. But more importantly there’s an ever present serenity, hope and renewal that somehow seems more prevalent. In a year of unquestionably magnificent releases within the genre of Metal, “Suspended in Reflection” is distinct. It originality, and its genre pushing uniqueness make it a dark horse. ANCESTORS have delivered a grounds breaking, game changing contender for album of the year.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Gone
2. Through a Window
3. Lying in the Grass
4. Into the Fall
5. Release
6. The Warm Glow
Justin Maranga – Vocals, Guitar
Jason Watkins - Keys
Daniel Pouliot - Drums
Record Label: Pelagic Records


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Edited 08 February 2023

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