Los Angeles psych-doom-metal quintet Ancestors are best known for lengthy compositions. Their first full-length album, 2008’s Neptune with Fire, was just two songs long but clocked in at nearly 40 minutes. For their newest release In Dreams and Time, they do not shy away from this trademark—six songs, 66 minutes. Deal with it, they seem to say.
The bulk of Dreams is slow and plodding, a feature contributing to the overall length. What makes Ancestors interesting is their mix of low-fidelity, gruff, garage guitars combined with well-crafted neo-classical keyboard minuets. There’s nothing showy in these orchestrations, which makes the artistry feel more authentic. Dreams is their second release with synth/guitar player Matt Barks. They released the sleepy Invisible White EP last year, a mellow 30 minutes that felt like remaining founding members Jason Maranga, Nick Long, and Jason Christopher Watkins taking Barks out for a test drive.
It doesn’t take long for Dreams to return to the volume their fans know best. The guitars sound raw, as though being played through an amp with a burnt-out tube. That’s not a knock; it’s what separates Ancestors from other prog-metal bands. It also serves to accentuate their quieter moments, like the beginning of “The Last Return” or the Floydian middle of “Corryvreckan.” The vocals on Dreams are a mix of sustained, harmonized chants and different kinds of screams (with the notable exception of Shiny Toy Guns’ Carah Faye on “The Last Return”). There is some impressive interplay between these sounds in “On the Wind,” which makes for some memorable moments. Yet on the whole the album drags on, repeating the same long measures without significant changes until the songs reach an ideal length required to bear the Ancestors’ name.