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      epic heavy metal from Belgium
      1988 After being active in many underground acts since 1979, four guys get together under the moniker of Ancient Rites for the first time. The line-up is Gunther (guitars/vocals), Philip (guitars), Wattie (bass) and an unnamed guy on drums. A more steady line-up is reached when two new member... read more
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      After being active in many underground acts since 1979, four guys get together under the moniker of Ancient Rites for the first time. The line-up is Gunther (guitars/vocals), Philip (guitars), Wattie (bass) and an unnamed guy on drums.

      A more steady line-up is reached when two new members replace Wattie and the drummer. The band now consists of Gunther (bass/vocals), Philip (guitars), Johan (guitars) and Stefan (drums).


      The Dark Ritual demo is recorded.

      The band is backed up by a loyal following calling themselves the Ancient Rites Death Militia; a number of people who want to set themselves apart from anything crossover, AOR or glam related.

      After having played two official headline gigs that sold out, AR inadvertently takes part in a contest and wins, gaining them an invitation to play on a metal festival after which they start to gain recognition.

      Later that year, drummer Stefan has to be replaced due to problems and Johan leaves the band since he can no longer relate to the concept.

      Tragedy strikes again when guitarist Philip dies in a car accident on the 31st of August 1990, leaving Gunther to deal with the loss of his companion and co-founder of the band.


      Refusing to give in and remaining loyal to the fighting spirit of the beginning, the band continues with drumroadie Walter replacing Stefan and guitarists Bart and Pascal joining as new members. This coincides with the band choosing a more radical musical course. Being left with little support, AR creates their own label called Fallen Angel Records and releases the self financed Evil Prevails EP. The first pressing is sold out rapidly and AR slowly builds up a worldwide underground following.

      The band starts to tour Europe intensively, resulting in them having to fire guitarist Pascal who suffers from a lack of time because of obligations in the Navy. AR continues as a trio, being the first foreign black metal band to play in such countries as Greece, Portugal and Italy.

      The band's first piece of vinyl is to be followed by three split 7" EP's and one split 12" EP.

      Black metal gains more attention, especially in the gutter press, due to the events taking place in the Norwegian black metal scene (church burnings and murders). As a consequence, AR sales increase, but continuing to play live (contrary to many black metal bands of those days) the band is also an easy target.

      Gigs are boycotted, the band members threatened both verbally and physically, bomb threats reach the clubs AR are playing at. All of this, not withstanding the band's rather symbolic approach: although AR praise a warrior spirit, they always felt the pen to be mightier than the sword.


      In the mean time, AR has finally been able to release their debut full length entitled The Diabolic Serenades, only to find themselves being ripped off by their label. Hence they are left with bad distribution and no royalties of any importance.

      While left with little or no commercial success, the band does gain an important following of malcontents from the worldwide metal scene.


      For the second album, Blasfemia Eternal, AR signs to Mascot Records. Just before the first European headline tour however, guitarist Bart concretizes his disappointment and disgust with the music business by ending his music career. As a result, the tour sees a constant coming and going of guest guitarists. In order to allow the tour to continue, the gap is filled by Mike (Pentacle - Holland), Raphael (Crucifire - Belgium), and Erik (Inquisitor, Holland); all guitarists who took a crash course in learning the AR setlist in time.


      AR continues with session guitarists for one year and decides to use a keyboardplayer in live situations as well. New material can be written when a permanent line up is finally achieved with Gunther on bass/vocals, Jan "Örkki" Yrlund (ex-Lacrimosa / ex-Two Witches / ex-Prestige, Finland) and Erik Sprooten (ex-Inquisitor, Holland) on guitars, Walter Van Cortenberg on drums and Oliver Phillips (session, Everon, Germany) on keyboards.

      This results in the release of the third AR album Fatherland in 1998. The album is a big risk since it shows a clear musical/lyrical progression. Although the essence of the band remains the same, it's a symbolic new start.

      One that is obviously appreciated, since Fatherland gains tremendous response from press and public alike, being voted "album of the month" in several major metal publications, and AR goes on to appear on mega festivals such as DYNAMO OPEN AIR, GRASPOP and FIESTA DU ROCK. At the festivals, new keyboard player Domingo Smets (ex-Renaissance, Belgium) is introduced to the audience.

      Every coin has a flip side however. While gaining popularity, AR is also confronted by new forces gathering against them. After being pinpointed by religious fanatics in former years, boycotts now have become of a political kind. The cultivating of achievements of ancient and medieval civilizations in AR's lyrics is conceived as a threat by some, and once again AR gigs are boycotted and youth clubs are even refused subsidies by the local authorities because they organise AR gigs.


      AR leaves Mascot Records, seeing no more growth opportunity left for the band due to changed label politics, and signs to the Dutch Hammerheart label. Everything happens in a friendly co-operation between the former and the new label.


      Late May, a new collection of AR battle hymns is released, entitled Dim Carcosa. Again, the band progressed a lot since their last effort, which does not go unnoticed in the press. Dim Carcosa receives a lot of praise for the further incorporation of medieval and folklore influences, keyboard parts and continued exploration of combining many styles of metal in one.

      June 27, AR plays a gig in Tel Aviv (Israel) in front of some 800 wild metalheads. Being one of the very few foreign bands to make it into the "warzone" recently, this effort gains the band both a lot of attention and a lot of respect.

      Late October, keyboard player Domingo Smets is replaced by Davy Wouters (ex-Oblivion, Belgium). Not long after that, AR embarks on a three week European headline tour under the calling name of At the Gates of Dim Carcosa, taking them through the Czech Republic, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany.


      The band continues to play gigs, with a hypothesis on 14 June, when a live CD and DVD are recorded at the famous metal club Biebob in Vosselaar (Flanders, Belgium). A full house of enthousiastic Troopers witnesses the making of a powerful release.


      While the live CD is released on schedule under the moniker of ...And the Hordes Stood as One, the DVD going by the same title has to be delayed several times due to copyright problems. Notwithstanding the obstacles, both releases do make it into the band's discography.

      Early May, while touring Europe, the band parts ways with guitar player Jan. The band plays the last four shows of the Generation Armageddon tour as a four piece.

      Not long afterwards, the band binds its ties again with Bart Vandereycken, who played the guitars on the first two albums as well as the EPs which have reached cult status by now. He makes his first successful live appearance again with the band in Finland on 20 June.

      Definitely to be continued...!

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