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Unnatural Selection – Aaron “Boon” Gustafson and Mike Hannay of Anciients

Anciients-Heart-of-Oak-Small album cover

Anciients just learned that their North American tour with Sepultura was canceled as they were on their way to the first stop in Los Angeles. These Canadian metallers were looking forward to another tour in front of new audiences they had not played for yet.

Sadly, the tour did not happen and the Anciients members found themselves without a tour. Bassist Aaron “Boon” Gustafson explains the situation: “I think it was supposed to start tomorrow. Unfortunately there were visa problems. It was a bummer. Now we’re headed home.”

There was a week in between the Scale the Summit and Tesseract tour, before the Sepultura tour, and those were really good. We did Holy Grail and that was good too. We had taken time off work and merch we had ordered, and it was a last minute call. It would have been great exposure for us, and play at a bunch of venues and with a bunch of bands…it’s unfortunate but things like this happen?”

Despite the hiccup within their schedule, they did not led this get them down and they moved on and proceeded to the next phase, as they always do. Gustafson said the tour with Scale the Summit and Tesseract were well and was an enjoyable experience for the band.

It was cool. We’re not exactly in the same vein as Tesseract or Scale The Summit. To be honest with you, I hadn’t really listened to either of those bands before we went, and when I did listen to them, I thought how are we going to fit into this. TesseracT have some insane musicians in that band and they have some heavy parts, but it’s also very poppy and catchy vocal melodies and not a lot of heavy singing. It was ‘how are we fitting into this bill?’ It turned out to be very awesome and the fans who were there for them really dug us. After touring with Lamb of God and The Death To All Tours, we had gained some fans down in the States too. A lot of people came up to us and said they came to see us. It was a really pleasant surprise. Nothing negative from the fans of the other bands – everyone was into it and it went off without a hitch. It was a really fun tour. Those guys from both bands are super good dudes and we made a lot of new friends.”

Anciients spawned from Spread Eagle, a veteran Vancouver rock n roll band who was slowly finding what they were doing a bit unchallenging and wanting a bit more. “Me and Kenny [Cook, singer/guitarist] and Chris [Dyck, guitarist] – we played in a band called Spread Eagle in Vancouver for something like eight years. It was rock n’roll, sorta Motorhead, Turbonegro style band. We did that for ages and it had run its course. We played the same venues and played to the same people all the time, so we ended that. Kenny had a bunch of riffs and we decided to develop that. We got heavier and a bit more artistic, and take things a bit more seriously and try to make it more a career out of it. We wanted to make heavier and more progressive music and here we are today,” explained Gustafson.


Since 2011, Anciients has been building their own sound fusing riff rock and a heavier, technically driven style that they can call their own. While many audiences take a moment to absorb what they are playing, they found themselves winning over audiences regardless of who they are playing for. “A lot of our influences range anywhere from 70s classic rock and 70s progressive stuff,” says drummer Mike Hannay. “A lot of us listen to a lot of metal. The rock n roll thing we were listening to a lot of Turbonegro and stuff like that. A lot of death metal and black metal and it was a natural progression….let’s just write heavy music. It sort of just came out. You can see the classic rock influence in a lot of it as well. At the time we made a conscious decision to write heavier music. We all liked metal so let’s play some metal and let’s make it epic and big and doomy and powerful.”

But the fact that Anciients fused an epic sounding metal style with a sludgy rock `n roll edge is what audiences took a liking to what they do. “I think we liked both styles and put them together, which was unnatural at the time. It came off sludgy and cool, within progressive music. But after the song came together, we noticed it ourselves how those styles were same, we thought it worked well and it sounded great. We should try to do this sludgy rock n roll thing. It was kind of unnatural, but it was fully embraced once we felt it was a good melding of genres,” said Hannay.

Their 2013 debut CD, Heart of Oak (Season of Mist), features a wide array of tunes with lyrics focusing on a nature theme. “Chris writes most of the lyrics. If you were to look at where we live, basically how could not be influenced by where we live – epic mountains and the Pacific Ocean and forests everywhere. It’s basically our surroundings. We’re basically influenced by our surroundings. It’s a beautiful place and I think that’s where a lot of the lyrics came from,” said Gustafson.

Like I said, Chris writes all the lyrics but I think it comes down to where we grew up and live to this day, and made an area with lots of nature.”

Chris reads a lot of history too. I think some of the lyrics came from Sumerian themes and ancient cultures or religions and stuff like that,” added Hannay. One thing Anciients benefited from was being part of a strong Vancouver metal scene that helped shape their sound and gaining a lot of local support along the way.

It’s a very tight knit metal community in Vancouver. All of the bands you hear of from Vancouver are our friends. Like Three Inches of Blood and Bison BC and a lot of the bands who are touring and doing stuff. They’re all buddies of ours. Chris our guitar player actually works for a production company and puts on a lot of the shows. It’s what you do on any given night of the week. You go to a metal show. You see all of your buddies. It’s a tight knit community. Everyone is very supportive of each other. There’s no bitching or jealousy. Everyone’s a super good bros [with each other]. It can’t work any way other than our favor. Everyone’s very supportive of us. Everyone comes out to our shows when we play and buys our t-shirts,” said Gustafson.


While much of the attention has been on Anciients playing on the progressive or death metal tours, they have done their share of riff rock shows as well. Doing shows with dirty rock bands is something Anciients is no stranger to.

It’s funny that you ask that,” says Gustafson. “Just last night we played with Orange Goblin and they’re a dirty rock n roll band. It went off great. The guys in the band watched our whole set. They dug it and came up to us after and told us how much they liked our music. They all got t-shirts and our records. The guitar player rocked our shirt on stage. We seem to fit in with that crowd really well. We have a wide spread sound. You open yourself up and you can play with different crowds. We’ll go play these crowds. We’ll go play to a bunch of death metal kids at the Death shows. We played for the Lamb of God crowds. There’s something in our music for everyone, and we can play for most crowds.”

Most people in Vancouver receive us very well. As far as the bands we’ve toured with, none of them have been sludgy like we are, but they’re super successful at what they do. More of our local shows are the only ones so far we’ve played with sludgy bands, with the exception last night with Orange Goblin. Fans of that music dig us but that’s alright!,” says Hannay.

Anciients has also done their share of odd bills as well, but still finding new ways of winning over fans in the unlikeliest of ways. “We played with a band the other night called Shat. It was very overweight dudes in diapers, dildos on their heads…and that was some strange shit! People were just there to get wasted and sing along to these cheesy, corny hard rock songs. But they were good at what they did. We were like ‘ how did we get on this show?’ We played and people dug it. If you’re a fan of music, either a fan or a musician, there’s something in our music you can dig,” said Gustafson.

Early on we played with Chris Jericho’s band Fozzy,” added Hannay. “It was Tesseract, Scale The Summit, us and Fozzy. So you had all the prog and metal kids would come up, and then go to the back of the venue for Fozzy while all the wrestling fans would come up and chant ‘Fozzy!’ Then Fozzy was over, then the metal kids would come back up. That was another weird one. The Fozzy fans liked us, but they looked like moms and dads, or they lived in their parents’ basements and watch wrestling all day.”

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