ALBUM REVIEW: The Anchoret – It All Began With Loneliness


Homer’s The Odyssey is an ancient, epic Greek poem that follows hero Odysseus on his perilous ten-year journey home from the Trojan War (that’s enough Wiki cut and pasting – Ed). Now The Anchoret, new Canadian titans of progressive metal, deliver a musical odyssey of their own. 


It All Began With Loneliness (Willowtip Records) is an engrossing, seriously sombre and simply scintillating record, steeped in and fuelled by the legacies of true prog greats while also bang up-to-date in its metal power (take a bow, drummer James Christopher Knoerl). The very best albums, I always think, the ones you remember and keep going back to, can take you on a journey. Be prepared to leave the peaceful harbour.


The other Styx (Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw et al) might seem more relevant than the River Styx itself but this is all epic, heroic stuff, robust, evocative, and compelling. Lyrically, it appears to be centred between existential agonies and wider cosmic considerations. From the potent and passionate ‘Until The Sun Illuminates’: “Give me wings to fly away/ Until the sun illuminates … It could be ours tomorrow/ For love defines the way.” And from ‘Forsaken’: “All the wilful wrongs you’ve done, now letting go/ When your salvation comes, I’ll give you back your soul.”


Highlights include the wonderfully fluid, ripping, rocking lead geetar of Leo Estalles, from brief scene-setter ‘An Office For…’ and onwards … the brawny, marching power chords and gospel-style vocals (sung by Nimiwari) on ‘A Dead Man’ … and the rifftastic opening and tremendous finale of ‘Someone Listening?’ Yes, guys – we’re listening.


Knoerl’s mighty drumming is an energetic, kit-busting strength throughout, not least on the heavier passages of ‘Forsaken’, a song that also finds vocalist Sylvain Auclair at his very, very best, including some near-death metal growls. Auclair keeps it real, keeps it contemporary, but is willing to go right out there, reaching for the stars, in classic style. 


Bassist Eduard Levitsky is credited as composer and producer-in-chief, with Auclair in charge of the lyrics and vocal arrangements. Five of the nine tracks have running times past the seven-minute mark, but the 4:28 ‘Buried’ packs its very own special punch. Then ‘All Turns To Clay’ is perhaps the heaviest of the lot, riffs, keys, skins, kicks, and fills all to the fore. 


Snazzy, jazzy sax takes its place among the fascinating, eclectic soundscape, along with flute, clarinet and, of course, proggy mellotron, as this collective flex their musical muscles and display versatility and virtuosity.


‘Unafraid’, in its groove, its forceful swagger, its sheer nailed-down excellence, deserves comparison to Tool. ‘Stay’ opens with piano, recalls moments of delicious Dream Theater or Flying Colors drama before aiming for the stratosphere in a soaring arc of emotion, Estalles absolutely owning the solo before Auclair and the keyboards have their final say (Andy Tillison and Levitsky are credited on keyboards and synths).


And then, it’s all over. As Homer himself might say: “D’oh!” (or even D’oh, Brother Where Art Thou?). Never mind, Homie, with this journey, you can go straight back to the beginning and start all over again.


The Anchoret are described as a “project” – most are involved in other bands and various collaborations, and there is a lengthy list of guests and contributors. The album they say was recorded “all over the world”, across a near-two-year period. To these ears, they sound like a bona fide “band”, rocking out side by side, right here and now, hopefully with much more to come. 


Buy the album here:


9 / 10