Hailing from the Bordeaux region of France, THE GREAT OLD ONES deal exclusively in music inspired by H. P. Lovecraft (a recent promo photo has band members pictured alongside old Howard Phillips himself). On their new album, Tekeli-li, TGOO take the listener on a journey to the cold and inhospitable icescapes of Antarctica. Here, humanity’s frail notions of reason and superiority are blown away like so many flakes of snow, scattered before the lurching gaits of beings conjured from dimensions beyond the reach of the most fevered imagination.
This may sound familiar. You can’t throw a stone in Heavy Metal without hitting a song, an album, or even a band based on the creations of Saint Lovecraft. So how do TGOO set themselves apart from their peers – the tormented songwriters churning out their own twisted paeans to Cthulhu, Rhan-Tegoth and the rest? What is unique about the tentacled and writhing bouquet that they place at the headstone of that misunderstood and underappreciated master of the eldritch?
TGOO mostly pay homage with their strong, distinctive sound. They have become skilled practitioners of a proprietary, blackened construction that incorporates copious reverb and an intricately layered, carefully crafted interplay of three guitars. Tekeli-li sounds as though it is taking place in some massive open space, one plunged into permanent night by the cold cruelty of the sun’s neglect. The vocals – blackened howling roars delivered by Benjamin Guerry and Jeff Grimal – are superb, possessing a dry, forceful and somewhat sympathetic quality. The rhythm section is well represented, with prominent bass in the low end, and cavernous drum beats, including blasts that underpin the chiming guitars impressively, carrying the narrative forward with considerable momentum.
Tekeli-li is composed of a short introduction and a number of longer songs designed to immerse the listener in the mind-bending horror of the Antarctic expedition. Despite being mostly hard-charging Black Metal, the songs have texture. An exemplar of this trait is “The Elder Things”. Beginning with a very brief introduction featuring piano and howling wind, the song marches through stately narrative and desperate fury, rising and falling through compelling chord changes and shifting rhythms. The song rears back to its full height for triumphal shouts of “We are nothing!” before concluding with a reprise of the early sections.
If there is anything to complain about with Tekeli-li, it’s that the reverbed, pluralist sound is not very immediate, and can create distance between the listener and the music. TGOO can sound faraway and somewhat indistinct, and therefore don’t always demand complete attention. It’s easy to drift and lose sight of what TGOO are doing.
Which is why instrumental piece “The Ascend” is such an essential interlude. The relentless energy TGOO display here acts as a dynamic wake-up call, with drummer Léo Isnard’s long furious blasts barreling through a glittering tunnel of cascading guitar melodies. The momentum eventually peters out, and the song ends with lovely section woven from threads of plucked guitar and weeping cello.
“Behind the Mountains” closes the album in epic fashion, opening with a session of classical guitar before careening into a long succession of bass grooves and queasy bends, buzzing clouds of sinister unease, limpid moments of sober reflection, plodding overtures, black metal sprints and more. TGOO pull all their tricks out of the bag and use them to craft a song that could very well have been its own EP.
THE GREAT OLD ONES are a band that are about more than just their influences. Their well-defined brand of Black Metal balances atmosphere, narrative and harmony in a mature, welcoming way. Tekeli-li is a meaningful step forward for the band, refining away some of the murk that clouded Al Azif without losing the essence of what was transpiring beneath. H. P. Lovecraft and his works are well represented in Heavy Metal. However, many use his work as one influence among many. THE GREAT OLD ONES are clearly seeking to build their own sonic identity around Lovecraft’s enduring spirit, carrying the flag of his legacy with great care and devotion. Tekeli-li, is a success in this regard, and a likely herald of more to come.
– David Sano
Release: April 2014
Label: Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions
Avantgenre: An Epic And Eldritch Tribute To H. P. Lovecraft
Duration: 53 Minutes
Official site: http://www.thegreatoldonesband.com/
Review online since: 18.05.2014 / 00:48:58
01 – Je Ne Suis Pas Fou
02 – Antarctica
03 – The Elder Things
04 – Awakening
05 – The Ascend
06 – Behind The Mountains