The Great Old Ones
Al Azif


3.5
great

Review

by Alex Newton USER (43 Reviews)
November 5th, 2012 | 32 replies | 3,946 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Great Old Ones' debut overcomes its stylistic debts through creative songwriting and an atmosphere that would make Lovecraft proud.

Black metal and horror fiction would seem to be an obvious marriage of style and subject matter; on the other hand, concept albums have a propensity to be either exceptionally good or hilariously bad (take Swans and Metallica as recent examples). The Great Old Ones’ choice of H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon as their template is a bold move, but it pays off in spades on Al Azif. Drawing from black metal stylistically and post-metal structurally, the French quintet manage to craft a captivating debut through a chilling atmosphere and unorthodox musicianship.

The Great Old Ones formed in 2011, and have a few obvious parallels to contemporary black metal bands. Wolves in the Throne Room immediately come to mind, with their trademark dynamic shifts, while The Great Old Ones’ vocals and dissonant guitar work suggest a link to fellow Frenchmen Deathspell Omega. This is not to imply a lack of originality, as Al Azif generally supersedes its influences without forgetting them. In big-picture terms, the band’s sound relies on weaving together intense climaxes with moodier passages, though neither style seems to dominate the other. On a smaller scale, the intricacies of each song give the album a unique character that set it apart from the latest Agalloch or Ash Borer release.

Centerpieces “Jonas” and “Rue d’Auseil” use these stylistic disparities quite differently. The former chugs along during the opening verses while creepy guitar lines float around pounding drums, then bursts into a crescendo behind fill-laden blast beats that carry the song to its bridge. Conversely, “Rue d’Auseil” enters with a haunting cello/guitar duet a la At the Gates’ “…And the World Returned”, before snarled vocals burst in over precisely syncopated drum patterns and a sinister diminished guitar riff. The second half of the song alternates between brooding 4/4 verses and frenetic 6/8 instrumental passages, along with a pair of very well-placed melancholic guitar solos. The songwriting often features atypical patterns and structures, particularly during the band's experimental tangents. “Visions of R’lyeh” is built around terraced dynamics, shifting suddenly as the drumming intensifies and mellows to denote new pieces of the song. Album opener “Al Azif” builds predictably for a few minutes before collapsing into a sparse bridge built on the minor seventh from tonic – a change in mood from foreboding to downright desolate, but one that sets up a cathartic return to the original key. These nuances make each song engaging on its own terms, and keep the album largely fresh and unpredictable.

I am by no means a Cthulhu expert, but the subject seems to be a perfect complement to the music on Al Azif. Ancient scriptures, gods of destruction, underwater cities – all of those are probably in the lyrics somewhere, though your guess is as good as mine as to what’s actually going on here. It all adds up to a convincing package rife with mystery and intrigue, though the music itself is expertly crafted and well worth your time. If you’re in the market for black metal that is captivating on both a musical and aesthetic level, then you can’t go wrong with The Great Old Ones’ debut album. As Wolves in the Throne Room wind down their career, perhaps this will even be the band to step up and carry the black metal flag. That’s probably a bit bold at this point in the game, but where there's smoke there's fire, and The Great Old Ones' coals are burning brightly.



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user ratings (28)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
pedro70512
November 5th 2012


2649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

as always, feedback is appreciated.

Digging: Pyramaze - Melancholy Beast

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 5th 2012


7041 Comments


Sounds interesting, good write up : ) recs?

Wolfhorde
November 5th 2012


13115 Comments


If this is as good as their name I'd be intrigued.

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 5th 2012


7041 Comments


Not a bad listen, has potential to grow ill rate later

pedro70512
November 5th 2012


2649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks ipod. the best songs ar Rue d'Auseil and My Love for the Stars, though they all have something to offer.

ikarus
November 5th 2012


562 Comments


cthulhumetal, how novel

pedro70512
November 5th 2012


2649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm not familiar with any of the other Cthulumetal but I'm sure it's out there. I've seen references,
like High on Fire's "De Vermis Mysterii", the music video to Seabeast (featuring Deep Ones), and Call
of Ktulu, obviously.

KingHarkinian
November 5th 2012


435 Comments


Oah! Kewl album cover.

pedro70512
November 6th 2012


2649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah the art for this is pretty cool. kinda wish I had a physical copy.

Ignimbrite
November 9th 2012


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Hey, someone reviewed this!

Great review, great album. Can't wait to see what these guys do next.

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
November 24th 2012


8814 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

If this is as good as their name I'd be intrigued.


it's not

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

Ignimbrite
November 24th 2012


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

jesus

pedro70512
November 24th 2012


2649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"If this is as good as their name I'd be intrigued."

it is.

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 24th 2012


7041 Comments


Didn't grow as much as I thought, passable.

GiaNXGX
November 25th 2012


4867 Comments


If this is as good as their name I'd be intrigued.


it's a generic piece of shit, basically COA+ [insert any modern atmospheric bm project]

BloodandRainbows
November 25th 2012


221 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I happen to like a lot of modern atmospheric BM
(wolves, weakling, agalloch, fell voices, etc). I agree
that it's not terrifically original, and that there are
better bands like DSO. but I enjoyed it on its own
terms. just because it follows an established sound
doesn't make it shitty.

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
November 25th 2012


8814 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

the fact it's bland, derivative and boring makes it shitty

annoyingly soft production doesn't help it either

Ignimbrite
November 25th 2012


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Opinions.

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
November 25th 2012


8814 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yes this is a website of opinions

doesn't need to be pointed out every 5 minutes, we get it

BallsToTheWall
November 25th 2012


44294 Comments


Oh yeah, Cthulhugaze is such a fucking great idea. The nerve of these chickheaded jacknobs...

Digging: Tiamat - Clouds



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