Review Summary: “Where does madness leave off and reality begin?”
When you chose to represent each of your albums on individual novellas from one of the most renowned horror authors in the world, there can hardly be a short supply of thematic inspiration. Numerous bands have created concept albums based around their own ideas, or pen songs that take insight from creative writing, but few bands will dedicate the entire span of an album to an existing piece of literature.
H.P. Lovecraft is the lifeblood of France’s ambient black metal quintet, The Great Old Ones. His grotesque imagery in his vivid fictional recounting goes hand in hand with the bleak grandeur that The Great Old Ones conjures, which simultaneously takes their audience on a journey through the band’s expansive soundscapes and Lovecraft’s tangible narration. Now releasing their third album based on “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, “EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy”, The Great Old Ones transport us to the dank, decaying and decrepit town of Innsmouth, where we follow our narrator’s footsteps in discovering the accursed secrets that dwell within the queer seaport.
Considering the basis of the lyricism has been laid out in the plot, while the tone and atmosphere of the album have been developed in the descriptive text, it’s still no simple task translating literacy into music. The album commences chronologically to the novel, where the protagonist is overlooking Innsmouth’s dank harbour. The Great Old Ones project this dejected environment in ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ (the song) by adopting a bleak guitar tone where Benjamin Guerry’s dark vocals are free to echo around the curious corners of the seaport. The panicked riffs halfway through shift into more dominant territories that, in a way, foreshadow the impending revelations our protagonist will consequently face during his visit.
The Great Old Ones capture Lovecraft’s imagery and detailing further in songs like ’When the Stars Align’ and ‘Mare Infinitum’. The former’s contorting riffs represent the protagonist’s deterioration into madness and describe that the human race is inexorably heading towards the return of Lovecraft’s abnormal Eldritch overlords, The Deep Ones. The latter is dedicated to creating an expansive soundscape to illustrate the infinite depth of the sea, at the bottom of which dwells the splendid underwater city of these humanoid-amphibian monsters. Grim cellos evoke the grandeur of the city while the maelstrom of tremolo riffs embodies the vicious, volatile and vast expanse of the ocean. Even the 26 second intro track, ‘Searching for R. Olmstead’ evokes the squelching, pattering splatter that the creatures make as they march to hunt down the protagonist.
The quintet’s black metal goes hand in hand with the hideous imagery Lovecraft is notorious for. “EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy” is very much a continuation of the band’s past two albums, only with increased theatrics and wild execution. The guitars are solely focused on creating a grandiose atmosphere, but predominantly rely on walls of sound and swerving rhythms; the halfway point of ‘The Ritual’ inducing a heavy Emperor influence. The technique may sound one-dimensional but it’s what imagery is being portrayed by the guitars that command your attention, not how it is portrayed. Finally, a special mention has to go to Léo Isnard’s pummelling drumming, which is nothing short of breathtaking throughout this accursed plot.
The Great Old Ones have once again breathed further life into the fictional world of H.P Lovecraft as well as mastering their chosen aesthetic of atmospheric black metal. Moreover, their narration of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” vividly assures everyone, just like the novel once did, that humanity is doomed and the Esoteric Order of Dagon will be restored to its inescapable supremacy.