Review Summary: Cosmicism sees The Great Old Ones once again embracing Lovecraftian inspiration, this time with extra narrative and greater bombast.
The legendary, timeless works of H.P. Lovecraft may now be a common point of inspiration for extreme metal bands the world over, but over time France's The Great Old Ones have often been the
band to talk about with relation to the topic. Now four albums into an already illustrious musical career, the Gallic post/black metal sextet have gone from strength to strength by simply devoting their minds and hearts to a whole library of literary brilliance. Up to now the band have seemed content to dwell in the underground, but latest full-length effort Cosmicism
seems to focus on changing that.
The best aspect of TGOO has really been their ability to weave storytelling into their usual brand of menacing, almost cinematic approach to black metal. There are times in Cosmicism
where the storytelling focus almost eclipses that of the instrumental performance, and that's probably why first impressions of songs such as”The Omniscient” and “Of Dementia” won't be great for every listener. “The Omniscient” is a bit of a slow-burner for the first few minutes, though unfortunately harbours similar riffs to that of previous albums, where the same musical aspect felt a little fresher and more original. And yet, when it explodes, the song does so with such vigour and passion that the listener's momentary passing interest becomes wide-eyed excitement. “Of Dementia” is more immediate sure, but doesn't quite settle until its riveting second half opens up with traditional albeit well-placed and thrilling solos, providing striking moments of adventurous musicianship until the bitter end. What I'm getting at here is that the band have seemingly embraced progressive tropes, resulting in more build-ups, more bombastic soundscapes and less immediate black metal reliance.
If by the end of “Of Dementia” you're still left wondering when the band are really going to come into their own, the album's second half should help. It's with the thrilling “Lost Carcosa”-and subsequently the rest of the album thereafter-that things open up. “Lost Carcosa” turns out to be arguably one of the fastest and heaviest songs in the band's cannon, an initially nihilistic number which explores extreme metal at its most sinister and results in one of the most melancholic final minutes of a song TGOO have produced. In spite of its lack of originality regarding riffs, “A Thousand Young” seems fully focused on orchestral performance and less so on the rhythm section. Helped by a somewhat beefier production, the bitter vocal work becomes more menacing as its narrative approach explores the concept behind the music, as opposed to the other way around. If you don't care for conceptual importance in an extreme metal song and not so much outstanding experimentation, songs such as “A Thousand Young” may not be for you.
also approaches things differently is with its use of narrative-style vocals. As alluded to previously, the narrative has become something of a centrepoint in most of the album's songs, but it's also the vocal department that has been affected. Before we merely heard Benjamin Guerry either whisper quotes ripped straight from a Lovecraftian tale, but here there are moments where his clean vocals (rare, as they still are) come into play. “Of Dementia” and “Lost Carcosa” are probably the best examples of this. The former features Guerry at his most melancholic-albeit for a brief time period-alongside immediate musicianship and scything riff work, whereas the latter, still immediate, pours forth its inspiration via Guerry's narrative, echoing whispers. Closer “Nyarlathotep” embraces this aspect fully however, not just in its narrative focus but its instrumental progression too. Unlike every other song before, the doom-laden approach opens up bombastic musicianship and, in similar fashion to the final song of previous album EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy
, ends the album on a high. For the sole reason of being orchestral and daring exactly where it needs to be, Cosmicism
's closing track is a statement of intent and, for the third time in the band's career, leaves the listener asking where TGOO will go from here.
will take a bit more getting used to than previous albums of course, but it's clear that The Great Old Ones are seeking ways in which to take their Lovecraftian inspiration to loftier heights (or more hellish depths), a move which may or may not see them embracing a bigger future. An uncertain point to make, of course, but such is the ambition of Cosmicism
that the band have embraced all aspects of their chosen literary concept.