Review Summary: Witch's Bikes, Vampire's Fedoras, and Sourdough Ghosts
Old Nick just wants to have a good time. As the flagship group of the anomalous metal label Grime Stone Records, the band has come to encapsulate the freedom of expression projects on GSR consistently enjoy. “We wanted to take a fresh approach to raw black metal,” frontman and label owner Abysmal Specter said in an interview with online blog The Call of the Night. “We like to refer to our music as raw Impressionist dungeon synth black metal.” In practice, these ideas take shape in the band’s outsider take on the genre, which is written as it is recorded, leaving no room for the doubt in overthought ideas and allowing the Old Nick’s quirkier impulses to fully manifest on tape.
Their 9th EP, Ghost O’Clock
, is just as odd as every Old Nick release that has come before it, but has refined their sound to the point that the eccentricities no longer feel incongruous to their raw black metal foundation. Where their earlier releases Flying Ointment
or The Vanitous Specter
were fun despite feeling a bit too disjointed at times, Ghost O’Clock
more smoothly incorporates jaunty dungeon synths and pangs of early 2000’s Eurodance. Almost every track features some kind of sonic deviation, but it’s never overdone. On the first half of “Curse of the Vampire’s Fedora” (perhaps the most Old Nick song title ever), spacey keys outline a classic mid-tempo black metal dirge, while the latter part is more cinematic in scope and features prominent use of rootin’ tootin’ western whistle. If it feels like there’s a lot going on, it’s because there is, but it’s never to the detriment of the songs.
While it’s easy to focus on Old Nick’s penchant for nonconformity, it would be a disservice to not mention just how good they are at devising compelling black metal sections that can both stand on their own, but also work the more flamboyant elements of their music. “Ghost O’Clock” opens and closes with a powerful cascade of melodic riffs and “Weeping Mystery Trenchcoat”, comes the closest to honoring Old Nick’s original vision of “dungeon synth black metal” (despite it’s wacky chip-tuned bridge). The more orchestral sections recall the wonder of old-school vampyric black metal, something Old Nick have shown to be big fans of, and that also offers a pleasant sense of familiarity throughout Ghost O’Clock
's weirder moments.
The biggest selling point of Old Nick outside of their music, is the sincerity in which they compose their material. Their tastes traverse well beyond the trappings of black metal, and they don’t allow themselves to be shackled to the old-school, orthodox ways of old. In that way, they embody the freedom of spirit in black metal better than most of the bands and fans who would rather gatekeep what the genre can be. Abysmal Specter put it best, “There is no such thing as bad music, just music you don't like. There is no such thing as bad art, just art you don't like.”