|Artwork by Jeff Grimal|
H. P. Lovecraft carved out a niche in horror fiction with his short stories on ancient cosmic terrors. The Great Old Ones, a black metal band from Bordeaux, tap into his Cthulhu mythos with supreme assurance. Their expansive, textured sound evokes a sense of astral majesty, in a stark contrast with the “other” Lovecraft-inspired band, Portal, whose claustrophobic pummelling elicits unease, a creeping dread.
Their second album, Tekeli-li is based on the short story “At the Mountains of Madness,” in which an antarctic expedition discovers an ancient derelict city, apparently once occupied by monstrous visitors from beyond the stars, only to awaken something that had lain dormant for aeons. The Great Old Ones capture a recurring theme in Lovecraft’s short stories, forbidden knowledge - men of science who learn things that are inconceivable to the human mind in form and scale, resulting in remorse and insanity respectively.
|Photo by Jo T.|
Their excellent debut Al-Azif was relatively lo-fi, and owed almost as much to shoegaze as it did to black metal. Tekeli-li is harsher and much more varied; the third track, “The Elder Things,” for example, is busy in a progressive kind of way, without ever feeling contrived or distracting; the best comparison I can think of is Cormorant’s debut album. “Antarctica” starts with a sludgy, bottom-heavy riff that recalls Celestial-era Isis, seguing into an atonal bees-in-a-bucket type affair that could be Blut Aus Nord. It’s only in the third minute that they begine to sound like themselves, but this time they pack more of a punch, with the drums and bass much higher in the mix. The final two tracks, “The Ascend” and “Behind the Mountains” are closest to being straightforward black metal, but at no point does it feel like the band is running out of ideas.
It is difficult for high-concept bands to maintain their central conceit over more than one album without stagnating (although consistency of style is not necessarily a bad thing --- see Fall of Efrafa). In Tekeli-li, The Great Old Ones have crafted a worthy successor to Al-Azif with a much richer palette.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]