The Great Old Ones - Al-Azif
Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
6 songs (52:31)
Release year: 2012
The Great Old Ones, Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Reviewed by Charles
Metal songs themed around the work of H.P. Lovecraft? Why hasn't anyone else thought of this?! Thankfully, The Great Old Ones are here to fill this particular gaping hole, by building their entire band concept around the Cthulhu mythos, something which surely nobody else has… um… eh… no, I can’t maintain this degree of sarcasm for more than a few sentences. Flippancy aside, while these lyrical themes do, indeed, lie heavy on the ground in brutal death metal albums- the entangled language presumably represents a fast-track ticket to “twistedness”- they are a bit more unusual in the post-metal realms inhabited by Al-Azif. The press release unsurprisingly namechecks bands such as Altar of Plagues and Wolves in the Throne Room, but there are also some similarities with the trendier likes of deafheaven. On one level the combination makes perfect sense: the lengthy buildups, booming climaxes, and enigmatic atmosphere beloved of these musicians could fit quite nicely with the oceanic darkness of the subject matter. On the other hand, there is a tendency for this kind of thing to feel just a little too linear. Start quiet, end up loud… hardly shaking the foundations of Euclidean geometry, songwise.

Those of you that still feel there’s life in post-black metal very definitely need to track this down. Indeed, those that once enjoyed the subscene but are now tired might also find their interest newly re-pricked. Al-Azif is a darkly atmospheric release, with a powerful sound greatly augmented by some clever instrumentation and distinctive harmonic ideas. The title track begins in an imposing fashion, suggesting a sense of ominous power that never really dissipates throughout the album. Synths lurk distantly behind some big, slow, clanking chords, lending it the cinematic power of the more grandiose black metal. The track later morphs into one of those ‘uplifting’ progressions that you’d find in more upbeat post-metal, like the abovementioned deafheaven, but actually this is one of a relatively small number of times this happens on the album. That’s fortunate, because the band’s aesthetic calls for darkness; a suitably gloomy aura is maintained, regardless of whatever tricks the band throws, from the lurid, seasick ambiance of Jonas, to the tribalistic percussion that closes The Truth.

The six long tracks here yield some very worthy highlights. Visions of R’lyeh rumbles forth, powered by a mid-tempo backbeat, with synths and rhythm guitar able to eke out tinglingly melancholic post-rock harmonic patterns. After four minutes, it transitions into a woozy indie section, which to me sounds like something from late-90s Radiohead. Much harsher is the aforementioned Jonas. Here the delivery is similarly mid-paced, but the tonalities and instrumentation are uglier, with a growling, chugging riff wrestling with quieter moments of perplexingly formless dissonance. This is probably the most “Lovecraftian” track on Al-Azif, for my money, climaxing in a properly deep and dark black metal riff of earthshaking power. The proggy, string-inflected swirl of Rue d’Auseil then enters as a wistful, possibly Giant Squid-inspired counterpoint. Very nice.

The Great Old Ones are entering a now-familiar scene, with its own lingo that they are not yet ready to deviate from. Nonetheless, there are plenty of creative moments here, in which the band reveal a great potential. As suggested above, those that are still intrigued by the post-black thing will do well to seek this out.

Killing Songs :
Visions of R'Lyeh, The Truth
Charles quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by The Great Old Ones that we have reviewed:
The Great Old Ones - EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
The Great Old Ones - Tekeli-Li reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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