The Great Old Ones

Al Azif

Written by: MGA on 27/06/2012 04:20:13

If you've been even just slightly more than a casual fan of the atmospheric black metal scene for the last three years, The Great Old Ones’ debut album "Al Azif" will be a revelation. But it may also be a bit of de ja vu.

The French black metal five piece’s 52-minute album is a seminar in black metal modernity: 2012 sees the genre combined with aspects of post-metal or shoegaze or any other genre high on atmosphere and low on Satan to an increasingly high degree. And while The Great Old Ones have created a high quality addition to the annals of this particular incarnation of black metal, they have also created a conundrum. If you begin listening to any random moment of any track on the album, you're going to find high quality black metal. However, you’re also going to find that even the best sections within Al Azif's six tracks are all clearly banking on already existing work.

While the prospect of listening to the harsh vocals of Alcest played over the instrumental work of deafheaven and Altar of Plagues may sound tantalizing, subconsciously being forced into playing a guessing game of name-that-band for certain sections of The Great Old Ones' interpretation of the genre is tiresome. Moments of this album feel almost directly lifted from deafheaven and Altar of Plagues in particular. That's not to say their work is intentionally being copied, it's really just a statement in how influential those bands have been and how saturated the genre has become. Whether atmospheric black metal may soon be reaching the tipping point that djent did of oversaturation in the form of second and third wave bands remains to be seen.

Still, that's not to take away from the mood The Great Old Ones set, and at times they do contribute their own spin on things with a large amount of success. The fourth track, "Rue d'Auseil", the sprawling nine and a half minute opus of the album, is the best example. By combining moments of off tempo chords with tense atmospheric build up, the track reaches a tipping point before crescendoing in the form of…solos. The guitar solo is extremely rare in black metal because it stands as the antithesis to the goals of the genre – you can't be bleak if you're shredding. And the dueling solos on "Rue d'Auseil" don’t even try to be bleak, and that's to their credit. In fact, some of the best playing on the track makes it feel as though the guys from American sludge outfit Baroness are guesting, and that's extremely high praise.

But one three minute chunk of truly original excellence does not a great album make. "Al Azif" is certainly good, but The Great Old Ones are so endebted to their genre predesessors that they are unable to make a clean break into originality.


Download: Visions of R'lyeh, Rue d'Auseil
For the fans of: Altar of Plagues, deafheaven, Agalloch
Listen: Facebook

Release Date 27.04.2012
Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions

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