I remember the first time I heard of The Great Old Ones quite well, as I saw the teaser for their debut record in the empyre-forum.de. I had mixed feelings, as the offered soundbits weren’t of the best quality and the passages you heard weren’t really exciting as well, while the theme of the band and record was simply great. I decided to give their debut a chance and I didn’t regret it!
Well, the French surely weren’t the first band which tried to set the Necronomicon to music, but I guess they were the first to play it in a quite atmospheric black metal style with post-rock and doom metal influences. Three years lie between the bands inception and their first lifesign in form of their debut, but they surely used the time well. The record offers 52:22 minutes of playing time, seperated on six tracks, with which the French try to catch your attention and to abduct you into the universe of H.P. Lovecraft, with impressive might!
The most important stylistic feature of the French is surely their special mixture of influences from the different genre which altogether create this incredibly thick and atmospheric body of sound. They don’t really care about music that is easy to grasp, as quite thick and sluggish songs are defining the soundscape of Al Azif. The songs mostly consist of about six levels: The vocals, the bass, the atmospheric background noises (done by guitar number one), the melodies (done by guitar number two), the rhythm (there is guitar number three, but this one is doing some melodies as well) and finally the heart of the tracks, the drums. Those levels aren’t synchronised for the whole time, which results in interesting displacements of the song structures, one of the reasons why this record is quite difficult to listen to.
The defining stylistic elements are oldschool black metal and post-metal, but in the bands really own way. The main influence of the band may be the Ukrainian black metal band Drudkh, at least in terms of the vocals, but I think I recognise some melodies as well (compared to the penultimate record of the Ukranian). Some other influences may be bands like Altar Of Plagues, Wolves In The Throne Room and at least partially Secrets Of The Moon. The really interesting fact about The Great Old Ones is, that they are able to create stunning melodies, embedd them into an upsetting guise and to switch nearly flawlessly between different levels of dynamics as well as tempi.
The tracks are pending between quite relaxed, nearly spheric (in the sense of “floating in space”), doomy and incredibly aggressive, fast and upsetting passages and therefore between nearly catchy and really heavy tempers. The fact, that perfects Al Azif are surely the well placed and scattered disharmonics the band uses, as they form the unique character of each song. The Great Old Ones create music, that won’t ever fit into one of the established stereotypes of (post-) black metal but the record still has some flaws. The main flaw is, at least in my ears, the similiarity to the penultimate record of Drudkh, but there are some other problems as well, for instance the middle section of Rue d’Auseil, as it’s way to bulky (again: in my ears, you may think otherwise). The positive aspects are, nevertheless, outweighing the negative ones, even in the abovementioned song, through for instance unexpected but brilliantly played soli.
Although Al Azif has some weak points it’s still easily one of the best debut records of all time. The French offer nearly an hour full of gripping post-black metal with their quite own style (although there are still similiarities to some better known black metal bands!). The songs are streaked with atmosphere and well placed disharmonics, which guide the listener to the fluently done transitions between quite doomy and really frenzy black metal passages (although the doomy ones are the majority). If you can bear quite bulky music with some really difficult song structures buy this record, as it’s full of brilliant melodies and atmosphere that will captivate you!
Date of release: April, 27th 2012
|2.||Visions of R’lyeh||06:55|
|6.||My Love for the Stars (Cthulhu Fhtagn)||10:19|