(Andy Synn reviews the new album by The Great Old Ones, which will be released on October 25th by Season of Mist.)
My relationship with the French coven who refer to themselves as The Great Old Ones has been a long and fruitful one.
And it’s for this reason, among many others, that I feel a certain responsibility to provide you, our loyal readers, with the unvarnished truth (at least, as far as I perceive it) about their newest album, which is set for release next week.
Whereas I confess to having been slightly disappointed by the band’s previous effort (whose increased emphasis on punchier, heavier riffage came at the expense of some of their signature, sinister, atmosphere) I’m pleased to report that Cosmicism suffers from no such imbalance.
As a matter of fact, Cosmicism may, finally, be the album that puts to rest the question of what we should call The Great Old Ones, as the heightened vehemence and aggression displayed on tracks such as the brilliant “Lost Carcosa” and the razor-sharp “Dreams of the Nuclear Chaos” give parts of the record a distinctly Gorgoroth-ian feel, establishing, once and for all, that TGOO are a pure (though never simple) Black Metal band, through and through.
That’s not to say, as I averred above, that they’ve abandoned the more immersive, atmospheric side of their nature though. Far from it.
Whether it’s the grisly grandeur and hypnotic, hyper-speed intensity of “The Omniscient”, whose nine-and-a-half minutes seem to stretch and dilate in defiance of all natural laws, the stunningly malevolent, yet shamelessly majestic, melodies of “Of Dementia”, or the doom-laden denouement of “Nylarthotep”, Cosmicism contains some of the most engaging, engrossing, and viscerally compelling material of the band’s career.
What really helps separate this album from its predecessor, however, is the sense that while EOD was a concept-album which, ultimately, felt more like a collection of tracks than a cohesive narrative, Cosmicism is a collection of tracks (or a collection of stories) which, despite lacking the overarching conceptual framework of EOD, feel like natural companions to one another, each one sharing in and partaking of a similar sense of mood and atmosphere, yet also possessing their own unique identity.
As fantastic (and phantasmal) as this album is, however, it doesn’t quite manage to knock Tekeli-li off its perch as the band’s crowning glory, even if it does come damnably close at times.
The reasons for this are complex and, truth be told, not easy to elucidate.
Suffice it to say that while every song (or, nearly every song, as “A Thousand Young”, despite some great moments, comes very close to overplaying its hand) finds the band performing at the absolute top of their game, the overall product of their efforts, the collective whole, doesn’t quite capture the same otherworldly, extraordinary sensations which their sophomore record summoned forth.
Yet none of this precludes Cosmicism from being a great album in its own right. And even if the band themselves never manage to fully recreate the sheer magic of Tekeli-li – an album whose success may be just as much down to timing and circumstance as it is its creators’ own dark designs – there’s nothing stopping them from achieving greatness in other ways and in other forms.
Cosmicism is a testament to this fact and, with any luck, will go down as one of the best albums of 2019.