Lovecraftian atmosphere in music is a tricky thing to nail down. The number of metal bands attempting to emulate H.P. Lovecraft’s pioneering brand of cosmic horror in aural form seems to increase exponentially from year to year, and while many of them come close, most fall short. I believe this is because people underestimate how many elements Lovecraft pulled together to craft his fiction. His works aren’t just about ancient gods famed for their tentacles; they successfully intersect classic horror with themes of insanity, religion, and the supernatural at an intersection that teeters on the edge of our grounded, minuscule existence and the vastness of what lies beyond the realm of human comprehension. Make no mistake: France’s post-black metal outfit The Great Old Ones get Lovecraft, perhaps more than any other band I’ve encountered. Their third outing, EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy, is the best product of their vision to date, even though it comes with a shoggoth-sized caveat.
A sort of musical fan fiction that acts as a sequel to The Shadow Over Innsmouth, EOD feels monumental despite its sub-forty five-minute runtime. TGOO has recorded an impressive and engrossing production with this album. Their three guitarists never rest on their laurels, constantly working in tandem to create a rich tapestry that feels authentically cosmic, and the peppering of larger-than-life choirs and organ performances make it feel like the soundtrack to some twisted, extra-dimensional Sunday mass. Despite the majesty, EOD is easily the most chaotic and violent sounding of TGOO’s works; the twisting maelstrom of riffs in the latter half of “The Ritual,” for instance, recall the frigid blasts of Immortal at their most vicious, while Léo Isnard’s drumming possesses a newfound vigor that’s death metal-like in its delivery. I never knew I needed death metal fills in Altar of Plagues-inspired post-black metal, and yet here they are, and I fucking adore them.
While this record has given me every reason to love it, you’ve probably detected a foreboding “but” lurking under the surface of the review thanks to my first paragraph. Recall how I described EOD as a richly layered album, and then take a look at that DR value down below. That’s right, folks; TGOO has built a brickwall between their listeners and this album, and they’re making their eardrums pay for it. EOD is a record so immaculately textured that it’s practically begging for a great master, and yet everything sounds like it’s been congealed by an ooze secreted from some hideous, eldritch being. I absolutely loathe the way this album has been mastered, and I feel there are great elements of it that I’m completely missing out on because they’re locked away beneath the heavy compression. As it’s been produced, though, it feels like TGOO’s ambitions have been squandered in favor of making them the latest casualty of the Loudness War.
I may detest how EOD’s been crushed to oblivion, but that doesn’t mean the production isn’t without merit. The drums still manage to pop despite the compression, and I love how punchy and dense they sound in contrast with the ethereal guitar distortion. I’m also pleased to hear that TGOO is still implementing the slow, doomy passages that helped them stand out from the post-black crowd from the beginning; the inclusion of such sections makes for excellent build-ups, especially when serving as the introduction of the colossal closing track “Mare Infinitum.” This is my hands-down favorite of EOD, a would-be dark masterpiece (again, blame the mastering) that features some of the band’s most effective melodies and impressive performances thus far. The haunting cello melody that serves as a prelude is really something else.
We’re not even a full month into 2017 yet, and already I have a solid pick for the album in greatest need of a remaster this year. I really, really want to love EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy; it’s the first fully realized vision from a band that never quite met my expectations, and every moment of it (aside from the hokey, spoken word interludes) feels carefully crafted. The mastering undoubtedly puts a damper on The Great Old Ones’ achievement, but that’s certainly not a reason to miss out on it. It’s a record that a lot of people are going to love unconditionally, and as the year wears on, I may eventually find myself in that place as well.