It’s tough to sell a band like The Great Old Ones, who from a passing glance could be accused of ad libbing modern metal tropes. Lovecraftian concepts? Obviously. An indulgence in black metal’s modern, atmospheric trappings? You bet. Adorable matching outfits and manscaped beards? Like you even have to ask. Yet the band speaks for themselves. Unlike so many of their contemporaries in the current black metal scene, they morph the stale post-black aesthetic into something monumental and individualistic, a sound that reimagines post-black metal through an uncommonly aggressive lens. Cosmicism, smartly, is a refinement of this formula, zeroing in on the band’s few weaknesses to form a familiar yet superior follow-up to 2017’s EOD. It’s so good, in fact, that calling Cosmicism The Great Old One‘s best record yet feels like stating the obvious.
When I reviewed EOD in my early days at this blog, I found that it didn’t quite resonate with me as strongly as I thought it should. I ultimately blamed this on the cramped mix, but Cosmicism has retroactively revealed my underlying reservation with EOD: it lacks a human touch. Cosmicism, despite being tonally identical to its predecessor, does not feel as callous in its delivery. It still deals in hostile, riffy atmospherics, often sounding like Immortal gone post-black, but this time The Great Old Ones has tempered their bombast to create something more dynamic and emotive. “The Omniscient” offers downbeat moments of somber, near-acoustic contemplation in between its towering blastbeat salvos. “Lost Carcosa,” meanwhile, is a schizophrenic struggle, swinging unpredictably from methodical mid-paced passages into quicksilver cacophony and back again, all within mere seconds. The surprising depth results in a more engaging record, one that grows more irresistibly immersive with each listen.
Cosmicism‘s improvements don’t end with its progressive songwriting; instrumentally speaking, the record is fucking fun. “A Thousand Young,” the record’s longest track, spends its bulk riding a damned infectious mid-paced groove, its catchy high hat patterns and adventurous guitar solos crafting an unexpected rock ‘n roll vibe. Another excellent guitar solo makes an out of left field appearance in the otherwise straightforward “Of Dementia,” while “Dreams of the Nuclear Chaos” opts for a section of bouncy melodeath drumming in its latter half. While nearly every track finds room for levity, penultimate number “Nyarlathotep” showcases the opposing end of The Great Old Ones’ tonal toolbelt. A refreshingly reserved piece of Triptykon-esque blackened doom, its decreased speed allows room for the band’s cosmic atmospherics to stretch to their full potential. The variety here is impressive, covering quite a bit of ground in just under an hour. 1
While Cosmicism is quite the potent package, it does feel that the album – at least the limited edition we received for review – runs one track too long. Bonus track “To a Dreamer” is a solid track with a number of unexpected twists, but it does feel like the record’s weakest cut. Even so, it should be reiterated that Cosmicism when compared to EOD is undoubtedly the better of the two records. It feels notably more vibrant, with much of the credit going to the livelier, heavier triple-guitar assault of Benjamin Guerry, Aurélien Edouard, and Alexandre Rouleau. I also find its mixing to be a big improvement, despite being loud as fucking fuck. The densely layered guitar parts can now be easily picked out from each other, finally justifying the inclusion of three guitarists, and creating an immensely colorful soundscape. The trade-off, unfortunately, is a slightly less impactful bass guitar and drums. As The Great Old Ones strives for spacey atmosphere over rhythmic weight, however, it feels like an appropriate compromise.
Aside from some niggling production qualms and a slightly disappointing bonus track 2, Cosmicism is the fullest realization of The Great Old Ones’ Lovecraftian thesis to date. It’s not going to attract any former naysayers – Angry Metal Guy’s insistent, incorrect claim that the album only has five riffs has proven this much – but it doesn’t need to. In a landscape where passing references to Cthulhu have become an empty selling point, The Great Old Ones continues to incorporate H.P. Lovecraft’s themes into the music itself, their winding, unpredictable compositions reflecting the horror and madness of his works. Such an impressive refining of an already solid formula as Cosmicism indicates that the band has no interest in resting on their laurels. I had admittedly expected diminishing returns by this point, but by now, I’m fully invested in hearing what The Great Old Ones conjures up next.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist Official | Bandcamp
Websites: thegreatoldonesband.com | thegreatoldones.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thegreatoldones
Releases Worldwide: October 25th, 2019