Springing from seemingly nowhere but tethered to the astral plane of Bordeaux France in 2012 The Great Old Ones delivered a momentous slab of black doom in the form of Al-Azif which had everyone who encountered it sitting up and taking note. The band looked to have already delivered a great work on their debut album and when I got the chance to see them live it only consolidated their position. I have still only managed to catch them once in that environment and even in the constraints of a free gig at a North London pub they absolutely annihilated with these songs in one of the most impressive displays that I had encountered in a long time. Now they are back with the follow up album and as far as live shows are concerned poised in the coming weekend as I write this to play at Roadburn festival. Naturally I would love to be there but I do at least have this to soften the blow of not heading off to Holland.
If TGOO are completely new to you, one thing you may have already picked up on is that they are one of many bands sharing kindred to the ways of author H.P. Lovecraft, their name shows worship to his denizens of the earth who shall one day rise again and consume us all. Tekeli-Li is the call of the Shoggoth the shape shifting servers of the Great Old Ones and ones that may in time call the gods back from deep slumber.
Starting with some an introductory set up ‘Je ne suis pas fou’ sets a slumbering mood and with some French spoken words before we head deep and dark under the ice of ‘Antarctica’ and juddering grooves literally churn away like something rising through a solid mass of ice. Obviously those au fait with the mythos will love the very song titles here and they can try their best to decipher the growls and yells from vocalist Benjamin Guerry if they so wish, unfortunately they are beyond me without being written down and translated. Thankfully the music is not and it literally explodes in muscular spasms with drums ploughing away adding some black density to the sprawl. However this surge is not one that is left on its own the music too shape shifts and always seems to be expanding. There is lots to hear in the lower depths of the mix too and things glisten and sparkle away like buried treasure there. There is light and shade and the music oft changes pace, lightning at times and stifling at others. Like some sinuous miasma there is a fluttering sound that eventually gets sole voice before everything else drops back in and the track comes to an obliterating conclusion. Wind howls and a lone maudlin piano takes into ‘The Elder Ones.’ There is an air of desolation but the barren plateau is suddenly filled with guttural vocals and grand majestic melody. There’s more than a sense of gothic grandeur here but it is counterpoised by those massive black flurries which hit like an avalanche consuming all in their path. Like a mad sledge ride passages careen all over the place as it gets into a looser groove, there’s lots going on here and the band literally breeze away having no problems jamming effortlessly over the tracks ten minute playing time.
Sounding like an explorer from a scientific party (yes I have seen The Thing far too many times) more French spoken word sees in ‘Awakening.’ It all kicks off with hefty slow drum beats and indignant vocal yells. There’s a lot of force in this one and the spoken parts add a real sense of mystery, I do wish I knew what they were saying. The choral parts at the end are blissful but are knocked out the stratosphere as ‘The Ascend’ batters in actually sounding more like a rapid “descend” as the drumming clatters away completely out of control. It’s a giddy instrumental mission that leaves your head spinning but the last real of this epic adventure is still to come in the form of the 18 minute ‘Behind The Mountains.’ But I wouldn’t want to ruin this conclusion for you now would I; this is a mountain of madness you shall have to gaze into on your own!
The way the band have consolidated music and narrative here has worked excellently as far as I am concerned and the mere track titles and sonic stimuli have been enough to get my imagination flowing and take me to another dimension. Powerful magick and a great follow up to Al Azif,
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)