Review Face-Off: The Great Old Ones’ Tekel-Li

Wednesday, 7th May 2014

[8.5/10] It comes with little surprise, upon taking a listen to The Great Old Ones – given their left-of-center style of black metal, that France is their country of origin.  Indeed, unless you’ve not been paying attention in the last decade, you’ll know that some of the most interesting and soul-stretching sounds in black metal come out of France, which is a fertile homeland for the more experimental and sometimes avant garde side of sinister music.

Atmospheric black metal, I suppose, would be the tag with which to describe TGOO, but that label paints an awfully broad swath.  While not really comparable to the “Cascadian” style it’s also difficult to liken TGOO to the Russian sounds (Walknut, for example).  There is a frigid sound here with TGOO, perhaps closer to that Eastern sound, yet rooted more in “post”/shoegaze than pagan worship – maybe a more musical cousin of Carpe Noctem might be a reasonable suggestion.

After the brief and bleak voice-over-cello of “Je Ne Suis Pas Fou,” TGOO deliver “Antarctica,” a good introduction for what’s to come, with myriad elements of the band – blizzard black metal whiteouts, hostile vocals, crushing atmospheric grooves and icicle-sharp, shimmering guitar lines.  The third track “The Elder Things” contains another desolate intro with piano across a windswept, barren landscape.  From there we go to a land of minor tones and ethereal guitar lines over slow but varied black metal tempos, drummer Léo Isnard with a shining performance. 

The more delicate side of the music makes a brief reappearance in the latter section of the album, not overstaying or detracting from the overall foreboding menace within Tekeli-Li, rather, the contrasts are potent.  The return of cello and use of classical guitar make a nice segue between instrumental “The Ascend” and album opus, the nigh eighteen minute “Behind The Mountains”, which is a real summation of the splendor of Tekeli-Li.

It’s an album of texture, fury and spacial dynamic, that with a run time of fifty-three minutes can leave the listener rather depleted, like any good journey will.  Tekeli-Li is a very strong album from a band really hitting their stride in their sophomore outing. – Daniel Keating

[9.5/10] I fucking love being surprised. Growth is above all things beautiful, especially when it manifests in ways you never expect. For French group The Great Old Ones the entire essence of their being has been in conjuring the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft (after all, just look at their recent promo photos). Not that it was required to enjoy 2012’s quality Al Azif but they’ve really blown the hell out of expectation in delivering Tekel-Li. All of the elements from before have been taken out or honed to a bleeding-edge fineness and quality.

Not that an understanding (or even familiarity) with the work of H.P. Lovecraft is necessary to enjoy the post-black stylings of the band and their often lengthy compositions (everything here aside from the intro runs between seven to 18 minutes) on this At The Mountains Of Madness based work. Much like the waves of the frigid seas that surround its namesake, opener “Antarctica” lurches into being before giving way to guitar-driven auroras of dissonance and melody and furious blastbeats. In part this is something of a staple throughout the album as it teeters between bits of melodic calm and swathes of seething madness. A mournful bit of slow-burning escape awaits listeners on “The Ascend” after the predominantly blistering pace of the majority of the song, but it’s all a build up to…

The album’s closing work and strongest piece, the 18-minute behemoth “Behind the Mountains.” Embodying every aspect of the album leading up to it and unto itself a complete work, it’s absolutely staggering in scope and feel. Thematically if in no other way, the last half of the song embodies the idea of climbing a great peak, building this monumental struggle of mid-paced grind and groove which is subsequently met with a brief few moments of peaceful repose and reflection upon the peak. And as all nightmares must unfurl, so does this one as the descent is unleashed. Lasting only a couple minutes and executed as a cacophonous fury of dissonance, blastbeats, and some spectacular bass work, the song careens into an unexpected finish and just like that, the eighteen minutes have gone by.

Al Azif was an enjoyable album two years ago but Tekel-Li is on another level entirely. A work of phenomenal poise and execution, it’s a standard-bearer for the rest of the year, both within the genre and within metal as a whole. I’ve personally given out a lot of high marks this year but holy shit this album really gives them all a run for their money. Tekel-Li is here to end you and everything you know.

Oh yeah, once again the band absolutely KILLS it with the cover art. Best of the year.  – Matthew Bowling

The Great Old Ones Tekel-Li

The Great Old Ones official site