Saturday, December 8, 2012

the Great Old Ones : Al Alzif

I had initially heard this French band was shoe gaze , like an ALcest sort of affair with a thing for H.p. Lovecraft. The Lovecraft part is true, aside from country of origin they don't have much in common with Alcest, being that they have a denser darker sound and sure their is a sonic dreamy quality to some of the sounds coming from the guitar but it really streaches the bounds of what I consider shoe gaze.

The album soars off with the title track, the guitar is soaked in reverb and delayed but not always overpowering the metallic nature of the guitars. The first song has a lot of drive to and the ambiance of black metal with out laying it on to thick with the blasty. There are elements of other things here and influences can be traced but they way it's all assembled and presented is pretty original the closet comparisons I could make if pressed to do so would be its in the same territory as Deafheaven and old An Autumn for Crippled Children.

Midway on the first song we get a melodic break down, with whispered vocals, not the cherubic croon of Niege, it builds not as dramatically as Alcest but in layers and then launches more along the lines of Desfheavne into the dizzying sonic storm clouds. The vocals on the first song are pretty one dimensional screamed midrange and are no where close to being the vocal point, the guitar is most centered in the mix.

"Visions of R'lyeh" has a more straight forward vocal pattern and the chug drives in a straight line as well, there ate a few break downs and the drums switch up the patterns with their accents but for the most part it's a constant barrage. while some may like to keep it simple I think the thistle albums weakest moment but even then it's still decent , they just display more interesting dynamics throughout the rest of the album making this sound a little like filler.

"Jonas" Comes in with a very heavy syncopated crunch, al,ost like something you would expect to hear on a Converge album, it backs away into a more surreal drift for the growls to close in upon and returns the the heavy riff. There's a drones undercurrent the leads into the blast section, the drums subtle tricks keeps it churning in the right direction, the half time feel is another Deafheaven like part leading up a middle section where they bring it down a notch for an Agalloch like spoken word croak the narrate the chords being allowed to drift and ascend. The constantly push forward through out this song and there is always a sense of motion.

"Rue D'Ausell" Has a string intro which mourns around the delicate guitar which twinkles in. By this time I have really begun to appreciate the guitar playing so by the time the solos come in I'm sold. It's the way they are introduced rather than any type of sheer shredding that makes them work. The vocals have some variance in delivery not not tone, as they are hammered into place with more of a hardcore cadence. There is also a wider variety of Majick tricks up there sleeves with fills, accents and punches. Compositionally this is one of their most original arrangements, while not gaudy its the type of road map you would expect to be following on an Opeth album.

"the Truth" has a more spacious intro than the previous songs, the growls slither in underneath the bass line, the tremolo shimmer cues the build and it seems like business as usual. Rather than take the easy way out and blast the hell out of there they allow the song to breath a bit , it reminds me of Blut Aus Nord a little when this happens as well as some of the sonic textures. The truth is though it ends up wandering around and all roads lead to blasty though credit is due that it doesn't happen when you expect it.

The big finish is the ten minute " My love for the stars" it takes the first minute to find up into the big riff and from their is a nice excercise in dynamics. It hit that sweet spot for me of being a good balance of sonic heavy versus metal heavy. the bass helps drive this once once it hits the stride of its gallop. The guitars are the sonic sugar of the icing atop this wedding cake in the marriage of ebb and flow. It's the kind of arrangement only Agalloch seems to pull of in this type of metal.

While the second and fifth songs arent bad , when set against what this band is capable of they come across as filler and when I score albums I divide the number of good songs against the total number of songs, for filler if it has some redeemable qualities I give it a half a point so for that reason I rounded their score up to an 8.5 Becuase the songs they hit the mark on they do it powerfully and with originality . This one might make my top ten list for the year, if not then I'll make a top fifteen as it needs to be recognized an do look forward to hearing more from this band.

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