The Great Old Ones - Tekeli-Li
Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Post-Black, Doom
6 songs (53:25)
Release year: 2014
The Great Old Ones, Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Reviewed by Goat

It's rare to find a metal band that completely lacks any influence from HP Lovecraft, but even rarer to find one that owes their entire lyrical palette to him. Ol' Howard Philips had a way with words that conjured not just worlds but entire universes in your brain, interstellar godlike beings that waged wars with each other far beyond the ken of humanity but occasionally slipping into the corner of our consciousness to be noted with horror, a horror that Lovecraft felt personally and deeply. Taking Poe's hysterical terror at everyday life, and imbuing it with not just a scientific rigorousness but a sense of the epic, there's little wonder that metal bands are inspired by Lovecraft, and French five-piece The Great Old Ones have borrowed not just mythos, but name, even including a likeness of HPL in their band portrait. After a good but lacking début in the form of 2012's Al Azif, what better way to raise the bar than to make your sophomore album a concept piece based around the infamous At The Mountains of Madness?

Well, whether you agree that The Great Old Ones have succeeded or not will depend on what exactly you want from an album with such heady inspiration. Let's be clear from the start, this will not even approach the atmospheric impact of the original novella. Even when making the influence explicit, this isn't automatically more atmospheric than, say, Sulphur Aeon's Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide. Yet Tekeli-Li (the horrific voiceless cry of the shoggoth, obviously), as the cover art suggests, takes the best approach of painting in vague lines and let your audience's imaginations fill in the gaps. And on this basis, Tekeli-Li is a triumph. Mixing black metal and doom in more or less equal measure, this is an album that will mostly reward the patient.

Beginning with the French narration of Je ne suis pas fou, things quickly move onto Antarctica, a chilly nine minutes of doomy chugging and post-black dramatic flair, moving quickly into a powerful churn of howls and prog-tinged riff constructions, ending in blackened misery. It takes the following The Elder Things before the band is really unleashed, however, a flurry of blackened darkness showing the pent-up rage that waits to be set free. There seems to be little attempt to build to an insane finale, as re the original story; The Great Old Ones work to their own agenda, and it's effective but will disappoint purists. Moments of French narration will doubtless inspire the band's countrymen but annoy everyone else – was this really the best choice for a Lovecraft-based band? Instrumentally, despite moments of post-rock influence that are swallowed into the void, The Great Old Ones do seem to be pushing an atmospheric formula that when given free reign, is marvellous – The Ascend a great example. Seventeen-minute final Behind the Mountains is probably the best showing from the band, but again comes over as something post-black and atmospheric rather than Lovecraftian. Huge, bold and powerful, sure, but not up to the classics of the master. Still, what is? By associating themselves with such an awesome legacy, the band always ran the risk of expectations overriding reality. That the reality is as good as it is is a tribute to their skills, and the timeless legacy of Lovecraft – come for the subject, stay for the execution, and you'll be pleased indeed.

Killing Songs :
The Elder Ones, The Ascend, Behind the Mountains
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by The Great Old Ones that we have reviewed:
The Great Old Ones - Al-Azif reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
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