It’s true. We have reached “peak Cthulhu” in extreme metal. But the undisputed champions of the Lovecraftian are The Great Old Ones. They have clinched the title with with their newest journey into old and tainted Innsmouth itself, EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy.
The atmospheric opener starts us off just right with a sub-thirty second clip of creepy, stinging strings punctuated by our narrator setting the scene: Innsmouth, the infamous coastal town of Lovecraftian origin that plays host to dark creatures and dark men, whose providence is that of the elder gods. We are then thrust into a furious barrage of blasts as “The Shadow over Innsmouth” transports us into the cursed city. I knew from the very moment I heard the opening of this track back in December (as the album’s lead single) that this album would be a savage beast. I am not disappointed. This song never relents in its foul energy, channeling it even in those more restrained moments of funereal reflection and calm-before-the-storm breakdowns. This expert pacing results in a song formula that is at once dynamic and aggressive – a satisfying combination.
As we traverse Innsmouth’s tainted streets, TGOO set up strange and varied vignettes of horror to guide us exhausted listeners to our destination. From the barbed hooks of “When the Stars Align’s” short-form groove to the appropriately ceremonial introduction of “Ritual,” we reel around and peer over our shoulders, attempting to draw sight of the origins of those foul noises resounding through the night. The later of these tracks takes a turn for the melodic at its conclusion, signifying the presence of something greater than ourselves, something cosmically infinite and terrible just beyond the rotting gables and walls in our view.
Just when we thought that the worst was over, a black behemoth of a building rises up before us. Above its door reads “THE ESOTERIC ORDER OF DAGON” in blocky stone text; below that, a sinister looking emblem of unfamiliar origin. We enter and are assaulted by a stench worse than death. All is black. All is silent.
A match flares to life, held aloft by a disembodied hand covered in darkness to the wrist. The match drops and the room alights. The ritual flame illuminates figures human and unmistakably inhuman. We are thrust again into a scene of pure horror by “In Screams and Flames,” a track seething with the dark intensity of the figures before us, foreshadowing their sinister intention. This track thrives in the dissonant guitar leads that wrap cloak-like around its runtime, perpetuating the tension from beginning to end, in spite of its dynamic structure and low points of disturbingly placid riffing.
They draw nearer.
We turn away with only the briefest moment of hesitation, fleeing the scene. The cold air hits us hard as we dive through the black doors and keep running, in what direction we know not – just away from those things. Tears sting the corners of our eyes as our reality comes crashing down, and with it, our sanity – questionable before, but completely shredded now, bit by bit falling away along this nightmare route back through the streets of cursed Innsmouth. Our surroundings open up at last. We’ve reached a dock. Waves crash against the dark wood.
We fall head first into the “Mare Infinitum,” the infinite ocean, the black void of nothingness. No – there’s something. There is something here in the freezing water with us. No use in swimming to the surface, gasping for air, grasping for a hold on the dock. There is no surface any longer. We see nothing, feel nothing, but the cold and the something below. A ghastly choir of voices rises from the deep, beckoning us downward in a language that is not of this earth, yet we understand. The stars are right.
This is the end.
EOD works upon a solid foundation of atmospheric black metal set by previous albums Al-Azif and Tekeli-Li. Not only does the album expand on the TGOO formula, it perfects it into a savagely beautiful blend of precision black metal riffage and melodic elements more commonly associated with cinematic scoring. The vocals are incredible – equal parts intelligible growl and animalistic rasp. The drumming is inhuman, which is alone worth the price of admission.
EOD also notably features the first appearance of a guitar solo (a ripping one at that) in “In Screams and Flames,” as well as featuring an acoustic rendering of their song “My Love for the Stars” from Al-Azif on deluxe versions of the album. I cannot overstate how fulfilling this album is to me as both a fan of the band’s previous work and of Lovecraftian themes. We are definitely at peak Cthulhu in music, contemporary literature, and pop culture in general – no doubt. But if there is going to be a single band that stands as an exemplar of so-called Lovecraftian metal, it will be The Great Old Ones.