French bands Paramnesia, The Great Old Ones conjure dark, impressive chaos on new albums

One of these guys is not in the band ...

One of these guys is not in the band …

There used to be a time when receiving physical copies of promo records in the mail was the norm. Just a couple years ago, each day the mail arrived could contain up to 5-10 packages with a single album or multiple releases, and I know it’s a time my wife doesn’t look back on fondly because the mail piling up drove her insane. Then just about everyone went digital.

It’s totally understandable why just about all promos are digital now, as it saves a ton of money in postage fees alone. But every now and again I’ll get an unexpected packet of records I didn’t expect, which always makes me a little excited. It’s a reminder of the old days of writing, and I have to admit it does get my attention above the virtual sea of digital promos flooding my inbox, so many of which I can’t even get to because there’s only so much memory on my computer. And in my brain.

Recently, French label Les Acteurs l’Ombre Productions sent out a package containing a new record from a band whose new record I was heavily anticipating and one from a group that I was unaware of until that moment when I was looking at the cover of this mysterious things. It was an added bonus that both records were of high quality and have provided quite a bit of dark enjoyment ever since they arrived, and we’ll take a look at both albums today. Each album is housed in a very nicely designed digipak, complete with lyrics in one case, so you’re also going to be getting your money’s worth in that regard. You can’t discount that when you’re asking people to trade money for your products.

Paramnesia logoUp first is a band that was new to me in Paramnesia, an atmospheric black metal band that sounds like they might as well hail from the Pacific Northwest of the United States or even California, but instead hail from France, a place known for its mind-bending, fresh take on all things metallic. The closest associations I can think to compare the band are Fell Voices, Ash Borer, and Weakling, and their penetrating, crushing sound really hits the spot for listeners like me who indulge in this kind of sound. The two tracks on their first and self-titled full-length release create a mood that sticks around and swelters through most of the 40-minute running time, with some well-placed peaks and valleys here and there to keep you wondering. The members remain shrouded in mystery for the most part, but their sonic mission is obvious and in your face.

Paramnesia coverThe record opens with “IV” that has that Cascadian-style thunder that makes you wonder if this whole thing was dreamt up in the middle of a dark forest, and from there the track begins bleedings its power all over the place. There are plenty of dark melodies that lurk underneath all of the audio violence, and eventually a pocket of clean playing settles in before it all explodes again. Sweeping chaos settles in, like a generous thunderstorm has opened up and began drenching your surroundings, and that chaos remains until the song’s final moments when the energy finally subsides and washes out. Closer “V” begins with an eerie introduction that eventually swells into an assault of guitars that sound like an unforgiving, frosty gust of winds hitting your exposed skin. The song spends a good bit of time drubbing and punishing you, with howled vocals and shrieks, and thunderous playing. The song calms down again and it gets atmospheric and hazy, with melodies ringing out and adding a sense of color to all of the fury, and the final minutes trickle out into the night, finally releasing its grip.

Paramnesia are a welcome addition to the crowded atmospheric black metal cauldron, and right away, they stand up above the pretenders and prove they have a grasp on what makes this style so exhilarating. This self-titled debut is an eye-opener, and hopefully there are more good things to come from this band in the future.

For more on the band, go here:

TGOO logoAlso coming from France are the Great Old Ones, a Lovecraft-inspired progressive black metal band that impressed the hell out of us on their 2012 debut “Al Azif” and now are back with a second helping of fever-dream-rich stuff with “Tekeli-Li.” The title actually is a cry Lovecraft lifted from an Edgar Allen Poe poem for his “At the Mountains of Madness,” on which this record is based, and this band does a fine job conjuring the cosmic horror writer’s penchant for horror and absolute strangeness. But the band doesn’t just get into weird headspaces; they also are great at putting together metal that is equally earthquaking and compelling, keeping you tuned in all the way on this six-track, 53-minute opus that is one hell of an interesting adventure. The band is comprised of guitarists/vocalists Jeff Grimal and Benjamin Guerry, guitarist Xavier Godart, bassist Sebastian Lalanne, and drummer Leo Isnard, who combine for one dangerous, spectacular assault unit. Cthulhu would be proud in his watery grave. By the way, it might help to read Lovecraft’s novella in advance to full enjoy every nuance.

Great Old Ones albumThe record opens with the eerie instrumental “Je ne suis pas fou,” complete with French dialog and sounds that set the stage for what’s to come. Then it’s into the tale’s beginning in “Antarctica,” a muddy, doomy crusher that’s built on sonic violence, vicious howls, and bubbling bass work that makes it seem like water in the freezing region somehow is coming to life. The lead guitar work burns, there are epic melodies that cascade, and the song finally fades out on the wings of sound. That leads into “The Elder Things” that starts with winds whipping up, piano notes dripping, and the track finally fully igniting. From there, we get a steady treatment of vicious shrieks, enrapturing melodies, and some playing that delves deeply into progressive waters. The intensity continues to build, and the final moments slip into a death metal-inspired finish that reminds of Opeth’s earlier work.

“Awakening” is up next, and it begins with more dreamy speaking, then guitars that charge up over it and glimmer like great lights. The song keeps driving hard until it heads right into a doom-infested haze that takes over and adds a sense of ugliness to what’s otherwise a majestic song. The song really hits its stride in the second half, with the music coming to life and carrying you to a next plane of existence. “The Ascend” is a robust instrumental cut that’s one of the more aggressive numbers on here. The band really settles into a groove and comes at you with punishing drums and progressive-minded guitar work, yet in the final moments it achieves calm, with classical-style acoustics leading you to the gates. The mammoth 17:50-long closer “Behind the Mountains” is a perfect summation of everything you’ve heard so far. There is musical thunder and fireworks, passionately growled vocals, valleys that let you have a breath of air while more dialog is spoken, and more ruptures that bring the story to its devastating climax, as all sanity is destroyed by a horror that is utterly unspeakable.

The Great Old Ones are one of the most challenging, bizarre, and inspired bands plying the black metal trade, and they offer something both mysterious and terrifying into this form of music. This second album of theirs is an amazing adventure, one that matches the intensity and horror of Lovecraft’s tale and one that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Amazing record.

For more on the band, go here:

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