Terrible Old Man - Cosmic Poems - (6.5/10)
Published on October 23, 2015
The works of H.P. Lovecraft have provided the metal community with inspiration so boundless that the two now seem synonymous with each other. This seed has been planted into a multitude of sub genres, with bands such as Thergothon, Sinister, and Ripping Corpse perhaps being the more well known to take from the pages of the literary master. Needless to say, atmosphere (to some degree) seems important in transcribing Lovecraft’s work into music. So where in this sea surrounding R’lyeh does Germany’s Terrible Old Man fit in?
Credit has to be given when credit is due. Unlike the vast majority who fixate themselves on that most infamous work, The Call of Cthulhu, Terrible Old Man have written music around those poems/short stories that may get overlooked (lyrical credit is given to the writer himself) by the flippant and casual observer. What of the music itself? For the most part it leans toward the horror-punk and death-rock stylings of Danzig and Samhain fused at the hip to a modern heavy metal sound topped with an often clean guitar tone that would go down well with today’s crowd. For the most part this works in the band’s favour very well but at others it makes it very difficult to define them. Perhaps “Lovecraftian Rock” would suffice?
All this said, Cosmic Poems has grown on me somewhat. At times the music sounds downright creepy and how I would visualise a musical reimagining of this work – who isn’t going to be creeped out by that intro to “The Cats” after all? Effects are seldom used to generate an atmosphere: the work is done purely by the instrumentation, which in songs like album highlight “The Festival” tends to be relatively stripped back minus its jazz-like ending; the two “Nemesis” tracks make the listener feel hurled around an unpleasant storm courtesy of its black’n’roll vibe and unrelenting tempos. The standout track for me has to be “Book of Wonders”, with its catchy vocal hooks and its hauntingly cosmic keys that shudder in the background before the ultra-modern solo. All in all it is refreshing to hear such a take on Lovecraft that surprisingly leaves more to the imagination than an album that overloads you with atmosphere. Not saying I prefer it this way, but the music on Cosmic Poems can be damn cool when it wants to be – even for those unfamiliar to the man’s work, which I am ashamed to admit I am.
Ultimately this is a decent homage that works just as well as a standalone piece: the movement between dirty rock and clean metal is done well, with thick guitar riffs, throaty vocals and the coarse drumming to boot. It may struggle to find a permanent place in our collective memories, considering the music that is released out there, but rest assured that, if you are curious enough, it may just be your new poison. And I never thought I’d say this but it may just do well in a mainstream setting too (should it find its way there)!