In the city of Bordeaux, in the southwestern portion of France, a ritual has begun to take mass for those listening closely enough. With ears attuned to the voices that call from beyond the stars and deep beneath the ocean’s waves, summoning those that are mad enough to heed its call. No runes or texts of the damned deliver this unearthly message, though. It is within France’s “The Great Old Ones,” a five piece metal band that answered their otherworldly master’s call and have quickly established themselves as a new face to be recognized on the metal scene. Mixing aspects of Black Metal, Doom and even a bit of ethereal, dream like moments into their cauldron, they have quickly gained attention for being a fresh breath of air in an overly saturated scene. Guitarist Xavier Godart was kind enough to provide answers and insights while on the road via email about the bands formation and the inspiration they have received from author H.P. Lovecraft.
For those unfamiliar with you guys, would you mind giving a quick run down of of the band’s formation and history?
Benjamin (guitar/vocals) started to write some black metal songs alone back in 2009. For some reason, his music made him think about the H.P. Lovecraft universe, so he just kept that in mind while writing more and more stuff. We joined him early 2011 and we finalized the line-up. To this day, we still have all the original members. We played our firsts gigs a few months later and we entered the studio late 2011 to record our debut album “Al Azif.” It was released in April 2012 by LADLO Productions (FR) and Antithetic Records (US). We then started to tour in France and Europe, playing at festivals like Hellfest for example. Sometime in late 2013, we entered studio again to record our second album, “Tekeli-li”, which was released 2 months ago by LADLO Productions. That very same week, we played at Roadburn Festival. And now, we’re on the road again to Germany, as I write these answers from our tour van.
It’s refreshing to hear a “black metal” or “post black metal” band give up on the entire corpse-paint and Satanism gimmick. Was that your intention when you formed and decided to cite Lovecraft as a direct influence? A decisive step away from what some people might see as a played out and exhausted scene?
Lovecraft has been there from the beginning, from the first of Benjamin’s songs, and we have just decided to stick with it for now. It’s an infinite source of inspiration, and we like writing music as a soundtrack for HPL’s stories. We find that pretty stimulating. As far as the entire corpse paint and Satanism aspect of black metal – it’s just not who we are. But we do however enjoy a lot of bands who are using that imagery still. We saw Behemoth at Hellfest a couple of weeks ago, and they were great! For our live gigs, we try to create the atmosphere with lights and smoke, instead of being dressed like a witches. Sylvain, our light man, is doing a great job!
Lovecraft’s subject matter and mythology has long been referenced by a number of extreme metal bands. However, most bands write a song or two about his works, never dedicating a whole album, or career to it. What is it about Lovecraft that made you guys decide its going to be all about him and this vision of cosmic horror that he created?
Usually, metal bands stick to the concepts of the horrific, feelings of fear and madness, which are also very recurrent in his written universe. But we think there’s also a dreamy atmosphere to his writings. There are all these scenes, descriptions and decorative aspects that really matter in his writing. We try to focus on these things. There’s a lot of things we can use as an inspiration in these story’s, and we try to cover all these aspects. Moreover, focusing only on H.P. Lovecraft’s works ensure a certain coherence in our music, in my own opinion.
Between the release of your debut album “Al-Azif” and the sophomore album “Tekeli-Li”, you guys did a cover Bjork’s “Bachelorette”, which must have been a taunting task. It retains the same feeling from the original, but still manages to come across as your band. What was it about this song that called out to you guys and honestly, how hard was it for the band to translate her sound and mold it into yours?
Honestly, this cover wasn’t really a big deal to us. It was almost a joke from the start. We’re all amateurs of Bjork’s work. Benjamin heard that song at a party, I think he was probably a little too drunk, and he just decided to write a cover of it and for some reason, he actually did it. He sent us a demo and we actually forgot about it for some time. In December 2012, we were supposed to tour for 15 days, but it was cancelled one day before the first gig for some obscure reasons. We used that free time to rehearse the new songs and to record this cover. We played it live a couple of times as well. We took some time to mix it months later and we finally just put it on YouTube. It’s cool that people seem to enjoy it and are still talking about it.
“Tekel-Li” received some very positive reviews and feed back when released in April. Writing an album based on the novella “In the Mountains of Madness” I felt was a natural progression after “Al-Azif.” Rather than write singular songs about certain portions of the Lovecraft universe, it served as an entire soundtrack if you will to this story. Was the intention always there to follow up your debut release with a concept album? Or did it just slowly take form during the initial writing process?
It was our intention all along to produce something more substantial. Benjamin wanted to write something based on only a novel or story, as a soundtrack to it. I don’t even remember talking about that, to be honest. I guess it was clear to everyone after the release of Al Azif that this was the direction we were taking. We’re really proud of what we achieved with Tekeli-li. The song writing is definitely better and the sound is closer to what we wanted from the beginning of the band.
Playing the new album live, how have you felt the reception as been to the new material? With four songs on “Tekeli-Li” clocking in at over seven minutes and the final song “Behind the Mountains” ending at almost eighteen minutes, has this presented any problems for you in the live setting?
The reception in live is great so far. There are more catchy moments on this album, like the songs “Antarctica, Awakening or The Ascend,” and in a live perspective that’s worked great. We only had one chance to play “Behind The Mountains” live. It’s not a song you can play every day of course, because we often don’t have enough time. We only play it for special occasions!
Finally, I know you guys are doing some dates around Europe this summer. Any notable shows you would like to mention or shows that you’re specifically excited for?
We’re in the van for Germany right now. We’re playing at Under The Black Sun Festival near Berlin in two days. We’re also playing at the Motocultor Festival in France in August. We’re really stoked about these gigs! Later this year, we’ll do a proper 15 day European Tour with another French band, but nothing official as of yet.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Xavier.
Thanks to you!
Photos by Gwenola Lemasson