Old Season - Archaic creation 3.5/5

Reviewed: 7-1-10





Tracklist:

1. Meet me on the battlefield
2. Forever damned
3. The mission
4. Prowler
5. Bitter is the wind
6. At the hollow
7. The heathen's dance
8. A soldier's song


Working long and hard with little to no broader recognition is sadly something of a fact of life for most Irish metal bands, and Athy’s Old Season are so far no exception to the rule. 7 years on the go now, with some members having served even longer in other bands from the same scene, 2009’s ‘Archaic creation’ sees them finally release a full-length CD to follow the debut EP from 5 years earlier.

Thankfully what they have lacked in output they more than make up for in originality, as ‘Archaic creation’ is a CD that truly speaks with a voice of its own. “Epic heavy metal” is a description that while completely applicable, would no doubt create an inaccurate image of a band from the Italian or Greek school of Manilla Road worship. Old Season move at a similar restrained pace, but rather than pursing the bloodthirsty heroics of the likes of Battleroar, they instead merge gothic doom and lightly symphonic elements to create a rousing, melancholy feel to their tales of battle and times gone by.

Rather than relying on big riffs as the stand-out feature of the songs, the guitarists instead often make use of simpler chord progressions to allow the operatic vocals of Frank Brennan to fully take centre stage. His emotional wail, not too far from that of Robert Lowe if you feel the need for a comparison, is the most immediately striking thing you will notice about Old Season, and he imbues the songs with a real sense of character that would be missing with a more run-of-the-mill frontman.

Despite the larger than life presence of Brennan, keyboard player Dermod Smyth is perhaps Old Season’s lynchpin, and his performance is that rarest of treasures; ever-present keys that neither distract and get in the way or feel like they have been spread over existing songs merely to justify the musician’s presence. Instead, the keyboards feel entrenched in the songs, woven into their very fabric and essential to what makes them so powerful, building an atmosphere that is undoubtedly celtic without having to resort to imitating fiddles and bagpipes.

The guitarists aren’t there just to provide set decoration though, and weave many captivating melodies that are vital to the epic nature of the songs, as are the brief short gallops they burst into and the crunching chords that are often left to hang in midair. Overall the musicians all do their jobs as well as they have to, filling the role each song requires them to with no one showboating at anyone else’s expense.

There is a criticism to be made though, and it is with regards to a shortcoming that undoubtedly holds the CD back to at least some extent. The very conscious step back Old Season have taken from top speed galloping and pummelling riffs is what makes them such an interesting commodity, but it also eventually creates a feel of sameness that in the end keeps the CD squarely in the ‘very good’ rather than ‘great’ bracket. While none of the songs are especially long, many feature gentle interludes that make some of the music feel a little needlessly drawn out and their momentum is damaged somewhat as result.

Still though, as both a meeting of epic and doom metal (but not epic doom metal, if you know what I mean), ‘Archaic creation’ stands out from the crowd with its welcome originality and superlative vocal display. Maybe a little fat could stand to be trimmed here and there, but Old Season have made a full-length debut that dares to be a little different and deserves plenty of attention for it.



CREAG




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