Aural Aggravation

Hundred Year Old Man – Rei (EP)


Gizeh Records / Wolves & Vibrancy Records – 26th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

With the follow-up to ‘Black Fire’, Leeds doom behemoths threaten to go ‘even further into the abyss’ with this three-tracker, built around two towering monoliths. And while they continue to mine the seam of bone-crushingly heavy sludge showcased on their debut release, this new offering vastly expands the territory and reveals new depths, new range, and a real appreciation of texture and tonality.

‘Sun & Moon’ begins gently, an atmospheric drone evolves to a swirling sonic mist. The beat is sedate. And then the first power chords tear through it all and shred it to obliteration. The mangled, grainy metal overload, booming bass, and the gut-wrenching vocal combine to devastating effect, and the contrasts accentuate the power of the seemingly opposing elements as they pull not apart, but together, surging in sonic tidal waves. The track calls to mind Prurient in the way soft, graceful notes – the synths border on shoegaze as they wash and ripple lines of melody – are juxtaposed with truly savage noise and violent abrasion, making for six and a half minutes of compelling and hyper-intense listening.

Intensity isn’t all about duration, through, and while Hundred Year Old Man are very much an act for whom the expansive is their favoured territory, they prove here that they’re equally capable of condensing the force and atmosphere into more succinct compositions. ‘A Year in the North Sea’ may be but an interlude piece, but with dense, rumbling towers sound building around swelling organs and soaring choral voices, it forges drama on a scale of Karl Orff’s ‘Oh! Fortuna’, before twittering birdsong is carried into the distance on a solar wind.

All of this is just prelude, however, to the title track, the nine-minute ‘Rei’, a work of crushing weight and monumental enormity in every dimension. While the Neurosis comparisons are as just as they are inevitable, the mid-section locks into a bass-driven loop that grinds like Swans circa 1984, battering at the senses and bludgeoning the listener with brutal repetition and an overwhelming density of sound. Paul Broughton’s voice is a raw-throated howl of infernal anguish, the lyrics inaudible and impenetrable, but the delivery conveying more than mere words ever could, articulating a primal pain.