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Even if I didn’t already lump Old Man’s Child into the same category as other gimmicky symphonic noise pseudo-BM bands as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, the three have intertwined themselves so incestually as Ex-CoF, Ex-Dimmu drummer Nicholas Barker now joins OMC’s ranks with Galder (also of Dimmu) and Jardar.
Never a fan of any of the three bands, I was less than thrilled when the fifth and latest Old Man’s Child album, IN DEFIANCE OF EXISTENCE arrived in my mailbox for review. Since OMC’s previous four works were received by my ears with reactions of apathy or disgust, I had no positive expectations as I put the album into my stereo.
Well, I will not withdraw my previous comments about my prior dislike of Old Man’s Child, but I will now add that IN DEFIANCE OF EXISTENCE is a good album.
Yes, it’s true. I admit to liking an OMC album. Kind of a skanky feeling, isn’t it?
IN DEFIANCE OF EXISTENCE shows a fuller, richer sound for Old Man’s Child. This is due in part to the excellent production of Fredrick Nordstrom, but the main contributing factor is that the riffs are meatier, taking a stronger and beefed-up approach. Galder and Jardar strike hard with some really great riffs that are heavy, sometimes waxing a bit technical, and most importantly, head-bangable. Instead of thin, lifeless riffs, OMC has more fully entered the realm of death metal, and even punched up the sound with a number of thrashy instances. Secondly, the addition of Nicholas Barker (better known as “Uncle Fester,” Cradle of Filth’s ex-drummer). Easily the best musician from CoF, and indeed from his more recent stint on Dimmu Borgir’s last album, Nicholas pounds away in his characteristic fashion. Even the keyboards here are used with more discretion as the riffs are not as buried in a wash of blastbeats and synths. There are plenty of great atmospheric passages on this album that made me sit up and say, “wow, that’s a really cool, menacing atmosphere going on here,” especially on tracks like the opener, “Felonies of the Christian Art,” “The Soul Receiver,” “Life Deprived,” and my favourite track on the disc, “Black Seeds on Virgin Soil.” Speaking of “Black Seeds,” the solo about halfway through just rips before going into a nice riff break. The end result reminds me somewhat of a stronger, deathier Old Man’s Child mixed with the atmosphere of one of Cradle of Filth’s rare great moments of excellent songwriting.
Two points, however, detract from the overall quality of IN DEFIANCE OF EXISTANCE. First, OMC still retains too much of the blastbeat-ridden Dimmu-ish sound common to the band’s previous works. Secondly, the songwriting still leave some things to be desired. While every track on the album is very good (minus the useless instrumental, “In Quest of Enigmatic Dreams”), the songs do tend to run together. A couple other minor issues I have include the use of silly synth effects that pop up every now and then, ruining an otherwise good run of riff/atmosphere/whatever, as well as a few atmospheric passages that bog down and begin to encroach upon uselessness.
Fans of OMC, CoF, and Dimmu will undoubtedly be creaming their pants over the release of IN DEFIANCE OF EXISTANCE. This album, which is easily many times better than anything Old Man’s Child has done to date, may even catch a few skeptics such as myself off guard. Really, with Cradle of Filth releasing their latest t-shirt and gimmick...err...I mean album on Sony, and Dimmu currently doing who cares what, now may be the time for Old Man’s Child to step forward after spending the past four albums in the shadows of others.
(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, April, 2003)