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Old Man’s Child quite simply dominates classic symphonic/melodic black metal. The Historical Plague is a five-LP set which proves that beyond any doubt, containing the band’s first five albums, all of which kick insane amounts of ass. Aside from the exceptional quality, this box set is also an excellent way to analyze Old Man’s Child’s career evolution over the band’s first eight years of existence, ranging from the debut album, Born of the Flickering, all the way to the band’s 2003 opus, In Defiance of Existence.
Perhaps the most amazing fact of Old Man’s Child’s quality is that the band has always been Galder’s personal project, writing 100% of the music and having little more than session members to help him, sometimes going as far as only having a drummer to help him out. Galder, whose work with Dimmu Borgir might leave some questioning his integrity as a musician, proves every bit of his quality with these albums, all conveniently released in one high-quality LP set.
Now, it’s time for the evolution of Old Man’s Child’s music during these years. Like many similar bands (among others, Dimmu Borgir and Emperor), the beginning of the career is always the blackest. Born of the Flickering doesn’t fail in that department, featuring a symphonic and highly melodic yet unmistakeably black metal sound from beginning to end. However, this is completely a unique album despite the large number of seemingly similar albums within the genre. Looking at, for example, Dimmu Borgir’s career reveals nothing comparable; the two bands’ approaches were completely different despite some members of lesser importance drifting between the two bands even during the early-to-mid 1990s. The early Old Man’s Child sound is based on a heavy infusion of keyboards on top of a melodic black metal frame, with the single-minded goal of creating an evilly epic sound. Credit must be given where credit is due, as the exercise is a complete success and Galder has truly managed to pull off a masterpiece with his band’s debut.
Constant evolution seems to be a given in Galder’s vision, as the completely different nature of his band’s sophomore album, The Pagan Prosperity so accurately demonstrates. The album drops the old-school black metal of the debut in favour of a new, dynamic type of extreme metal not unlike Dimmu Borgir’s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant but having a more soothing and natural flow than Old Man’s Child’s more well known comrades’ band. Here, the keyboard sound is made to work in a highly aggressive manner with the music, providing a one-two punch of speed and power mixed with melody. Also in contrast to its predecessor, this portion of the band’s career favours all-out technicality over the subtler dark atmosphere of before. This technical prowess, found both in Galder and Jardar’s solid riffs and in Tony Kirkemo’s often mind-blowing and advanced drumming, works extremely well with the slick, well-produced sound and the overall catchiness of the compositions. Many individually memorable tracks can be found here. Like the debut, The Pagan Prosperity is a standalone album in the band’s discography and a true beast of talent and ingenuity.
The third step in Old Man’s Child’s career is what I’d call the band’s more transitional period, a mid-era where the sound explored on The Pagan Prosperity was taken and refurbished into something new, something with a very natural flow to it, leading to the band’s modern sound. The two albums concerned are Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion and Revelation 666 – The Curse of Damnation, both great releases but the former being a bit superior to the latter, perhaps simply due to a more appealing aesthetic and more of an original feel to it all. According to the liner notes, the vocals on Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion were actually fully improvised, and the sheer feeling of natural appropriateness associated with them truly works to give credit to Galder’s talents as a musician. Also, this is the period when the keyboard melodies began reaching the mind-blowing intricacy that mid-to-late era Old Man’s Child demonstrates. An excellent example of this appearance is the immediate highlight, My Evil Revelations, whose melodies work wonders with Galder’s deep, harsh growl to create a dual opposition which in turn gives the music incredible levels of dynamism. This era in particular is a hotbed of melody in a band already known for such things during its entire career.
The last album featured on The Historical Plague is also the last truly great Old Man’s Child album, the natural peak of that pure melodic black metal sound: In Defiance of Existence. Here the keyboards acquire a truly neoclassical edge to them, creating an absolutely epic feeling to the album which simply refuses to quit until the end. Few words are necessary to describe this portion here: the trip through Old Man’s Child’s first eight years’ career time ends with the hypnotizing melodies of this album, a complete classic which probably stands as Galder’s best work, and that truly is saying something after having listened to this five album set. For a musician to be able to blend the modern black metal sound with such a ridiculously large amount of keyboards while still sounding powerful, even menacing, is a testament to the man’s musical abilities.
To conclude, allow me to say that The Historical Plague is one of the most worthy metal releases of the past decade in terms of actual awesome music involved, certainly an essential one if we narrow the view to melodic incarnations of black metal. While not all perfect, each one of these five albums is a masterpiece on its own and together, well, they make for a wonderful listening experience. Since it’s still available for ridiculously low prices, considering the amount of quality material contained (I got it for 30 Euros), seeking this LP set out is more than recommended.