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Finally, I've got the new Old Man's Child record "Vermin". It doesn't take a direction far away from the music we know of the previous records, but it has a main focus: Darkness. Damn this album has an obscure feeling!. Galder has decided also to stop trying to make a "Little Dimmu Borgir" from Old Man's Child, wisely keeping the music less bombastic and focusing more on a dark atmosphere in a more straight-forward (and far more listenable) approach than his norwegian fellows.
This time, Galder decided to record everything but as always he took a great drummer: Reno Kiillerich. The danish guy did an elegant drumwork, never being too much over the top or just showing off but adding musical quality and dynamics into the music. In other words, his drumming adds and doesn't detracts from the music while creating a wide spectrum of different patterns in every song. His tasteful ornaments just keep his drumming always interesting, in addition his double-bass work is flawless and his style is somehow similar to Nick Barker's but more controlled.
Following the path explored on "In Defiance of Existence", Old Man's Child's symphonic black metal continues borrowing elements from classic Death Metal especially in some of the riffing based on tremolo picking and 5th power chords. But the guitars don't keep on doing the same thing. There is always a lot going on. The harmonies are well constructed in order to fit in the whole musical picture as are the synth arrangements which are used moderately and with care. The whole album is musically (not lyrically) a concept. There are recurrent motifs present in all songs. The music is on one hand very impresionistic, trying to evoke images of ancient dark times; and on the other hand, incredibly catchy. So, while this brings to mind a Lovecraftian atmosphere you can headbang to almost everything here.
Nobody can deny Galder's ability to create instant ear-pleasing songs like "Enslaved and Condemned", the opening track. Starting with the Old Man's Child's already trademark spanish guitar intro, the song mutates into an agressive Black Metal with a symphonic feeling that delivers pummeling double bass work by Mr. Kiillerich and the symbiotic asociation between extreme metal riffs and synthetized classical ensembles and choirs even though this is far from a "wall of sound". I would say that this is more like Emperor's "IX Equilibrium" where every single instrument can be clearly heard. When "The Plague of Sorrow" unleashes its dark cloud of chaotic-but-controlled riffs you know exactly where this record is going. The razor-sharp precision of the duo shines in this song, showing all the technical dexterity they can offer in order to achieve the most evil and hellish atmosphere possible.
"War of Fidelity" takes us yet to another dimension including a lot of thrash metal riffing that reminds of the band's earlier works and featuring the peak of Reno Killerich's machine-like control of double bass and masterful cymbal work. "In Torment's Orbit" is the faster song of the record, keeping the thrashy feeling of the previous track with some Kreator-like atonal riffs and awesome lead guitar courtesy of Eric Peterson from Testament. "Lord of Command" is a song that would perfectly fit into the "Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion" album, displaying the same kind of disturbing synth tricks and Heavy Metal harmonies amazingly well conected to Dissection-esque cold riffs.
At this point comes the most groove-oriented song "The Flames of Deceit". Despite its Dimmu Borgir reminiscences, this track works thanks to a magnificent post-chorus riff filled with that dark and mystic feel. "Black Marvels of Death" is a slower and classic Old Man's Child sounding song. It definitely peaks up towards the end preparing the listener to the next onslaught. "Twilight Damnation" shows all the harmonic creativity of Galder, being a polyphonic four-minute slaughter with multiple guitars playing in a heavier Children of Bodom style, but keeping the obscure atmosphere of the entire album. "...As Evil Descends" is an evil sounding outro, pretty generic but it goes well with the rest.
The new creation of Galder's Old Man's Child probably isn't a record that will make history, but is a great addition to your collection and to the band's discography. Highly recommended to those who like Dark Symphonic Black Metal in the vein of Emperor (circa IX Equilibrium). It may be enjoyed also by people who like dark and/or extreme metal in all forms and incarnations, from Samael to Behemoth.