One of my favorite tropes in all of media is that of duality. Be it on the big screen with superhero alter egos, the very literal werewolf transformations described in horror books, or the conflicted nature of humanity on the small screen, I enjoy it all. That being said, the expression of duality in music can be a little more tricky to get right. Today I get to talk about a band that sets out to make music that exists in a realm of duality. Hundred Year Old Man is releasing their EP Rei on January 26th through Gizeh Records / Wolves & Vibrancy. The balance that they aim to strike is that of ambient post-rock instrumentation and sludgey vocals. Let’s take a look at how the band approaches this throughout the three tracks on Rei.
First up on the EP is the track, “Sun & Moon.” As with most post-rock or metal acts, this piece builds up slowly. Some echoing voices seep into the mix and the drums begin rhythmically introducing the tempo of the song. The soothing guitar and keys make for a wide open canvas on which the vocalists can paint. Then in comes Paul Broughton, HYOM’s vocalist, with a full on sludge metal vocal attack that paints in splatters rather than fine articulations. This dichotomy works well, firstly because the instrumentation doesn’t try to rise and meet the intensity of the vocals, rather it compliments them. The second thing that makes this work is the atmospheric gloss that is applied to both elements, and the application is to the right degree. As for the song itself, it’ quite a pleasure to listen from start to finish, with desperate pleas begging, “Don’t ever let me go/just hold me close beside you.” It’s surprisingly melodic and, near the end of the six-minute track, the synth rises in the mix adding a nice new element to an already dense song.
The interlude between the main two songs on this record is a short instrumental piece titled, “A Year In The North Sea.” Distorted operatic choral voices and rising fuzzy feedback begin to swell at the start of the song. The thick layers of guitar hold their tones with only slight movement that reminds me of the giants in the genre of post-rock, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with primal screams at the periphery of the listener’s hearing. Things get slightly cacophonous toward the end of this two-and-a-half-minute track but it avoids chaos altogether. It’s a nice transition that fits the mood. Solid.
The final track takes most of the elements from the first two and ups the intensity. The title track “Rei” is just over nine minutes and uses that slow burn to get started. However, where “Sun & Moon” lets off the gas, “Rei” seems to be more risk-averse and wants to max out the sludge meter. The guitars are a bit crunchier, the mood is angrier, and the EP is the better for it. There’s a real fury to the track that definitely moves the whole record to a more post-metal feel like that of BRIQUEVILLE. The vocals and the instrumentation continue to rise and fall together until the end of the song when a pulsing synth sample fades into the distance.
Rei is a strong EP, which follows Black Fire as the band’s second release. They have built on what they accomplished before with a more refined sound and a clearer vision of the music they make. In general, there is a little to complain about here. The mixing is nice, the concept is fantastic, and when the intensity ramps up it feels organic. I would have liked a little more substance in the middle of the record, as I feel that there are only two strong tracks on this three-song release. That being said, it all fits together nicely and I think that Hundred Year Old Man has a blindingly bright future.
Notable Tracks: “Sun & Moon”; “Rei”
FFO: Morass of Molasses, Conjurer, Bossk