In less than a year Leeds based band come collective Hundred Year Old Man have progressed from a single (“Black Fire” August, 2017) to an Ep (“Rei” January, 2018) through to a debut double album “Breaching” (April, 2018). All have appeared on the Manchester based Gizeh label (with the last two releases being collaborations with German label Wolves and Vibrancy). “Breaching” contains eight tracks spread over a CD and three sides of vinyl with the fourth side being an etching.

According to the label “Breaching contains masses of atmosphere and is a ferocious and immersive listening experience. An epic, monolithic voyage full of texture, depth,aggression and emotion”

“Breaching” puts down the foundation for elements contained in the album. Slow rumbling feedback noise underpins ghostly sounds that slowly reveal snatches of screams and low-level guitar chords. Textures are used to create an uncomfortable aural experience. Guitars drone and slice while pained screamed vocals drip despair. Breaching means to break through a wall or barrier or defense and while I cannot be sure what vocalist Paul Broughton is screaming about you get the feeling that this is about breaking through which is what happens when the reworking of the debut single “Black Fire” kicks off. This version adds half a minute to the original and benefits from the touring and the tightening the band has done since their debut. Broughton’s vocals are more guttural than before and it could be the recording, but everything is a bit more crisp than before, but maybe a tiny bit less down tuned than before. There feels more of an intention of creating an atmosphere and dare I say it a hint of melody. There is a definite feel of the post rock side of Metal with the way the guitars sound around the eight minute mark before heading into the thundering riffs that lead the track to its end.

“The Forest” clanging distant guitars explode into tribal drumming that propels monstrous riffs thundering rhythms before settling into a slightly down tuned section that lowers the volume by not intensity with the first sign of extra vocalists adding another edge to the track. A break down section with synth lines and samples paired with a chugging rhythm that sounds on par with Red Sparrows which has more drone oriented guitar added changes the intensity of the track. The next major section is dripping with arching guitar lines that lift up the track with the chugging guitar and bass giving the weight to the section. After an instrument section that appears to wind the track down, it roars back with a section reminiscent of the opening part of the track before samples and drones end it.

“Clearing the Salients” throbbing synth and circular loop drones meet an arching guitar section that you think will flow straight away into a punishing section, but instead leads onto an atmospheric section of guitar drones and aforementioned elements. A salient is defined as “a piece of land that juts out to form an angle” which explains the arching guitars that soar outwards, but don’t turn into linear riffs. The feedback flows directly into “Long Wall” which opens with lightly chugging guitars and drums augmented with synth. The pace is lugubrious with Broughton’s deep screechy vocals adding an air of menace to the track and bringing about a heaviness to the guitars. The music starts to fill up all the space as the guitars start to dominate and exert authority over synth and extra vocals with the drums taking in more rhythmic patterns. A distorted chugging riff surrounded by feedbacking drones leads into tribal drumming and then the guitars take the track to the next level with down tuned, dare I say it anthemic feel. A choir of screaming singers screaming “Will kill us all” over stripped back guitar provides respite between the full on sections. You get the feeling by now that the band have well and truly got their layering and stop/start feel down pat as they are able to transition easily between intense and ‘lighter’ sections without it being overly predictable. I may be wrong but this feels like the first track where the music approaches soloing into their arsenal rather just riffing and atmospherics, which certainly gives it a new edge. Possibly the stand out track of the album or that they have released so far in their short career.

“Disconnect” while it opens with a crushing rhythm the track ventures more into the lighter side of the band, sounding like prog like riffs and sounds. The intensity returns which is largely due to the vocals as the guitars, even though they are heavy don’t venture into the traditional Doom sound. There are sections of heavy riffing, but the majority of the track is to show texture and atmospheres. While a guitar and bass holds a heavy rhythm the other guitar and synth create ambient soundscapes. When the band fire up for the next section it is more a post rock band with screamo vocalist, but this returns to the more heavy and atmospheric as the track twists again. This particular track shows that the band won’t be easily pigeon holed and part of their oeuvre is to transverse styles, tempos and approaches to intensity. The final synth lines and feedback flow into “Cease” before becoming predominantly guitar feedback. The guitars wail and oscillate coming across like an ambient/drone track with a darker edge. The longer the track goes on the more sinister the drones get. The become heavier and more involved and paired with samples that add to the ominous nature of the music.

“Ascension” flows straight from just after the sample on “Cease” finishes with chiming guitar tones and drones and a horn like sound that flows over the guitars that are starting to get more involved. Bass and drums lead the track into the tracks next movement with a grittiness brought to the track by the downtuned bass. The vocals come in, but the music seems diametrically opposed as it never turns into the standard post metal/doom sound that you would predict. You get the feel, musically of a post industrial band such is the soundscapes created. Its only when the track enters the second half of it’s just over ten minute length that the guitars start soaring and the downtuned sound as well as embedded wall of synth bring about their trademark intensity. Towards the end, for me, is the first time Broughton’s vocals come across clearly enough for me to easily decipher and the message is a bleak one which the music conveys.

With the exception of the more atmospheric tracks, the general average in length of tracks is around the ten minute mark something they have become accustomed to. This allows them to stretch and grow the tracks and build layers and atmospheres. It also means that where the track started out does not determine the journey and ground it will travel. If heavy music that fights convention and pigeon holing is what you crave, then “Breaching” may be for you.

https://soundcloud.com/gizeh/disconnect

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