For anyone who has been paying any attention to the underground heavy music scene in the north of England recently, a new release from Hundred Year Old Man is an exciting prospect. Undeniably one of the most interesting bands doing the rounds on the live circuit, HYOM’s available recorded output up until now consists solely of one single, Black Fire, and its accompanying b-sides (a Pink Floyd cover and a demo track), and they’ve left us itching for more.
Rei continues to show that HYOM are not ones to shy away from experimentation, which is one of their many strengths; this EP is not entirely what you might expect from a nominally ‘metal’ band, and that is a good thing. From the heaviest riffs to the most ambient passages, everything on offer here is awash with reverb, creating a soundscape somehow both lush and abrasive. Importantly, too, the band are not afraid to strip their sound right back to very little, safe in the knowledge that when they do choose let loose, they can absolutely crush. Opening track ‘Sun & Moon’ is based almost entirely upon two slowly alternating chords, with tortured hardcore screams cutting directly across the thick, hazy texture. This is a brooding track, staying just shy of the band’s all-out weight but building a sparse intensity matching the barren and foggy cover artwork of this beautifully presented release. The brassy synth lines towards the end of the track are almost Ulver-like, another intriguing layer to a track which is heavy in a widescreen and cinematic rather than brutal way. The most surprising, expansive and interesting track here, ‘Sun & Moon’ only suffers from perhaps being just a touch overlong.
The impressionistic aural landscape of ‘A Year in the North Sea’s ambient drone is an ebbing and flowing cleanser of an interlude, with choral samples and guitar noise eventually giving way to incongruous bird chirping as the sinister backdrop fades away. Third and final track ‘Rei’ builds from the ruins of this tidal wave, burning with quiet tension for a while before the full band unleash their inevitable sludgy post-metal maelstrom. Comparisons to Neurosis here are not unfounded, the pummelling continuing over several minutes whilst retaining those key atmospheric elements. Layered vocals add another dimension of raw power, before the whole overbearing monolith finally collapses into a stuttering electronic aftershock.
Rei is a bold and well orchestrated release, but there is an inescapable feeling that is a prelude to something more; something bigger. This, of course, makes perfect sense, with HYOM’s debut album due for release later this year. There is much to enjoy here, but it could do with some more of the varied and visceral content fans of the band know they are capable of, amongst the droning repetition which they’ve already got down to a tee. As a strong appetiser, Rei fulfils its purpose and with just a bit more gratifying substance to back up this palette, this is sure to be a great year for Hundred Year Old Man.