After SARKE’s excellent Gastwerso album release of last winter, multi-instrumentalist Thomas Bergli, who we interviewed here, spoke then of a return to the studio with his old band TULUS, and so here we have new album Old Old Death, their first release in eight years.
There’s a saying in art that goes something like this, ‘repeating an idea once can look like genius, but twice makes you look a fool’. I forgot who said it – possibly a Greek philosopher – but it came back to me as I was listening to the 31 minutes of this very good album by TULUS.
First impressions is this is a bit like SARKE – certainly in terms of the production, but everything is shorter and faster, with themes that aren’t built upon and expanded as was the case in Gastwerso, rather they are perhaps reverse-developed, so that only a skeleton is left, but what remains for you is a very interesting set of bones – stripped back is the term that is so often applied here, but I think that is overused and does not do it justice. Just because something is short and to the point, as is Old Old Death, does not mean it has undergone an intense pruning, so that every single note, every drum hit, has its place considered and then justified, which I suspect is true in this case….whatever, these riffs are all high quality.
Soundwise, Old Old Death is definitely old school Norwegian black metal, but with this modern, quite dry, yet powerful sound compared to 2012’s Olm Og Bitter, everything is a bit sharper, and I guess you could say that there is nowhere for any weakness to hide, so everything has to be played perfectly – I think it works.
Musically the album comprises of grooving drum beats, with very deliberate and simple fills, tight, urgent chromatic sections in the guitars, counter melodies in the bass, frequent modulations to the major second, all set against sections of washy cymbals and fragmented chords before a return to the tight stuff, and then more often than not, stopping abruptly before you’ve realised what’s going on. I burst out laughing several times during this, because ending a song prematurely is an insolence that is always hilarious, and TULUS are really good at it on this album! The vocals are harsh, yet at the same time more ethereal then you might expect, so they are not such a thick shadow over the music. The delivery is rhythmically interesting and works well with the guitar themes.
I did review this track by track, but then thought maybe it’s better to let you make your own mind up. For me, third track I havet hos Rån is a standout groover, excellent I must say, as is fourth Flukt. Also good is ninth track Villkjeft, which is all winding chromaticism over a blast beat, but with unequal phrase lengths to keep it interesting. And the last track begins almost like a ballad, with a great clanking driving bass before a burst of speed, and an absolutely epic ending that you simply must hear!
Overall a damn fine album that I suspect might be a little slow to take off, but with those singable riffs it should win quite a few fans, once it gathers momentum – it does gets better with each listen. I also urge you to check out their earlier stuff, but this album is the best I think. Excellent work TULUS.