We’re starting 2018 as we mean to go on by making our first New Band of the Week of the year the brilliantly bleak, relentlessly heavy Leeds-based doom sludgers Hundred Year Old Man.
The six-piece of Tom Wright (guitar), Steve Conway (drums), Aaron Bateman (bass), Paul Broughton (vocals), Dan Rochester-Argyle (keys and vocals) and Owen Pegg (guitar and vocals) – plus Chris Heath from Dead Retinas, who plays drums in their live shows – evolved from various musical projects cooked up by Owen and Tom. One of these was a glorified improvised jam session with Dan, which they sent off to their friend Paul McClure in Switzerland, who the band tell us used to be in an awesome band called Stand-up Guy, who in turn recorded some vocals with JP from Rorcal and formed the basis of their first release.
We spoke to Owen to find out more, and he told us: “It took about a year to find the right drummer and a vocalist a little closer to home than Switzerland. We knew our Paul from the Leeds music scene and his band Curses, so when we started talking seriously about turning this jam thing into a proper band over a game of pool with Paul it just came up naturally.
“Aaron was a happy accident through a friend of Tom’s; we really wanted a heavy keyboard element in the band so Dan moved onto keys and we set about looking for a bassist. We were in the rehearsal space as a six-piece pretty soon after that. Our first live show was November 2015, opening for Iced Out and Lugubrious Children and we pretty much haven’t stopped since. I don’t think we would know how.”
HYOM mark 2018 with the release of new EP Rei on 26 January, on which Owen tells us: “For those who are familiar with the band, either from the Black Fire EP or the self-titled release before that, they will hear an evolution of our sound; Rei is effectively a precursor to the album which will be out early next year.
“It basically introduces themes and styles from the LP whilst being very much its own animal. Keyboards, which have been a big part of a sound since we became a six-piece, are now fully integrated into our sound and this will be the first record to show that off fully. Both this and the album should be viewed as part of the same journey, whilst also being two very different experiences.”
For a bit of a heads-up on what to expect, you can stream the title track Rei now here. It starts off slowly with atmospheric noise then dives into a huge smash of screamed vocals supported by massive, booming guitars. The onslaught eases off into more electronic noise and distant spoken words then intensifying drums signal the return of the big dark doom.
The strange harmonies somehow work brilliantly, while it’s almost intoxicating to listen to the big smashing chords alongside Tom’s pained cries. The track lasts a mighty nine minutes so there’s plenty of fluctuation, including a long section of floating high-pitched guitars that soon drop into big low-tuned booming chords that effectively bring the track to an end. This only bodes good things for the upcoming three-track EP and the following album.
You can also check out the band’s epic previous release Black Fire in the video below. We defy you not to be absolutely hooked on the sound of this:
The band’s sound has been honed by growing up on, in Owen’s case, the early sound of Therapy?, but he reserves special praise for one band in particular. He tells us: “I’m suspicious of anyone who doesn’t like Deftones. Chino’s (Moreno) lyrics and the melodies he comes up with over Stef Carpenter’s guitars will always be a fascinating mystery for me. Obviously I have to mention Johannes Persson and all he has done with Cult of Luna and Khoma, not to mention the flawless productions Magnus Lindberg achieves on those records. It was a no brainier for us to go to him for mastering.
“I suppose for the music I make now the early production techniques of Devin Townsend and how he achieved such densely layered records fascinated me for years. I’ve tried many times to replicate the sound of albums like City by Strapping Young Lad or December’s The Lament Configuration – probably one of the most perfect albums ever made. I’m not so much of a fan of his more recent endeavours but records like Terria and Ocean Machine Jane certainly contributed to my love of the marriage of guitars, synths and samples to create one sound.”
An intriguing element to HYOM is their willingness to collaborate with other people. As Owen explains: “Our first record was a collaboration with a vocalist based in Switzerland and our first single, Black Fire, contains lyrics written by Russell MacEwan from the Glaswegian band Black Sun. He also actually appears on the forthcoming album along with other friends from other bands, some of who contributed lyrics or even influenced structures and writing.
“There’s one song on the album that was written with vocals provided by someone else and then Paul and I cut the song up, he put his lyrics down and we edited more around that. We do a lot of writing on the computer, as the freedom to cut things up and try out different structures and arrangements is amazing. We can listen to demo mixes throughout the week, make notes and just move sections around until we are happy with a song enough to play it in the rehearsal space. It’s a very thorough and satisfying way of working. Because of the collaboration element, there can be multiple themes running through songs making them much more down to the listener to find meaning.”
When it comes to what inspires the band to write, Owen tells us they’re a little unconventional. “For me, as a guitarist, the musical element of a song always exists without meaning initially. Paul gives the song meaning though we rarely discuss the contents of his lyrics. Because we knew each others’ previous bands we knew we could trust each other to just do what we do best. Especially with Paul. In some cases it’s quite clear I think, particularly the more politically charged lines, though in others they are much more open to interpretation. Paul has his meaning and I’m sure we all have our own – as do the people who buy our records or come to the shows.”
If there’s one thing to take away about HYOM – other than their awesome doomy sludgy metal sound of course – it’s their love for what they do. As Owen puts it: “I’ve had one major break from being in bands when a job I had made it almost impossible and I just felt like something huge was missing. It’s part of me, as it’s part of all of us. Even those of us for whom this is the first ‘proper’ band, music and especially live music is a massive part of who we are.”
Rei is out on 26 January, and you can pre-order it here. You can see Hundred Year Old Man on tour supporting its release from the beginning of February, kicking off on 1 February at The Black Heart in Camden. They’re then off across Europe, taking in France, Belgium, Germany and Czech Republic, before heading back for shows in Huddersfield and Birmingham, Gizeh Fest in Manchester on 17 February, then Sheffield and Banbury. All their tour information is here.