It’s nice to know there are things in metal you still can rely on. While there are a handful of labels and bands I pretty much can be assured will offer up quality with each new release, knowing where I can place my trust isn’t so easy these days. Come to think of it, maybe I need better things to worry about.
Anyhow, one of those bands that always seems to do us right is Old Man Gloom, the long-running sludge/doom/noise/post-hardcore/you-name-it band comprised of some of the most respected members of metal’s underground. The band has been a major part of a lot of people’s lives and musical taste formation for the past 15 years, and when they returned in 2012 with “No” after an eight-year absence, it was hard to separate feelings from critical analysis because it was so good to have them back together. And it turns out, two years later, that album still crushes. But that was just the first step in their new journey, as they’re back with the smashing “The Ape of God,” their first for Profound Lore. Yeah, everything you like about the band is here, from the muddy devastation to the roared vocals to the brainy compositions, but they branch out their sound even more and come up with some nice surprises.
The members of OMG should be well known to most. Obviously you have Aaron Turner of ISIS (the band, not the terrorist organization, you idiots) on guitars and vocals; Nate Newton of Converge and Doomriders on guitars and vocals; Caleb Scofield of Cave In and Zozobra on bass and vocals; and Santos Montano (he plays live with Zozobra) on drums. That lineup in unquestionably great, not just based on their stellar resumes, but because of the awesome music they’ve made together over the course of six records now. The music makes “The Ape of God” an instant charmer, one that from the first ride I had with the thing, I was ready to go back and take it all in again. It’s only grown on me from here, and it’s arguably my favorite of their releases to date. Again, ask me in two years.
Oh, but hold on! Just like when OMG essentially told no one about the creation of “No” and released it basically out of the blue, “The Ape of God” is yet another trick they whipped out of their sleeves! “The Ape of God” are two completely different records with the same name and about 90 minutes worth of music. What we’re reviewing here are eight tracks, out of order, that basically make up a sampler of sorts that was given to the media as the official promo. I have yet to hear each record in their entirety, and down the line, we’ll perhaps come back and add to this piece. But what I’ve heard is a fair enough indication, I think, and a hilarious gotcha from Old Man Gloom, Profound Lore, and SIGE. You jerk bastards!
Aptly titled “Fist of Fury” is served up first, beginning with a pocket of sound that makes you think the band is heading toward ambiance, but then the noise starts to sizzle. The band steamrolls forward, with everything sounding like it’s being fried in electrics, and Turner’s easily recognizable barks bursts and pummels. Up next is “The Lash,” another track that has a misleading start, seeming to float in mid-air before a thick bassline lays down the tracks, hypnotic melodies punish and mystify, and monstrous growls emerge that are heavy enough to cave your chest. “Predators” is burly and gruff, with Turner howling, “I will live forever,” with sludgy atmospherics piling on top. The band just keeps striking, with the end of the track bathing in corrosive material and what sounds like warped angels on high layering the background in doom. That bleeds into 9:22 “Shoulder Meat,” a really interesting cut that actually sounds like ISIS in spots (especially when the icy synth lines roll in). There are equal amounts brutality and spacious wonder, with pockets of noise soaring like the wind, levels of sound being built, and the track finally relenting its grip slowly.
“Simia Dei” is driven forward by Montano’s drums, leading into a much different-sounding cut and an instrumental. Some of the sounds feel like they’re from the calmest reaches of space, and the guitar work even gets poppy in spots, sort of like a burlier Torche. “Never Enter” has static spitting sparks, the tempo speeding up, and screamier vocals from Scofield. The song is faster, punchier, and more vicious than what preceded it, which is saying something since this thing hasn’t exactly been easy listening so far. “Promise” sinks into vocal drone and lets the doom hammer drop, pounding you relentlessly and making you feel miserable along the way. Vocal duties gets traded back and forth (with Newton starting and Turner finishing), changing up the voice of the track, and the final moments spiral and finally go dark. Finally, “Aarows to Our Hearts” runs 14:10, and it’s a pretty interesting one. What sound like doom horns ring out, signaling the dark clouds overhead, and strings rise up and set an eerie tone. The guitar work enters ominously, with clean singing instead of growls, and sea-sick melodies pushing you back and forth. The bulk of the song is moody and dreary, but with a few minutes to spare, the pace begins to get nasty, jangling guitars turn muddy, and the guys starts pounding away again. Turner’s growl registers its final statements, with he and the band howling in unison, and the lurching, beastly mashing gives way to mercy, but only after you’ve been sufficiently punished. This is one hell of a song, one of the most captivating tracks in Old Man Gloom’s gloried catalog.
Devastating but intelligent, abrasive but thought-provoking, Old Man Gloom again prove you can make uncompromising, heavy music and still give people something substantive to walk away from, and not just meat-headed heaviness. “The Ape of God” may be a reference the destruction of mankind, but it sounds like another creative rebirth for this band of tested veterans. Their music already is revered for its daring history, and it can be embraced now for its volcanic present and surely earth-blazing future. If anyone can even guess as to what that future is, as OMG never will show their hand until they’re right in front of you.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-Man-Gloom/41173493966
To buy the albums, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
Or here (for vinyl, coming soon): http://sigerecords.merchtable.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/
Or here: http://sigerecords.blogspot.com/