Old Man Gloom
01. Grand Inversion
02. Common Species
04. To Carry The Flame
05. The Forking path
06. Shadowed Hand
09. Shuddering Earth
[Hydra Head Records]
Old Man Gloom haven’t been heard from in quite a while. Coming off of an eight year hiatus, the latest offering from this supergroup of sorts arrived with sparse rumours – at different times both confirmed and denied – and while an album had been rumored to be recorded and released for years now, nothing solid came from the enterprise until earlier this year when it was announced that the band would be embarking a small run of select shows. For those lucky enough to attend those shows, they would be treated to an early release of the band’s brand new album, NO. Not wanting to confine the album to such a small sect of people, Hydra Head Records has planned a full scale release for later this month. For those wondering if this album is a worthy contender in the line of OMG releases, here’s your answer:
Without sugar-coating anything, NO Is a sludgy, ambient, droney, groove infested mess of an album. There are a lot of different pieces spinning around on this disc; each of them dark and throbbing with pent-up aggression. It’s the sort of anger that festers and only ever occasionally bubbles up to the surface, but is quickly subdued once again. The music thrums with the virility of an irritated hornet; buzzing and waiting to strike once its last tenuous last straw of annoyance has been broken – and when it strikes, it strikes hard.
In between the long and heavy handed ambient drone tracks like ‘Common Species’ and ‘Shadowed Hand’ are songs like ‘Regain/Rejoin’, ‘To Carry the Flame’ and ‘The Forking Path’, which act as explosive displays of musicianship and anger groove laden sludge. While the former tracks also have a crushing sludge sound, they sort of ease in and out of it, and lead into more of the ambient and glitchey distortion that is so prevalent on other OMG albums.
NO feels like a much more driven album, though. Where previous efforts sort of meandered and wallowed in their own murky selves – very rarely getting into any powerful ‘in your face’ statements – NO is the exact opposite. The levels of ambiance are few and far between, and there are far more fully fleshed out songs here, and each one absolutely pummels the listener. The message of this album is hard to decipher, but evocative songs like ‘Common Species’ and ‘Rats’ bring to mind the sense of ceremonial cleansing for which the band is named.
What sets this album apart from pretty much anything else in the scene is the production. Lately it has seemed that every band wants to create these super sterile and clean productions, and while that sort of thing works for some — see Devin Townsend and The Omega Experiment — there is definitely something to be said about the murky, fuzzy production found in abundance on this record. The entire collection is a beautiful mess of distortion, feedback, glitchey ambiance, and piercing static that pieces the music together like a rusty nail. The dark, pulsating riffs and howled vocals — which are far more prominent and aggressive on NO than previous albums — sound so much more poignant with the dissonant and noisy approach to sound production. Handled incorrectly, this kind of nonsensical din is abominable, but OMG do it so damn well.
NO is a tough album to tackle. Some may find this contorted mass of trembling sounds easy to listen to, but to really qualify what makes it so impressive is quite difficult because of it’s disjointedness and unmitigated looseness. Even though it is a driven, and pointed album, it still feels very off-kilter; kind of like a drunken rant, but its message and power are hardly diluted by this fact. The album does not have the feel of one cohesive movement, but rather a stop and start flow to it, reminiscent of being in a car with a first time driver; foot on the gas taking you up to 45, but at the first sign of trouble, immediately scales it back to 5. This is important to the overall texture of the album as the din and chaotic nature of the music could be too difficult to listen to if left to just one side of the ensemble’s sound. In the end, however, this album is a massive step forward for Old Man Gloom. If you’re looking for something odd, dissonant, and passionate, this is the record for you.
Old Man Gloom – NO gets: