Old Man Gloom Put The OMG In Experimental Sludge/Doom/Post-Metal on The Ape of God
Update, 11/7/14: This is a review of a fake promo the band sent out to avoid leaks and keep the fact that The Ape of God is actually two distinct records a secret. The band says that fake “is still music we believe in and 100% stand behind,” so we’re leaving the review up. But, y’know. You probably shouldn’t take it seriously.
Using the term “supergroup” is somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, the unexpected combination of diverse musical personalities is always cause for intrigue, often even great anticipation. But there is also a certain level of expectation that lends itself to potential disappointment. At this stage in the game — six albums deep — it’s difficult to merely call Old Man Gloom a supergroup, but with the teaming up of such a powerful, storied lineup (Caleb Scofield from Cave In and Zozobra, Aaron Turner from ISIS (the band), Nate Newton from Converge, Doomriders, and now Cavalera Conspiracy as well, and Santos Montano from Zozobra’s first album), there is no denying this group’s formidable experience and the prowess that comes along with it.
Continuing to set the band’s sound apart (even from itself), new OMG album The Ape of God starts out with an unexpectedly spastic introduction in the form of “Fist of Fury,” a brief uptempo burst of hi-speed frenetic flurries of runaway riffs alternating with stretches of throaty screams and ambient background textures. Subsequent song “The Lash” comes on strong with rumbling, propulsive basslines and a thick, hypnotic main riff; this is another short jam, but a nice follow-up to the first track.
Once the third song “Predators” sets in, we are given a distinct reminder who is in the picture here. From the first moment, this song has a distinctly Zozobra-esque quality to it, although it retains a sense of gloominess and despair that gives this band its namesake. Additionally, the second half of “Predators” is quite loose and ambient, with a lone desperado guitar riffing simply while all sorts of sonic sputtering spouts alongside and certain beats are accentuated by what sound like single snare hits.
Much like 2012’s NO, The Ape of God contains several interludes and extended moments of aural experimentation, but in Scofield and Turner’s veteran hands there is little self-indulgence to be attributed here — although some not open-minded enough to stomach a bit of abstract noise may disagree. However, with such a seasoned cast of characters, there is going to be a certain level of maturity of the material regardless of how straightforward, complex, or experimental the music is.
“Shoulder Meat” may actually be the most OMG-ish of this collection of tracks, starting with liquid-y sloshes before a meandering stripped-down riff enters that eventually settles into a mid-tempo stroll about halfway through. As always, the vocals are top-notch throughout — the one-two punch of Scofield and Turner packs a seriously heavy wallop that cannot be challenged. Furthermore, the dynamics of OMG’s vocals are nicely diverse: Scofield’s guttural scream is nicely complemented by Turner’s earthiness (both in screaming and singing).
Following track “Simia Die” (like the album title/concept, perhaps deriving some influence from this year’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?), a lush instrumental (aside from ambient backing vocals), shows a rounder, more delicate OMG. (Side note from the group’s Bandcamp page: The acronym for Old Man Gloom is “OMG”. “OMG” has become a household phrase since its introduction in to the popular lexicon in 1999, directly coinciding with the formation of Old Man Gloom the year prior. The group has never been properly credited for this massively important contribution to global culture.) But almost immediately, subsequent song “Never Enter” rings true to the band’s authentic sound, purveying an uptempo yet sludgy vibe.
After a couple more raucous, energetic tracks interspersed with more ambiance, final epic track “Aarrows to our Hearts” (perhaps a riff on guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner’s first name) is a bit of a challenging one, but substantial and rewarding nonetheless. This lengthy song has a deliberate, brooding pace, and adds elements of noise that might be considered grating to some discerning ears.
Being that The Ape of God incorporates a healthy amount of abstract interlude-esque soundscapes within the songs, clearly this is far from a traditionally structured album, so bring some patience and get ready for ample experimental noise alongside the fantastically pummeling grounded parts of each track. But above all, if the band tours behind this album DO NOT MISS THEM… live, all of the sonic mayhem gets put into a much more palatable and exciting context that will melt your ugly face right off.