Sound — 9
Old Man Gloom (full name: The Old Man Gloom Alien Simian Defence League)is a post-metal recording project started by Aaron Turner of Isis, and features members from Converge, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and Zozobra. Old Man Gloom incorporates quite a bit of ambient qualities, and uses spoken word samples during breaks in the music. The songs in Christmas don't blend together like they do in Isis albums, and it changes direction really quickly. The length of the songs also seems to be quite random, with a really quick, crushingly heavy sludge break in between two 5 minutes ambient songs. (Tracks 1-3) Though I do love every aspect of the music, the samples, the vocals, the guitars, the drums, everything, this album sometimes just gets too far out there to really work wonders for me. All that aside, I found that it can be a great album to listen to while laying in bed with your eyes closed, and just zone out. One thing that does bug me is the closer. The longest song on the album before it is 7:50, then at the end they slap on a 16+ minute song, which just doesn't fit for me, they could have ended it nicely without dragging it on that long. I still would highly recommend this album and group to fans of post-metal and sludge, there are some really good parts in Christmas that separate it from other albums in the genre. Christmas is like a beast that has to take short breaks in between its torrential roar that is on a roller-coaster. Track Listing: 01. Gift 5:47 02. Skullstorm 0:51 03. Something for the Mrs. 5:44 04. Sleeping With Snakes 2:33 05. Lukeness Monster 2:54 06. 'Tis Better to Receive 1:25 07. Accord-O-Matic 7:50 08. The Volcano 7:32 09. Close Your Eyes, Roll Back into Your Head 3:30 10. Girth and Greed 1:33 11. Sonic Dust 3:06 12. Valhalla 2:08 13. Christmas Eve parts I, II & III (alt. version) 16:17 Total: 61:10 Band members: Aaron Turner vocals, guitar (Isis) Santos Montano drums (Zozobra) Nate Newton guitar, vocals (Converge, Doomriders) Caleb Scofield bass guitar, vocals (Cave In, Zozobra) Luke Scarola - Electronics Jay Randall - Electronics (Agoraphobic Nosebleed)
Lyrics — 10
I haven't been able to find a lyric sheet for Christmas, but I have derived that the majority of the album is a reflection on life and loss. As expected, there isn't much focus on the vocals, which can enter the song for a small amount of time and then disappear for several minutes. The style of the lyrics along with the music make the album a really good one to listen to while thinking. Talking about life and loss seems to be the norm for sludge and post-metal, so it was nothing surprising, but still fit well. More importantly, there is a good range of delivery on Christmas. There are the delicious screamed sludge vocals that I've come to love, and there are also some whispered chants weaving in and out of the music during the more calm breaks. Those two are the main ones, then there is also the spoken word samples, which sound like panicked calls for help over something like a police radio. The style and skill behind the vocals in bands like Old Man Gloom are near the top on my list for most entertaining. I wasn't too disappointed when I couldn't find an official lyric sheet, because I know that vocals aren't a very big focus in this genre, and I like to see it more as them being just another instrument that is adding to the sound.
Overall Impression — 9
Christmas was the first album I got from Old Man Gloom, and I think that if you are interested in them, you should either start with it or Meditations in B. I will say that it took a while to grow on me, so make sure to give it a few listens. Stand out songs for me are "Skullstorm", "Sleeping With Snakes", "The Volcano", and "Girth and Greed". Those songs have an incredible amount of mind-blowing music in them. Really good riffs in those and throughout the album. The later two are also after some longer ambient breaks, so it's great to hear some raw energy being thrown at your ears. The only gripe I have about Christmas is that it gets too ambient at points, and the closing song. I'd be okay with it if it wasn't such a drastic change. Still, there is some really good music in his album, it deserves a few proper listens to understand, then maybe it'll catch on to you like it did me.