Sound — 8
Old Man Gloom has been a sort of sludge/doom/metalcore supergroup in the Boston scene for the last decade, and their latest release, "No", shows that their dark, tormented sound still has staying power. Following on the heels of their droning, pounding "Christmas", "No" is an album full of detuned riffing and maddening noise, but that is exactly what Old Man Glooms are looking for. The group is comprised of former members of such bands as Converge, Isis, Cave In, and Zozobra, and even with the immense wall of sound, individual talents manage to shine through. Song Breakdown: 01. "Grand Inversion": Composed of piercing static, chippy audio samples, and synth organ, the opener sets a somber, eerie start. 02. "Common Species": The first actual song kicks in with some chunky strumming and converts to sludgy distortion at :43. The song alternates between these two styles. Gets slower and more dissonant the farther the song gets, until it completely decomposes to drums and tortured yells. 03. "Regain/Rejoin": Main riff sounds quite Cave In-esque. Sort of a heavy indie sort of feel instrumentally. Pounding, driving beat throughout. 04. "To Carry The Flame": Straightforward and sludgy. Awesome vocal lines after a guitar interlude at 2:51. 05. "The Forking Path": The vocals of Caleb Scofield usher in what is essentially a tighter sounding song. Heavy Cave In feel. Punishing riff at 1:16. At a minute from the end, Scofield continues wailing while the guitars fade out leaving a dark, fuzzy mess with eerie drum hits. One of my personal favorites. 06. "Shadowed Hand": effect-laden clean intro. Gives way to static permeated with short segments of eerie piano and guitar. Music kicks in again in a dark atmospheric tone with screams and clean vocals, then some heavy riffing at 7:34. 07. "Rats": Low, horrorific bellowing starts the song giving way to maddening static and noise until drums kick in at 3:11. The whole band is in at 4:30. Cool almost southern riff at 5:03. Thrash tempo kicks in at 5:34. 08. "Crescent": More eerie noise becomes a harrowing acoustic track accompanied by soft-tinged vocals. Dark and atmospheric, and a good change of pace. 09. "Shuddering Earth": Acapella screams bring the song in a crushingly heavy fashion. Song switches gears in an instant to quiet with a hint of dark guitar and even more tortured yelling. After another loud section, the song ends with a sickening, droning amount of static. After the album is done, I am left with an epic yet terrifying feeling. The album is well tied together and produces a combination of sounds that makes even deathcore bands feel happy and bright, but I love it's maturity and atmosphere.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics match the dark atmosphere of the instrumentation where one can make them out. Some of my favorite lines are from "To Carry The Flame": "Higher, higher, burning fire, making music like a choir" and from "Shuddering Earth": "The earth is shuddering, faces pushed into the ash, bodies are trampled, smoke chokes the stars". They paint a very weighty picture, but they are fitting in the environment. The various vocalists are perfect for this band. Between Nate Newton, Aaron Turner, and Caleb Scofield there are plenty guttural bursts that would make a pit bull run with his tail between his legs, while they still manage to make a few soft notes here and there to set the mood.
Overall Impression — 8
These guys are tough to make a comparison to with such a unique crushing sound, but I think there is a little bit of feel from each of the members' respective bands in this album. That is a very good thing given the representation. While some of the songs on the album are scarily long, and there is a great temptation to skip past the static to get to the next tantalizing nugget of music, that shouldn't scare the listener too badly because this is a well-made album and each moment of static or noise is meant to prepare or set up for the next musical section. I love that they make you anxious for the next riff this way. The only thing that I really hate about this album is that it kills my ears through my headphones at certain points. Some of my favorite songs would be "The Forking Path", "To Carry The Flame", and "Regain/Rejoin", but there is something to make you turn your head in each song. I would definitely get this again and highly recommend it to anyone who is a "real" metalcore fan.