Sound — 9
With the first half of two part album "The Ape of God," Old Man Gloom hasn't strayed from the vein of their previous works, but they have surely amplified it. Their trademark sludge/doom riffs mixed with guttural vocal variety and stomach-churning soundscapes is all there still, but there is a little more tightness to the groove that I don't remember feeling with their last albums.
As a "supergroup" of sorts formed from members from Isis, Cave In, Converge, and more, one can expect a lot, and I feel that this delivers. The recording (produced by Kurt Ballou of Converge fame) rides the line between tight and messy for a satisfyingly crushing, yet distinguishable mix. It shows the same pension for dramatic buildup via static and ethereal soundscapes that their previous works have had, and it seems to flow well from song to song. Let's look at the songs a little more in depth:
1. "Eden's Gates": Works up with a lackadaisical, echoing swirling of guitars mixed computer static. First riff kicks in at 1:26 and jams for a while with the drums. Song really goes into high gear around 2:20. Sounds like a really heavy Cave In b-side. Heavy low end riff at around 5:00. Song goes out with same swirling guitars and white noise as intro.
2. "Promise": Choral voices provide a haunting background, as the band eventually joins in for a slow, grinding doom jam. Starts into a brutal groove at 2:09 (sounds similar to old Mastodon riffs). Cool riffs at 3:24 and 4:05 carry out until the song exits to another, even more haunting chorus.
3. "Shoulder Meat": A disturbing combination of different static goes on for the 1st minute. Another slow, sludgy jam with some nice little melodic fills mixed in. A groove with some cool dissonant notes comes at 4:11. Gets more dissonant until 6:14 where it gives way to another mass of decayed, agonizing sound.
4. "Fist of Fury": Starts with a mournful organ sound. Heavily decayed guitars and a thrashy drum beat weave in and out with the vocals for a while before fading out to the organ once more.
5. "Simia Dei": A pounding drum beat and chugging guitar is joined by what sounds like the chanting of monks. The same chugging and rhythmic pulsing continues throughout as the intensity of the sound increases. Moves into a warm, but heavy riff around 2:18 accompanied by some soaring higher lines (guitar or voice?). Returns to just chanting.
6. "The Lash": Heavy white noise, eery guitar work in at 1:30. Joined intermittently by static and white noise. Drops out to a grungy bass riff at 4:41. Soon mimicked by guitars with slight variation until the end.
7. "Never Enter": A more fast paced grungy tune. Sounds a lot like a Cursed song. Pretty straightforward, but has a great groove to it.
8. "After You're Dead": Rumbling and static until 1:00. Another sort of heavy Cave In like riff until about 3:36. Album ends with several minutes of chaotic drums, de-tuned guitars, and painful wailing and barking from the vocalists.
Lyrics — 8
In all honesty, without a lyrics release, a lot of the lyrics are difficult to decipher at first couple of listens. Similarly to their last album, the material that I picked up on is dark and at certain times morbid. In "Eden's Gates" I can make out the lines "stumbling, crawling, blind; spine fluid ___; lacerated eyes." According to guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner, the album gets its themes from ideas of the devil and the idea of a fallen humanity from Christian/Biblical concepts. Songs like "Eden's Gate" seem like a reference to the Garden of Eden, man being shut out of it, and the great pain and anguish of life outside. The "chorus" seems to say "you're the reason for our cries" or something similar which could be a reference to the devil archetype Turner mentions. Lyrics in "After You're Dead" seem more straightforward with starting lines like "You make me feel like I'm losing my mind; (unsure); show yourself when I think that you're gone; come back again when I decide to move on."
Lyrics aside, I love the vocal variety that comes with this group of guys. With three different members contributing, it keeps it from getting tired sounding. The lyrics and level of ferocity compliments the music well overall, adding to the chaos. I also very much enjoyed the ambiance that the choral chants in songs like "Simia Dei" and "Promise" added to the mix.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, it always seems difficult to compare these guys to other bands just because of the level of experimentation, but there were moments where I heard Cave In, Isis, Mastodon, and Cursed all rolled into one (all bands that I thoroughly enjoy). The songs that I enjoy the most are "Simia Dei," "Promise," "Eden's Gates," and "Shoulder Meat," but each song seems to have some sort of riff or impact that caught my attention. I really like this album for its balance. It seems to have a more focused attack than their last album "No" had, while retaining that same chaotic mentality. The only thing I hate about it is that it can be tough to give it a full spin in the car because of such long periods of white noise, at least once you've already heard them. If it was stolen, I would definitely be upset. It might be a little avant-garde for some, but I would recommend giving it a shot.