Let it be known that 2012 has been a great year for reunions in the music industry. We all know about the names of the past coming together again for live performances, but few end up writing new material or actually functioning as a band. Enter Old Man Gloom: an all-star noise-sludge lineup that has moved in mystery since the end of the 1990s. Now, following a few recent live shows of its own, the Boston-based four-piece has released NO, its first recorded effort in eight years.
If you were to reach into the blender and take out the ingredients that make up Old Man Gloom, it would be pretty easy to guess what the new album sounds like: members of Isis, Zozobra, Converge, and Cave In playing down-tuned, blown-out, and feedback-drenched metal. This isn’t just a dolled-up hardcore album; it’s lathered in dynamic melody and intelligent movements.
“Grand Inversion” sets the tone of NO with cryptic intrigue. The mellow keyboard progression at the end of the introduction moves directly into the opening chords of “Common Species,” which rains down like the heaviest storm. The percussion is relentless, as blast beats appear and disappear like bursts of lighting; the guitars throb, chug, and squeal; and the vocals are, to put it bluntly, terrifying. Hit for hit, the band makes every note count.
Elsewhere, “upbeat” tracks (read: not entirely despairing) like “The Forking Path” demonstrate Old Man Gloom’s fluency in dynamics. At its inception, harmonized leads bleed through the sludge-metal mix. Later, after the song devolves into an industrial hell, a slithering, backwards guitar effect emerges, reflecting the thought and range put into the album’s epic 56 minutes.
Although it has been eight years since Old Man Gloom has broken silence, it has returned with undeniable thunder. Perhaps even more than its predecessors, NO captures each member’s unique capabilities and contributions.