Review Summary: A mix of sludge metal and metallic hardcore that fails to meet its potential and finds itself overtaken by unnecessary noise that ultimately disappoints.
Supergroups will always be compared to each member's main band. It is inevitable and most have grown to accept that. Old Man Gloom is essentially a supergroup of the Boston hardcore/metal scene. Aaron Turner, probably the most famous member, also plays in Isis
and is the owner of Hydra Head Records, which every member of the band has been signed on to at one point with his other respected band. Nate Newton is on guitar for Old Man Gloom rather than his regular bass for Converge
. Santos Montano rocks the drums and also played on a Zozobra
(basically a sister band of OMG) album with Caleb Scofield of Cave In
, who plays bass in OMG and started both bands during Cave In's absence from music. Finally, Luke Scarola controls electronics, which play a large role on Christmas
Old Man Gloom's sound is very much a melting pot of the bands mentioned before. The thick sludge metal of Isis' Celestial is very much present throughout, smashing your head in with brutality when it appears. It is for that reason that Christmas
is best described as a sludge metal album, albeit more experimental. The dissonance of Converge makes an appearance every once in awhile, reminding one of their sludgy You Fail Me. The post-hardcore tendencies of Cave In also appear, helping with the dynamics in the songs. In the end, it is Zozobra that can be best compared to, with dense sludge passages evident throughout.
An interesting characteristic is how the band uses the vocals of Turner, Scofield, and Newton. All three men have a similar shouting style, yet have their own distinct voices. Turner tends to own the slower and heavier songs, while Scofield takes on the more energetic angular, hardcore tinged riffs. Newton is the least present vocally, but certainly shows himself, even if he usually sticks to background vocals.
At this point, it sounds as if Christmas
is the perfect mix of the heavy sludge metal and metallic hardcore that the members play in their other bands. If it was, the album would have a higher rating. However, only half of the album consists of headbangable tunes. Of course, those tunes hit hard, very
hard. A trait of the album is that for every badass heavy song, there is an ambient track that simply drags on for too long. These tracks are nothing like the post-rock elements of Isis that listeners become indulged in and bring the album down. "Accord-O-Matic" is one such track that consists of noise before an annoying dissonant accordion plays for much longer than wanted. "Sonic Dust" is the only ambient track that is actually interesting, as it actually builds up to the next track. The other shortfall is that the "metal songs" end before they could have exploded into something more. "Girth and Greed" is only a minute and a half long, but it feels like it could have been much more. Overall, the album continuously feels like it holds back potential that should have been unleashed, but never is.
Perhaps if Old Man Gloom had reversed the formula, then the album would have been better. The heavier tracks, as amazing as they are already, could have been explored further and built upon. The ambient tracks could have been shorter and more interesting. It is possible that the band did this on purpose in order to differ from what would be expected. Even so, "The Volcano" seems to be what the rest of the songs should have been, as it explodes just as its name implies, after an interesting build up. One would expect the sixteen minute "Christmas Eve" to be an epic that leads to a climax, but once it is listened to, it is only found to be sixteen minutes of noise, thus making it the biggest disappointment of all.
is much like the Christmas present that your parents got you every year when you were a teenager. They had a vague idea of what you liked and attempted to get you something nice, but when you opened up the box, it was not what you wanted. Maybe it was a band shirt for a band that you loved two years ago, but lost that love since. Maybe it was an MP3 player from Wal-Mart that only holds two hundred songs instead of an iPod that holds two thousand. Sure, you still like it, but you remain disappointed and wish you had gotten something better. A huge fan of Isis, Converge, and/or Cave In may go to this album expecting something epic, only to find a handful of sick songs overwhelmed by pointless ambience that leads up to nothing.