Review Summary: What's not to like?
Just at a quick first glance, this record has a couple of great things going for it. First, and most obviously, it's made by New Mexico metal quintet Old Man Gloom
, who just happen to be fronted by Isis mastermind Aaron Turner. This works in the record's favor because, in general, high expectations can be set for anything post-metal or sludge touched by Aaron Turner and his label Hydra Head Records. Secondly, it's a one-song album. While this facet of the album/song can serve to set off much-deserved warning bells in many genres, post-metal is one of the few styles of music where excessively long songs can be a resounding success (see Jesu, Overmars, The Waters Deep Here
), simply due to the genre's inherent nature: long buildups, a slow, almost doomy pace, and the lengthy and deliberate progression of ideas, thoughts, and emotions that make it such a unique kind of music.
So the question remains: does the song live up to its obvious potential? Fortunately for metal fans the world over, the answer is a resounding yes
. All of its facets point to it being a truly great sludge/post-metal record: the massive, drop-tuned power chords, the raw, unrelenting hardcore shouts, and the eerie vocal and sound samples all give this the air of something created by someone who really knows what they're doing. Aaron Tuner had, by this point, released his Isis debut Celestial
as well as various Isis EPs, and had started the Hydra Head label almost a decade back. This is a man who has experience and who knows how to make good sludge, and it shows. The best thing is that this 28-minute song, despite being something that could easily become tedious, never drags. It has repetition, and it doesn't change pace much, but just as with other post-metal acts most of the the song's variation lies not as much in these more overt senses as it does in subtly adding layers of effects, samples, and instruments during the softer parts before quickly transitioning into skull-crushing walls of distortion.
The song has all the aspects of an excellent sludge record, but it also adds in a few ideas that are its own. Things really start to get interesting around the 19-minute mark, after which the rest of the song consists of three parts. The first is a shorter section with a wonderful combination of clean guitars and some trademark Aaron Turner samples. The next part, which is possibly the single most awesome thing about the album, is where the clean guitar of the first part turns into a balls-to-the-wall, all-out masterpiece of sludgy distortion, and on top of it, Old Man Gloom gifts us with a truly orgasmic guitar solo lasting nearly 2-and-a-half minutes. Honestly, there isn't much in this world that can top an epic bluesy guitar solo layered over a massive sludge riff, and this relatively short section is where the band really
shows us what's up. The song's final three minutes consist of, out of all the things in the world, a percussion-less wall of guitar fuzz and distortion that is eerily reminiscent of renowned drone act Sunn O)))
But this is where the song ends, and as the last fragments of fuzz fade out, we are left with a feeling of fulfillment and of the utmost satisfaction. The best part is that we aren't tired in the slightest: our attentions have been held for the album's entire 28-minute duration, with only the most infinitesimally small moments of boredom bulldozing their ways into our consciousnesses to bring us back to earth. However, all is well, as these pesky reminders of reality are swiftly decimated by a wall of city-flattening distortion. Old Man Gloom have created something that comes dangerously close to being a classic of sludge, and have guaranteed that you will be coming back to this time and time again. But really, did you expect it to be anything less?