Review Summary: A cure for many things; anxiety isn't one of them.
The first time I decided to check out Old Man Gloom’s new double release, The Ape of God, it was seven in the morning after a sleepless night, and I was feeling distraught and hysterical. In the wake of a recent gunpoint robbery, I was attempting to find something to calm my mind. Being somewhat familiar with Aaron Turner’s prior work (Isis’ Oceanic is one of my favorite metal albums), I figured the new album would be a nice way to bury the voices in my head in slow, impenetrably heavy sound, the way krill get swallowed up by blue whales deep in the dark parts of the ocean.
As it turns out, this album is more of a rampaging elephant. The opening track, Eden’s Gates, begins with some ambient noise, the kind of eerie high-pitched whining that might play in a haunted jungle in a cheap horror movie. After that, the drums come in, and then a disjointed, absolutely relentless guitar riff, and the most gut-wrenching, shiver-inducing vocals that I have ever heard Turner muster.
The track hits like the giant stones that fall out of the sky in Bowser’s Castle. The production is effective; the drums cut right through the noise and feedback, the guitars are palpable, and the vocals are clearly audible, while the low end is crushingly powerful without overwhelming the rest of the music.
The opener gives an accurate impression of what to expect on the rest of the album, but Old Man Gloom make sure not to use a cookie-cutter template for every song. Never Enter and Fist of Fury are both pummelers like the first track, but contain other distinct elements as well. Never Enter showcases some bright, cascading guitar melodies, a fresh break from the wall-of-sound smash-your-face-in chords that dominate a lot of the album, while Fist of Fury features what sounds like a chimpanzee screaming wildly in the background, a fierce and visceral complement to Turner’s guttural howls. The third track, Shoulder Meat, is a bit closer to what I expected from the band; it’s a bit slower and doomier, certainly still heavy, but not quite the onslaught that some of the other tracks are.
Simia Dei is a sort of heavier post-rock tune, with some slow, meandering guitar melodies and a simple drum riff repeating while choral voices sing in the background - it’s really quite beautiful. Heavy as this album is, it is definitely not emotionless, which is kind of a deal-breaker for me when it comes to metal music. This is made even further apparent by The Lash, my personal favorite off of the album; white noise collides with a desperately sad and detached guitar melody, in what to me is either the climax or anticlimax of the album. The last two minutes explode into a ferocious riff and another riveting vocal performance from Turner, as if the band is trying to fight off its own melancholy with unbridled aggression.
The closer, After You’re Dead, is everything that the closer for this album should be. Thrashing chords, distorted melodies, the same incredible vocals, and more thundering drums. As it all dissolves, we are left with feedback and noise, speckled with cymbal crashes and some final desperate yelps from Turner, who is a force right up until the waning seconds of the album.
By the end, I was stomping and howling along.
Listening to it now for the 8th time or so, it’s 11 in the morning, after yet another sleepless night, and I really don’t feel any different. This album is a violent and living beast. The Ape of God isn’t exactly what I was looking for, and it didn’t exactly fix any of my problems, but god damn it has been a blast to listen to. If you enjoy heavy music, I don’t think there’s much not to like here. If you don’t… good luck out there.