Old Man Gloom
Christmas
Tortuga
2004
C+



the problem with Old Man Gloom made itself plain upon the release of their second and third albums. Released in tandem, Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressi and Seminar III: Zozobra revealed the band’s two major sides: heavy doom-stoner-metal riffing and long excursions into ambient meandering. On Seminar II, the two co-existed outside of themselves, offering the listener an uneasy experience of wavering back and forth between near-silence and punishing noise. Seminar III solved the issue by combining the two into one epic twenty-seven minute masterpiece of metal. It was, quite simply, a revelation of the form that was a long time in coming.

But for a band that usually only comes together in the studio and features a variety of the Boston metal illuminati, it must not have meant that much. Each has their own project to synthesize these competing instincts into and judging by the recorded output of Isis, Converge and Cave In they do it quite ably. But when confronted the sheer towering achievement of Seminar III, it’s hard not to be slightly disappointed with a recapitulation of the mistakes made on their first two records.

But, then again, Seminar III never promised anything outside of itself. And that’s why Christmas makes complete sense to any listener familiar with the OMG Institute’s oeuvre. But, like those other efforts, Christmas endures the same schizophrenia.

“Skullstorm” starts off very promisingly, but ends after less than a minute of a stoner metal riff worthy of, at the very least, a key change and a few extra minutes. And while it should be clear that there’s a lot to be appreciated in the seven minutes of searching drones of “Accord-o-Matic”, frequently one finds themselves waiting for the next riff to blow the whole thing open. Like on the next track, “The Volcano” where things tantalizingly come together in a brutal mix of hardcore and electronic that excites like nothing else on the record.

Taken each on their own terms, the two albums that Old Man Gloom produce each time out are nothing short of stunning. Unfortunately, they’ve decided to paste them together, reducing any sort of flow or narrative structure that might be gleaned from the disturbing and fascinating samples that reference primates and aliens with equal frequency.

Some might say that two albums are better than one. Christmaas is merely in need of reorganization.



Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2004-09-10
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