Old Man Gloom - No
Hydra Head
9 songs (56:28)
Release year: 2012
Old Man Gloom, Hydra Head
Reviewed by Khelek

Being somewhat new to sludge, I decided to check out a popular and longstanding band that just released a new album. Old Man Gloom are a quintet from New Mexico that play an interesting brand of sludge, doom, and post-metal all blended into a giant slab of churning riffs and massive bass and drums. If you enjoy the work of such bands as Rwake and Electric Wizard, it's easy to see some similarities in the heaviness and crushing atmosphere. That's not to say that Old Man Gloom are a one-trick pony on No, far from it. These guys manage to mix it up and keep things interesting throughout most of the album.

The intro track, Grand Inversion, is a low, slow blend of low sounds that doesn't do a whole lot for me, but in the right environment it does set the tone for what's about to come. I like the energetic, roiling riffs that start off Common Species, although they get distorted and transformed quickly as the song thunders slowly forward. The growls of Aaron Turner are as unrelenting as the slowly pounding drums. This song starts off thrashing, but the tempo continues on a downward spiral that ends in the definition of the term Sludge. Regain/Rejoin starts off with some quicker but still very heavy riffs combined with some more melodic guitar work from Nate Newton. This tempo continues for the short duration of the song, a nice respite from the dragging riffs that define the sound of this band. I really like the strong bassline of The Forking Path and the simple yet effective riffs. The contrast of the barely audible dissonant guitar notes makes the song more interesting. It is of course quite repetitive, but these guys know to keep it short and sweet. There are many contrasts to be found on this album, sometimes between melodic and dissonant, choppy guitar, and sometimes between acoustic/clean instruments and heavily distorted ones. The first half of Rats is more of a collection of ominous/atmospheric sounds, however it opens into some very energetic guitar and drum work that is truly well done and fun to listen to. Crescent is a nice acoustic track that mixes things up nicely. The desolate atmosphere is actually stronger on this track I think, due to the clean vocals and overall minimalism.

I've tried to give a description of some of the sounds presented on this album, and I realize that it can be difficult to get an idea of what it sounds like as a whole because there is such a lot going on here. This is certainly an album that makes demands on the listener, and if you enjoy this style of music it certainly deserves several good listens. I found that different songs would jump out to me each time I listened, and while some may find it a bit too complicated for a sludge album, I find the attention to detail quite refreshing. My only gripe is that some of the post-metally parts are bit too extensive and it just end up getting bored (e.g. the first 5-6 minutes of Shadowed Hand). And sure I have heard better albums that do all the things that these guys do, but Old Man Gloom manage to set themselves apart with the sheer intensity and emotion of the heavier parts of their music that few sludge bands can achieve. A solid album from this talented group, and from what I've heard a worthy addition to an already excellent catalog.

Killing Songs :
Common Species, To Carry The Flame, The Forking Path, Crescent
Khelek quoted 80 / 100
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There are 6 replies to this review. Last one on Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:13 pm
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