Divine Tragedy: A Review of Old Man Gloom’s “The Ape of God”

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The eternal playwright once claimed that “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” We go through the motions, performing our menial little parts, swapping masks of joy and sadness, making our exits whenever the director finally calls us off. Music, then, is but one permutation of the grand tradition of theatre. Albums are the plays, the artwork and associated imagery the stage design, the atmosphere of the instruments the setting, the songs all scenes, and the voices, whether human or instrument, the players performing for our entertainment. Throughout the musical spectrum you’ll find examples of tragedy and comedy, melodrama and mystery. However, the works of the grotesque, the avant-garde, or the vulgar often find themselves distinctly in the hands of metal musicians. Well, it is time now to rejoice, humble acolytes of the theatre, because Old Man Gloom, the master performers of the macabre and profane, have returned for their magnum opus.

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The Ape of God is a masterwork in divine tragedy, blending together the disparate elements of sorrow, terror, thrill, and anxiety into a profane epic of blasphemous effect. The players here have starred in other roles, each earning their stripes as luminaries of such diverse troupes as Isis, Converge, Cave In, and more. Rather than casting these influences aside, each actor embraces his past and future, donning a variety of cloaks and masks, all to the greater service of the play. As The Ape of God enfolds, it quickly becomes obvious that this is a group of performers in complete and utter control of every aspect of their medium, perhaps even of the audience themselves; scene, setting, atmosphere, lines, emotion, and drama are all designed and delivered with such an utterly convincing display of professionalism that we begin to question whether we are the ones witnessing the act or if we ourselves are part of the performance. Are we witnessing the marionettes or rather the master puppeteers in action?

Old Man Gloom deliver every act in this play with the utmost skill; each stands unique in its own right, and, upon first glance, seems utterly independent of the other songs. However, as you peer behind the thick drapes of smoke and distortion that permeate this album and cover the artists as they don a fresh collection of masks between each act, the full image of perverse grandeur takes shape. Each song is an individual tale in man’s fall from grace, an ugly affront in the descent from the divine. Each song serves its own purpose, wears its own cloak, and tells its own tale, but each is also beholden to the broader concept at large. When you finally witness the intricacy of the whole effort, you can’t help but to hold your tongue in surprised awe and abject terror.

The first two acts open with a percussive salvo, with the band deftly leaping from D-beat sludge with lunatic distorted riffs to a swamp-logged, menacing romp through Crowbar territory. However, as the scene changes, new characters seemingly appear, showcasing drum fills and lead guitar work that could put Isis and A Perfect Circle to shame. Just as quickly as the violent scene erupts, though, it is snuffed out in an air of miasmic horror while choral chants sing a tale of harrowing loss. New faces emerge yet again, this time employing crushing Neurosis songcraft and Gorgutsian dissonance that drive home the pangs of loss pervasive throughout the play.

 

The play reaches one of its two highlights in “Simia Dei”, a largely instrumental piece situated expertly in the album to create tension and prolong anxiety. Constructed around a precise, clockwork riff that harkens to Cult of Luna and that is accentuated by choral whispers, the song sets the pace for the second half of the album. The next track again explodes in a cacophony of distortion and percussive hardcore violence with a false transition that demonstrates this band’s craftiness and sleight of hand. The false drum introduction then gives way to the eerie chanting of the penultimate track, one that cuts through swaths of distortion and brooding chords to give way to a palm-muted chord that seems to represent the looming presence of Meshuggah, although it lingers only as a warped and twisted vision of the sterile environment those other performers inhabit. The final act, “Aarows to Our Hearts”, then announces its ominous presence with a deep horn or didgeridoo, cutting through the fog to reveal another mechanical riff reminiscent of Ephel Duath and simple drum work. The recursive drums, however, slowly pick up additional hits as the march continues, inevitably revealing the final trick up the band’s sleeve. As the climax approaches, a monolithic abomination of whirring gears and crashing ramparts emerges from beneath the stage as one final, infernal protest to the will of heaven. As Aaron Turner’s clean sung soliloquy gives way to growled issuances of defiance, accentuated by swirling riffs and coruscating drum tattoos, the entire edifice collapses and the actors choke, leveling the stage and leaving only destruction where the monument once stood. The act ends in a tumult of dissonance and crashing percussion, but there is no denouement, no final revelation. The band furtively exits from the venue as you linger stunned in your chair seeking resolution and wondering how the world can ever be made right again.

As you can likely surmise, this is a work of bold action and subtle nuance, of rising tension and direct violence, of cold precision and heartfelt emotion. It is the embodiment of the entirety of the human experience, told in a warped and twisted tale that reflects the ugliness of our own existence. This album, more than almost anything else you will hear or see this year, is a masterfully wrought testament to the powers of songwriting and selective detail. Every drum hit, every note, every growl, every chirp, every bit of static, and every hint of empty space is delicately put in place with both an awareness of its effect on the song itself and on the album as a whole. The production is not sterile, but it is also not too murky. The atmosphere serves the setting, which in turns serves the songwriting. All elements are in place to make this one of the most dynamic, challenging, and genuinely impressive performances you’ll hear all year. I could complain about the pacing, but the juddering starts and stops, rampages and plods all seem deliberately chosen to inject the work with the utmost amount of drama. I could complain about the lack of resolution, but the shocking climax also seems intentional, as though Old Man Gloom desires that we seek truth and meaning beyond the obvious. Ultimately, I can find no fault with this album

NO FLUSH

The Ape of God is released on November 11th. Be sure to like the band on Facebook and keep an eye on Profound Lore for The Ape of God release. Check out “The Lash” here.

(Photo VIA, VIA, VIA, and VIA)

  • Elite Extremophile

    This review made me feel smarter. Nicely done, dubya.

    • W.

      Awww, shucks. I’ll give you one belly rub.

      • Elite Extremophile

        *purrs*

  • Edward

    “This album, more than almost anything else you will hear or see this
    year, is a masterfully wrought testament to the powers of songwriting
    and selective detail”.

    Holy smokes, high praise. I wanna hear this shit!

    Also, your use of the word denouement >>>>>>

  • OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG
    OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG
    …OMG

    • W.

      OMG. It will live up to your expectations.

  • Death

    Great review. This band has managed to avoid me, but that mistake shall be fixed.

  • Got my attention with this review, i like the single they teased a few weeks ago.

    • W.

      The crazy thing is that none of the songs sound exactly alike. If you played the last track and the first track without me knowing they were from the same band, I would be a bit skeptical. It somehow works in the context of the album, though.

  • Death

    On the subject of new albums, Be All End All has become one of my favourite albums this year. I am waiting for the release of Skullflower’s new album (for some fucking reson it will be released tomorrow here).

  • Tyree

    UH YEAH!!! Digging those text wraps Dubya.

    • W.

      Thanks, duder.

  • huh. that’s a great song! judging from the band’s name, i presumed them to be doom (which i historically do not like).
    i shall listen to more OMG!

    • W.

      They’re all over the place, but most neatly could be called Sludge.

      • Steve Smithwick

        Got my attention here. I’m a big Isis fanboy, so Aaron Turner comes in with positive grades in my book.

        That there are some minor similarities to APC, Meshuggah and Isis makes me kind of excited, not that I expect it to sound explicitly like any of those bands. I’m gonna have to grab this. Nice review, Dubs!

        • W.

          Thanks, man. There are weird little subtleties of each, but I wouldn’t say they sound like any of them overall.

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt

      I made the same mistake, I assumed they would be doom too.

  • YourLogicIsFlushed

    Seems closer to Isis than what I have heard before by them. I approve.

    • W.

      There are definitely some Isis moments in the longer songs, but they’re balanced out with Converge-esque short tracks.

  • Gotta get my hands on this. Great review, dubbers.

  • Tyree

    I really enjoyed your review dude, but I’ve tried these guys out and they just bore me. The vocals bother me a bit too. I’m just going to go drown my self in a toilet full of decomposing flesh now.

    • W.

      Give this album a try, Tyree. I liked it a lot more than No. It has some nasty D-beat sections that counteract the longer, more mechanical tracks.

      • Tyree

        I’ll try and give it a chance, not sure when I’ll get to it though. Great write-up as always though bro!

  • crazytaco_12

    Wasn’t huge on the whole “noise song – sludge song – punk song repeat” cycle OMG used on “Christmas”, but maybe after a 10 years, they’ve worked out some of the kinks. If nothing, this album deserves a checkout from myself. Good write up W!

    • W.

      Thank you. I think the twists and turns make a lot of sense on this album.

  • Who is the guy/gal here that listen to a lot of dissonant music? Can I ask you something?

    • W.

      Ed, Christian, and I all do.

      • This is a serious question, so don’t answer with trolling, please! Jajaja: what do you feel when you listen songs with those constructions?…

        • W.

          Umm, correct me if I’m not answering your question, but dissonant music like Gorguts tends to make me feel a bit disoriented at first and forces me to pay attention until it clicks

          • so those sensorial experiences aren’t just mine.. first time I listened Meshuggah (I think it was Bleed) i sensed something weird at the initial part of my stomach (like the esofagus, i don’t know how to spell it xd).. since I got so many years listening a lot of music I think i developed some kind of synesthesia, or I’m just too many enthusiast that I feel other stuff..

            to me, must be that dissonant music isn’t everyhwere, there’s a fine line between dissonance and pure noise because instrumental incompetence..

            so, W: when it ‘clicks’ for you, do you still feel a little bit of disorientation?

          • W.

            Uh, not really. It feels more like the gears in my brain are cranking simultaneously with the music.

          • jajajaja, that’s weird, bro..

          • Lacertilian

            If you get that from Meshuggah, I’d probably steer clear of Dysrhythmia then.
            Their music is designed to give you their band name.

          • I will check if that still happen 😛

  • I’ve been waiting on another album from OMGZ since “No.” So I grabbed this the second it became available. Excellent review, sir.

    • W.

      How do you like it?

      • Sounds like a more “mature” version of No, if you can call the band “mature” with a straight face. In fact, I’m going to listen thru it again while I play DS2 tonight. Maybe glean something new from it.

        • W.

          It took a few listens for me to really get it

          • Well, I definitely think its better than No. Upon further listens its most certain more coherent. A bit more straight up heavy ass sludgy stuff. Fukks Given/10

          • http://youtu.be/QCWKE20orI4

            Completely unrelated but OMGZ stopped me listening to this album all day long.

          • I’d like to take a second to point out my premonition that this band couldn’t be considered “mature.” Oh how right i was.

          • W.

            haha, when you’re right, you’re right.

  • So whats with all the rumors of two albums being released by OMG? Any comment?

    If they successfully release a surprise second album, I may never learn to trust again.

  • D. Lee

    Great review, I expect this album to easily make my top 5 this year

    • W.

      It battled its way into mine.

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    This album seems to have the makings of my favorite OMG.
    And stop making this ridiculously good articles! Some of are competing on a VinceNeilstein-level. Some of us are starting to feel bad. Seriously though a great review.

    • W.

      Thank you!

  • I want this album so bad. I fucking love ‘No.’ Great review dubs!

    • W.

      Thanks man. Drops on Tuesday!

  • D. Lee

    Annnd just confirmed by OMG ‘s FB it’s gonna be two separate albums

  • Keegan Lavern Still

    So… I’ll just leave this here.

    • Yep. Just saw this. Nevermind their label sent us the fucking album. I don’t get the joke here. We liked the record. We took the time to listen to it many times and write an intelligent review and post it. What’s the joke here?

      • JWG

        This kind of makes sense now. Sort of…

        https://twitter.com/profound_lore/status/530519899748458497

        …Actually, no. It still doesn’t make sense. Did you get only half an album, or a bunch of tracks that won’t make either final album? Is Profound Lore in on whatever Shenanigans went down (side note: if so, get the brooms!)?

        Is this the work of Lizard Men or the Illuminati?

        Is any press Good Press?

        • Here’s how I see it:
          OMG: “Here is our album for review.”
          Us: “Thanks, we like it.”
          OMG: “JOKE’S ON YOU, FUCKFACE! THAT’S NOT THE REAL RECORD!”.

          /fin

          • I feel like if they just straight up told you what it was they gave you, then everything would be cool. Should I go back to listening to hip-hop nao?

          • W.

            You should always listen to hip hop anyway.

          • D. Lee

            On the bright side, at least they didn’t try to pull some shit like having the vocalist pretend he got kidnapped, like that one band whose name I can’t even be bothered to remember. THAT went well

          • Pagliacci is Kvlt

            JOKE’S ON YOU OMG! THIS ISN’T THE REAL REVIEW!!!!

      • Keegan Lavern Still

        The “joke” in itself is more than a little dickish, to say the least. The bigger slap in the face, though, is that their statement is essentially a gigantic “FUCK YOU”, to everybody who took advantage of the leak for the sake of the album’s promotion, just not in those particular words. It’s not even that far off, either.

        • W.

          I definitely wouldn’t have pirated the album and put in a fair amount of work to give this a solid review. I still really like whatever the hell it is I have now, but I just don’t really see why any of this was a good idea.

        • Ellipsis

          I like this band but I agree this whole thing comes off as dickish and has pissed off a whole bunch people for no good reason.

      • KJM

        I’ve known people like that. The prank is the end unto itself. It’s all about being able to say “Ha ha! I got you again!”.

  • Update: Though we got this album from OMG’s label for review, it appears this is not the official record. It is parts of two different albums. The band seems to think we’ve fallen for some kind of prank. I don’t get it, personally. We listened to it, liked it, and spent a fair time reviewing it. As we reviewed whatever the hell we got from Profound Lore, and not the actual album(s?), this review doesn’t mean much for the official release so your mileage may vary.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    gorillas(muted)
    bob seger(50%vol)
    ozzy(100%vol)
    all at once

    http://youtu.be/KjXn5uTYL9s

    http://youtu.be/AixMLerqlik

    http://youtu.be/-6ejlCB-tkQ

    • I did exactly as you said. And then the ozzy part ended, and it was just bob seger and the gorillas. I almost cried. Was this intentional? You’re a genius.

  • TrickleDownTacoRiff

    Damn the Toilet done gone and get got.