Uncompromised and ugly and unnervingly addictive…
Old Man Gloom - The Ape Of God

Your other favourite metal album of the year is dead. Old Man Gloom killed it. ‘The Ape Of God’ ripped its face off. This album now sits where something else did, amongst the blood and the guts, grinning like a maniac.

Its beginning is enough to do the damage: ‘Fist Of Fury’ is a nervous drone, like an insect at night flying closer to your ear hole, the one you’ve not got pressed into the pillow. It’s an irritant, at first. And then it goes completely praying mantis, tearing at whatever it can reach, slicing and shredding.

Drums are kicked down an 80-storey flight of concrete stairs. Guitars are released from long-fraying tethers, and sound like wolves digging into a carcass comprised of decades-old organs and computer parts. Somewhere in the middle of it all, a man is screaming: for exactly what isn’t clear, but all anyone can hope is that he’s not sat next to them on the bus ride back from this opera of carnage.

‘The Lash’ (stream, below) is, like its set-opening predecessor, a sub-three-minute thrash, albeit one underpinned by bass that thunders like a brakes-busted commuter train through Birmingham New Street, on-looking faces shocked into a blur of miasmic confusion. Come ‘Shoulder Meat’, this super-group of sorts – featuring members current and former of Isis, Converge and Cave In – has built its church of unholy noise into a grander design, the crunch of bones beneath boots and sky-cracking kick drums stretching for a full nine minutes. When it reaches maximum velocity, sometime after six of those nine, it collapses into something like relative silence: a comms-down static of hellish white noise.

But the best, the beastliest, is yet to come. ‘Simia Dei’ is a lamentation for all who have fallen to that point, a mid-record ascent to a place akin to Heaven, albeit with all whites stained red and the clouds remarkably storm-swollen. ‘Never Enter’ is ‘The Lash’ wholly unleashed, an epic sludge affair compressed into two minutes and 55 seconds of exhilarating, visceral volume. ‘Promise’ continues the offensive manoeuvres, a masterful exercise in extreme sonic malevolence.

And then comes the kicker, the closer, the longest song here and one that just seals the deal – like Old Man Gloom were ever after anyone’s acceptance in the first place. The 14 minutes of ‘Aarows To Our Hearts’ rise with what might be ghost ships creaking into port, their insides hollowed out by an unseen evil, like someone went ahead and opened the Ark of the Covenant down in the bowels. Strings are scratched at, and ever so slowly a guitar motif begins to turn, soon complemented by the clearest vocal of the album – although, even here, specifics are lost to an all-prevailing atmosphere of dread. A drum beat thuds, a marching pace occasionally losing its footing; around it, keys gain elevation and the whole becomes as starry-eyed as this band can be. The music, just briefly, looks for escape through the skylight rather than the basement.

Inevitably, it all comes crashing down, the closing four minutes of ‘The Ape Of God’ a deep-sea dredging doom delight, digging its way down to a final destination of fire and brimstone. This is a band with an amazing, electrifying song called ‘The Volcano’ to its name, but with this collection Old Man Gloom has surpassed the molten fury of any of their five previous LPs. And now it’s sitting where a previous hit record once was, gnawing on old bones, uncompromised and ugly and unnervingly addictive.

9/10

Words: Mike Diver

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