Old Man Gloom – Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning

3 out of 5

Label: Profound Lore

Produced by: Matt Bayles, Kurt Ballou

Off-kilter, intense atmospherics; throat-shredding, sludgy metal; thrashing hardcore. …And nary the twain shall meet. Such is another Old Man Gloom record, one of two dropping at the same time, and boasting the Isis / Cave In / Converge supergroup that, for me, is always its parts and not the sum of them, crafting incredibly compelling elements that sometimes result in awesome songs, but rarely wholly combine for an awesome album.

The passing of member Caleb Scofield has encouraged some poignancy to the lyrics: what were often just sort of vaguely, eh, gloomy images are here sharpened to either be incredibly visceral (as on opener EMF), or more appreciably poetic, as with Stephen Brodsky’s addition on Final Defeat, or Aaron Turner’s emotional writing on epic closer By Love All Is Healed. That final bookend is definitely one of the disc’s highlights, when OMG’s electronics and metal combine for an intense slowburn; otherwise, the group seems to hit its mark when going for the throat, as on the Ballou-produced EMF, with Nate Newton screaming at us over pummeling guitars and a Ballou-y low end. Pieces of these two styles pop up throughout, but as I usually find with the band, there’s not a sense of ebb and flow stitching them together, causing songs to just jump from atmospherics into guitars and screaming and then just end. Brodsky’s non-screamy vocals (on Final Defeat) are also a weird match for the group, as it’s not Cave-In math, nor is it the kind of rock / punk stuff Steve cooks up amongst his many side projects, making the track feel at odds with itself.

But “at odds with itself” is, I guess, kind of what I’ve come to expect from OMG. The occasional stunner makes it worth it to check out what they’re up to, and the remainder is always listenable, for sure, with enough riffs to surely earn its runtime, though maybe not a frequent re-play.