Fresh Earworms – Old Man Gloom “Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning” & “Seminar IX: Darkness of Being” Reviews

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Though not always easy to classify, Old Man Gloom (AKA OMG) are consistent; always releasing great albums that show them evolving without straying too far from the path they laid down on their debut in 1999.  OMG have not one but two brand new albums (their 8th and 9th albums respectively) along with a B-sides EP just released.  That’s a whole lot of music to devour for fans.  Thirteen tracks between the two albums plus two B-sides with a running time of over 100 minutes.  Anyhow, before I cover all of the new (and excellent) songs within these albums, I’m going to explore a little of the history of the band as it’s of particular importance for their new release.

I was first introduced to OMG back in 2004 when they released their now classic album, “Christmas”.  I had become a huge fan of the band, ISIS, which shared a founding member in Aaron Turner (and that same year ISIS released “Panopticon”, one of my favorite albums of all time) and was trying to find anything he was a part of.  OMG is a very different project and besides Turner, originally featured Nate Newton (Converge) on guitar, Santos Montano (Zozobra) on drums, Caleb Scofield (Cave InZozobra) on bass and Luke Scarola handling electronics.  As mentioned previously, their style and sound is difficult to categorize and I think that’s part of what drew me to them.  Just like several of the members other bands, there’s clearly inspiration from the mighty Neurosis within the DNA, but it goes beyond that and their take on sludge post-metal is really unique.  With each release, OMG has proven they have staying power and refuse to write the same album twice (even in the case of this double album).  They also have always injected a ton of humor into their band identity.  Their social pages feature some of the funniest posts I’ve ever seen from a band.  On that note, if you’re already a fan, it’s well worth reading Santos’ OMG tour diary for a tour that never happened thanks to the coronavirus.  

OMG’s last release back in 2014 was also two albums entitled “The Ape of God”.  As in typical OMG fashion, they initially gave the press an album that consisted of tracks from each album and hadn’t yet unveiled the actual new release would be two separate albums that had the EXACT same title.  This was done both as a joke and in knowing that it would likely be leaked ahead of the release date.  This caused quite the controversy at the time but the resulting albums were some of the best in the bands discography.  

In March of 2018, everything changed. Caleb Scofield was in a terrible car accident and unfortunately passed away.  In honor of their dear friend, Montano, Turner and Newton decided to continue the band.  Later that same year, they did a few benefit shows to raise money for Scofield’s family.  Stephen Brodsky (also from Cave In) joined the band to play Caleb’s parts and they brought along a few other bands to pay tribute including Pelican and Cave In.  I was fortunate to be able to attend the show in LA and it was truly an incredibly moving and transcendent experience.

This all eventually led to the creation of two new albums, “Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning” and “Seminar IX: Darkness of Being”.  As Covid-19 began to shut down everything in March, the band trudged ahead and decided to release “Seminar IX” digitally first and according to the band, “help bring a little light into this situational seclusion.”  Despite a lot of delays out of their hands, the band’s label, Profound Lore, was able to finally get the physical copies of both albums manufactured and out in the world and well, it’s a lot to take in.

“Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning” starts with the first single released, “EMF”.  This is a short track that pounds you into submission from the get-go, setting you up for a wild and diverse ride.  

“Wrath of the Weary” is likely to be a live set staple (whenever live shows can happen again).  I love the twists and turns in the second half of the track which is both unpredictable and yet, true to form.  For those fans who are familiar with “The Volcano” from OMG’s album “Christmas”, “True Volcano” pays tribute featuring Caleb’s writing and being a demo for what eventually became “The Volcano” on the previous album.  “Final Defeat” is the longest track at over eleven minutes and also features Caleb’s writing.  This one definitely has Zozobra vibes (and well, it was originally a demo for Zozobra), which if you’re a fan of OMG and Caleb and haven’t heard Zozobra yet, I highly recommend that you stop reading right now and check out a track such as “Emanate” from the album, “Bird of Prey”.  

Next up is “Calling You Home”, a lengthy slow burn that builds into an emotional, hefty song and is one of my favorites on this album.  

The record concludes with “By Love All Is Healed”, a colossal ripper that bludgeons the listener and then organically shifts into a hypnotic war march.  

The second album, “Seminar IX: Darkness of Being”, begins with “Procession of the Wounded”.  This track shares a riff from the song “By Love All is Healed” from “Seminar VIII”, weaving the two albums intricately together.  I appreciate the build here as it adds piano and then eventually leads to Aaron Turner’s harsh vocals at the very end.  “Heel to Toe” starts off with eerie radio transmission sounds and erupts into an absolute banger.  Nate Newton’s vocals are crushing on this track.  The third track, “The Bleeding Sun” explodes around the two minute mark and I particularly love the breakdown and vocal work at close to the three minute mark.  

“Canto De Santos” is one of the longer tracks on Seminar IX and likely the one that needs the most time to grow.  It starts off with some guitar noodling, feedback and other noises and then slowly mutates into a hellacious, destructive monster of a song.  The chorus in particular wipes the floor with anyone not convinced of its power.  As much as I dig the first four tracks, the next three songs take this album to a masterful level.  “Death Rhymes” is the fifth song and probably the most unique and stunning track from the group yet and certainly the most emotional.  This is heartbreaking and absolutely crushing to listen to.  I particularly like the lyric “Rivers flowing, heaven sent. Running faster, we repent.  Tears we cry wash away.  Drunk on old times today”.  Also, Faith Coloccia from the band, Mammifer, has a guest spot on this track and I really love her vocals here.

  “In Your Name” was a song written by Caleb and Santos about ten years ago that was never released and it’s really great to have it resurface on this album as one of the final songs Caleb was involved with.  I also love the final minute or so when what sounds initially like hail on a particularly stormy day is pouring down over feedback.  The final track “Love is Bravery” is a show stopper.  It’s a great ending to the double album.  The heartfelt lyrics “Love is strength, Love is power, In a world so jaded, Your love is bravery” deeply resonate.  This could be one of the few uplifting songs in OMG’s decades spanning career and it really works here.  

As an added bonus, the gents have recently given us a few tracks that didn’t appear on either new album. The B-sides EP features the tracks “Willing Vessel” and “Storms In Our Eyes”.  “Willing Vessel” is a brief and brutal song and features great vocals from Brodsky.  “Storms In Our Eyes” is probably my favorite of the two.  The massive riffage break at around 3:40 in the song is incredible.

One can certainly feel Caleb’s presence throughout these albums and I can’t wait to see the band play these tracks live.  The “Ape of God” albums are all time favorites and “Seminar VIII”and “Seminar IX” are worthy follow-ups and two of the best albums released this year.

If you enjoyed these tracks from Old Man Gloom, you can buy both “Seminar VIII” and “Seminar IX”, along with the EP on Bandcamp.  Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

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