In some ways, there’s not much to say about Old Man Gloom tonight.
They’ve put out some stupendous albums – especially Seminar II (here’s a review I put on Head Heritage a few years back), Seminar III: Zozobra and Christmas – and their pedigree is first class so what can you demand of a rare-as-feck appearance in Blighty beyond, well, just showing up?
Nothing more than volume, reverberation and gut-blowing intensity – and that’s exactly what we get. OMG hit it for an hour at the Scala and they hit it HARD, starting with the opener of all openers – The Gift’s multi-part slow-build – and blasting through new and back-catalogue extractions like Branch Breaker, Regain/Rejoin, Sleeping with Snakes and Common Species. Aaron Turner, wildman unkempt, is animated far beyond the close-cropped intensity of Isis and maybe that’s because OMG trade in the primal and the primordial rather than the celestial. OMG are a seismic force.
Then the biggie. Zozobra is fired up 20 minutes from showtime’s end … Zozobra. Yes. NO WAY. No bloody way. Seminar III: Zozobra is exalted ground, the mother of all OMG, and hearing those opening strands on this already-special UK outing is an omg OMG moment in itself.
It takes its time, we know this. Intro becomes build becomes pummel becomes squall becomes … a different track.
Whaaaaaaat?????? NO. WAY. The climactic guitar payoff, the extended post-fury euphoria, the colossal big ender, is choked off pre gush. Shit. It’s a momentary downer in an otherwise triumphant bruiser of a set.
Now, a quick word about the supports: Bossk surge and swell with hypnotic Cult of Luna dynamics, and Finland’s Circle … well, I’ve no idea what they are on. What do you do with a band who sport dayglo gym shirts and ham up the rock theatrics with heroic metal poses, guitars held aloft and onstage duels? Circle look like Spinal Tap doing an Olivia Newton-John video.
Musically … again, no idea. Speed. Top-of-the-range metal vocals. Progressive musical chops and song structures. Catchy hooks and riffs. If Helloween grew up on post black metal as well as the trad power of Maiden, and chewed on the brains of Yes, Zappa and Devin Townsend, then … I dunno. After a short interlude they emerge sans fitness togs but each now clad in the cheapest, lowest-budget metal threads, like an 8 year olds’ primary school of rock – a single studded armband, a ripped T-shirt, a pair of black leather kecks bursting under a hefty belly – and continue their avant metal. THAT’S entertainment.