By the release of Old Man Gloom's third long-player, Christmas, in late 2004, their fans knew exactly what to expect: violent emotional release through impossibly heavy yet, at the same time, strangely beautiful explosions of post-metalcore firepower, interspersed with the mounting tension brought on by conversely peaceful stretches of ambient/electronic near silence. In other words, you don't have to be a musical masochist to love OMG, but it sure does help. Maybe it's the harsh disparities in volume from song to song, which make the use of headphones almost mandatory, or perhaps the disappointing brevity of so many positively stunning compositions (cruelly snatched away like candy from a child, after just a few licks), compounded with the knowledge that had they fallen under the aegis of sister band Isis, these hypnotic wonders would have been stretched almost indefinitely. Whatever the reason, chances are listeners old and new will be grinding their teeth in frustration during initial exposures to the self-proclaimed "Simian Alien Defense League's" latest musical thesis, which, incidentally, once again discusses man's relationship with his simian ancestors -- albeit in less obvious terms than its two-part predecessors Seminar II and III. But enough with the setup, let's move on to the pain/pleasure of the music itself, shall we? Mournful acoustic guitars introduce the steady climb toward sonic catharsis that is opener "Gift," after which the listener is pretty much locked into the aforementioned, vertiginous roller coaster ride between loud and soft dynamic movements through to the album's conclusion. Analyzing the peaks and valleys separately: fierce outbursts like "Sleeping With Snakes" and "Girth and Greed" capture a condensed intensity not heard since the demise of Memphis' incomparable His Hero Is Gone, while the growling bass prominent in "'Tis Better to Receive" and the aptly named "The Volcano" make them sound like bite-sized Neurosis chunks. As for the mellow bits, special kudos must go to the pulsing organ in "Lukeness Monster," the desolate, grainy, sitar-like sounds of "Close Your Eyes, Roll Back Into Your Head," and the almost conventional arrangement and mournful acoustic guitars of "Sonic Dust." Finally capping the whole enterprise is the multi-sectioned title track, which, thankfully, wasn't saved for a separate EP this time (thanks guys!) and, with each repeated listen, invariably draws the listener -- ragged senses and all -- right back to the start for one more round of punishment. Which is to reiterate the point that Christmas, like every Old Man Gloom effort, requires a fair bit patience before it reveals its unorthodox secrets; but is virtually guaranteed to reward open-minded music fans willing to put in the time.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia