I'm going to attempt to review these two records:
Old Man Gloom boast members of Isis, Converge and Cave In, making them a sort of supergroup of the sludge/post-rock world. They seem to have been started to allow the artists somewhat more creative freedom and especially to experiment with their sound in a variety of ways. The above two albums "Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionism" and "Seminar III: Zozobra", the second and third outing of the band respectively, were released at the same time, and are two parts of the same glorious whole.
Seminar II is presented as 17 tracks. Half of these are easily recognisable as songs, and the other half a sort of electronic ambience of blips, murmers and static that appear more or less between each of these. On initial listening the album does not start quickly. The opening track, being one of the ambient tracks, is a slow build-up of floating crackles, breaking after 53 seconds into the albums real opener "Bells Dark Above Our Heads". Unfortunately for the album, this stop/start mixture of monotonous heaviness and virtual silence is the albums weakest track. Luckily for the album, it's all up hill from here. Branch Breaker is 51 seconds of badass super-riffery and vocals that sound so wrathful you could believe Caleb Scofield's vocal chords might actually exit his throat. The following 1:33 of waving sound builds fantastically into "Hot Salvation" a track with a riff of which Kyuss or Electric Wizard would be proud. This is followed by what may be the albums best track, "R*pe Athema". The opening riff is nothing short of frantic, followed by Caleb Scofield and Aaron Turner screaming in a voice you seriously wouldn't f*ck with that they just won't take any more, and you can't help but believe them. Other notable tracks are the beautiful instrumental "Clenched Tight in the Fist of God" remaniscent of Down's "Her Majesty The Dessert", "Desserts In Your Eyes" which is the only song in which we hear clean (just about) vocals, which is presented in just about a dark enough way to exentuate the creepiness of the lyrics and "Jaws of the Lion" that opens with a fantastic soundbite that chills the listener and ends on an explosive groove laden riff that's every moshers dream. Meditations in B parts V & VI is also worth a mention, as it's the creepiest and coolest sounding ambient track on the album, and sounds a bit like what you might feel if you drifted away into space. In summary this album is bursting with excellent sludgey, riff-heavy tracks with a generally post-hardcore vocal, and a few quieter numbers to tend to the raging soul. As long as you're willing to chill out to experimental ambience between tracks it's a brilliant record, especially if you're looking for something different.
To contrast with this, Seminar III is a single 27 minute track entitled "Zozobra". This can only be described as a post-rock/stoner masterpiece. The track builds from slow silence, through static, to one of the slowest and darkest introductory clean riffs i've ever heard. Over this fades a soundbite of scientists speaking of black-holes that could devour the entire universe, sounding nothing short of deadly ominous, before the distortion is switched on and the vocals scream into action, plodding through what sounds like the darkest thoughts of a murderers psyche. Throughout this middle portion of the song there are constant slow downs and buildups, punctuated by guitar solos low in the mix and whispering, undecipherable voices that feel altogether unsettling and brilliantly atmospheric. Once this middle section has reached it's climax it fades to the last 8 minutes 50 seconds, and what is one of the greatest finales of any track i have ever heard. The original riff kicks in slowly and ominously, but by now seeming almost beautiful in it's depresion. Over this fades again another fantastic and deeply chilling soundbite that builds the listener into the final heavy riff, over which erupts the final guitar solo. This solo is up with the likes of Maggot Brain in it's sheer soulful, spine-tingling emotion, but oh so much darker. This then fades to ambient static and the ride is over.
Together this package represents one of the greatest experimental, post-rock/stoner records i've ever heard. The last 8:50 of Zozobra cannot afford to be missed.
Seminar II: 8.5/10
Seminar III: 9.5/10