Review: Old Man Gloom – Mickey Rookey Live At London

Old Man Gloom - Mickey RookeyIt’s always interesting to hear the document of a gig you actually attended. Up until now, I remember April 3rd 2014 as a mixture of elation (finally, I was seeing an Old Man Gloom live set) and bludgeoning volume; riffs surging out of feedback and then scampering off into the noise, the guitarists screaming in unison like a three-headed beast, the tempo yanked between tectonic lumber and visceral gallop. I remember feeling a burst of newfound love for the songs I knew so well on record, those familiar riffs set ablaze in the collision of amplification and present tense. It’s a good memory, if an increasingly hazy one. Did I really want a live album meddling with all of that?

I wasn’t sure. Then I heard that riff slam down midway through “The Gift”, the distortion crumbling away from the guitars in that classic OMG style, and there it was: the sweet spot between a quality rip from the desk and the chaos of actually being there, with crowd noise sucking into the vacuum when the guitars die down, and the ghostly imprint of the London Scala – with its high ceiling and padded ambience – delicately shrouding a crisp, expertly mixed hour-long set.

I’d forgotten how ecstatic OMG seemed on the night. These versions are faster, looser; the riffs slam up against eachother and spill out of the lines, while drummer Santos Montano crams the empty spaces with erratic extra fills. The band can’t get the songs out quick enough. Save for a few stretches of suspended drone, each track ends in a brief ejection of feedback – like sweat wrung out of a headband – before the next one starts. The miserable howl of “Jaws Of The Lion” staggers into the 50-second spew of “Skullstorm” which, in turn, acts as the fuse that sets “Sleeping With Snakes” alight. In fact, the lethargic opening moments of “Zozobra” (the group’s mountainous 27-minute piece from 2001) act as an opportunity to finally let the aerobic ache set in, as Aaron Turner moans over a riff that hauls itself around in wretched circles, muscles burning from the relentless stop-start of the 40 minutes prior.

“We’ve been meaning to come here for over a decade,” Turner announces at one point. “Thanks for your patience. Let’s make up for lost time”. I didn’t think I wanted a live record. But listening back to the evening like this – with tracks from 2004 veering straight into material from the last couple of records – I realise how deftly they exhibit every facet of Old Man Gloom’s personality in under an hour. Urgency gives way to irreparable agony. Primal anger opens out into spiritual search. Mickey Rookey is not only a beautiful live document, but a tribute to a band that have now spent 17 years in the pursuit of ultimate transcendence and total catharsis. It’s not so much about making up for lost time; rather, it’s an overdue testament to time well spent.