OM – God Is Good

January 01, 1970

(Drag City)

 

www.dragcity.com

 

Mantric repetition has always been the essence of OM’s
hypno-minimalist post-metal, but after three studio albums, that aesthetic was
starting to get just a little, well, repetitive. After all, there’s only so
much a two-man band can do when it’s working
exclusively with bass, drums and vocals. A more experimental approach might
have enabled OM to explore broader possibilities for that pared-down
configuration, but insofar as the band — despite its unconventional, spartan
set-up — has remained within a fairly standard rock idiom, those possibilities
have been limited. However, God Is Good does finally mark something of a departure, as vocalist/bassist Al Cisneros and
new drummer Emil Amos begin to expand OM’s sonic and stylistic palette.

 

Thus far, OM’s gravitation towards things eastern has been
evident enough, from the Hindu/Buddhist name to Cisneros’s idiosyncratic,
mystical incantations to the ritualistic tenor of the music; but despite the
music’s droning textures and overarching trance-inducing structure, OM have
relied on western instrumentation. God Is
Good
‘s 19-minute opener, “Thebes,” immediately signals a change
in that regard, as a tamboura drone slowly unfurls to introduce the number.
Alongside Cisneros’s bass, some hand-played percussion, sparse piano and what
sounds like a cello extend the instrumental range, gradually building momentum
until a familiar surging, riff-centric drive kicks in around the nine-minute
mark.

 

“Meditation Is the Practice of Death” initially
broods its way along a well-trodden OM path, complete with Cisneros’s
syntax-straining, affectless invocations (lyrics
like, as far as this listener can decipher, “Effulgent recitation,
white light ambassador. Oh, John the Baptist, triumph and be released. Ground
baits the hermitage, the last ascendant freak. Travel on now Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…”
and so forth). However, the track does also subvert familiarity: there’s
slightly more emphasis on Amos’s drums, which are occasionally treated with
reverb, imparting a dub flavor; an instrument that might be a guitar weaves
serpentine shapes at the midpoint; and an ethereal flute solo lifts the song to
its conclusion. Nevertheless, the album’s boldest stylistic shift comes on
“Cremation Ghat I,” an up-tempo, sprightly chant, peppered with hand
claps, nimble, light-fingered bass runs and something resembling a Middle
Eastern zurna.

 

There’s ample evidence here of OM’s keenness to chart new
territory. Even so, it’s most satisfying not when a track is devoted entirely
to a new sound (“Cremation Ghat I”) or when the new and the old run
consecutively, as discrete passages (“Thebes”), but, rather, when the
two feature concurrently. “Cremation Ghat II” is the most rewarding
number as it synthesizes some of the newer sonic ingredients with OM’s patented
trudging monotones.

 

Befitting OM’s meditative orientation perhaps, God Is Good gives the impression of a
band in the process of becoming
something else. Undeniably strong as it is, this album comes across as a
transitional work. God Is Good suggests that the next record will be more fully realized.

 

Standout Tracks: “Meditation Is the Practice of Death,” “Cremation Ghat II”
WILSON NEATE

 

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