God Is Good

Written by: EW on 09/12/2009 11:18:36

Always the perfect band to throw across a conversation against someone accusing oneself of musical narrow-mindedness, Om have come to represent much in recent years since the release in 2005 of debut album "Variations On A Theme". Built around the other two members of stoner demigods Sleep (Matt Pike went off to form the excellent High On Fire...these guys know a thing or two about making great bands), the chances are if you're reading that Om are like nothing you've ever heard before. The stoner/doom of Sleep is long gone: Om take a stripped down approach with their remaining bass and drums; this is spiritual drone with a strong religious monastic slant, baby.

Now on studio album number four, "God Is Good" signals the first change in Om's line-up thus breaking the old Sleep partnership that was at work: drummer Chris Hakius has left to be replaced by Emil Amos alongside the band's 'visionary' bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros. Though this does represent 50% of the band I can't admit to saying the sound is vastly different because of this factor. Instead, Om increase the experimental edge that has always been at their heart and tone up the influence of meditative, religious and Tibetan sounds in both feel and instrumental sound. "Meditation is the Practice of Death" is heavily dependent on the flute while the tambura of 19-minute "Thebes" and "Cremation Ghat II" becomes as significant as Cisneros' bass lines, at times pulling these songs into territories I never thought I'd be imagining in a review here - yes, into moments sounding what I imagine an Indian-style wedding to feel like. Lying I wasn't in declaring Om are a unique experience for you all.

Being as meditative and transcendental as Om indeed are, this of course works given the basic template the band use. The undistorted bass sound of Cisneros atop the drums of Hakius emit an undeniable garage rock feel not a million miles from another, more celebrated musical duo, the White Stripes, with whom I imagine the two bands' could share many fans given better exposure. Despite the relaxed appearance of Om's sounds, the droning experience and oft-lengthy songs (only "Thebes" exceeds even 7 minutes this time around), let alone the fact Om are prone to 'thinking outside the box' would be far too much to bear for the simple-minded pop-chart dweller. Oh well, their loss.

Quite obviously and most deservedly Om are in a total league of their own, and thus the band have earned the right to be a slave to mere standard grading. However, while "God Is Good" is, erm, good, repeated listens have not secured it the same fondness my heart possesses for 2007's "Pilgrimage" record. We do now have a crisper sound against the band's more lo-fi earlier recordings, but I personally prefer the slightly less experimental works happening on all three prior albums, and given that it is me who has bought all their records and it is me now writing this review, I shall reduce the mark accordingly. Fear not though, Om are there for the meditative, tranquil moments of your soul you perhaps never knew existed, a band that by being so sonically soft have become so thematically extreme, and undeniably unique. And so having virtually created their own landscape Om are to do what they damn well please, and even if I appreciate "God Is Good" a little less than previous recordings, I have no intention of getting in their way.

Download: Thebes
For The Fans Of: The White Stripes, Sleep
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 08.09.2009
Drag City Records

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