At four songs, Om‘s God is Good feels less like a whole album than a brief and tantalizing glimpse at what is yet to come. Om is a band that continues to evolve and explore and on this, their fourth full-length, they stretch out into new territory with new drummer Emil Amos and Steve Albini producing.
God is Good opens with “Thebes,” a 19-minute meditative epic. After a lengthy bass and sitar conversation, Al Cisneros kicks on the overdrive pedal and Amos shows off his chops. A more than capable drummer, his playing has a different “feel” than Chris Hakius’, but still intertwines effortlessly with Cisneros’ driving basslines.
The two-part closer “Cremation Ghat” features hand claps, tabla, tambura, and more sitar drones that float along like fragrant temple incense. Steve Albini has created a very spacious sound, scrubbing away the resiny murk and fuzz that clouded Om’s past works.
“Meditation is the Practice of Death” features mystical lyric chants, ominous bass, and Amos’ dynamic drum work. It also features the first flute solo on an Om record. It definitely sets a mood, a spiritual ambiance, an ethereal and downright otherworldly sound.
For me it’s amazing to look back on these musicians years ago. My old high school band opened for Asbestos Death at a local pizza joint. I remember watching Sleep play to a packed Cactus Club in San Jose, on the verge of their signing with Earache, and then listening to Om’s debut, Variations on a Theme, on headphones years and years later.
Sleep splintered into the raw materials that formed their sound — the pummeling metal riffage went to High on Fire, but the tripped-out, doomy, low-end went to Om. Like ancient mind-music bubbling up from an ancient civilization, God is Good is good, by God.