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After the tragic news of Chris Hakius calling it quits with Om, nobody was quite sure of what was going to happen. Who will he choose to drum? Will he even continue? The only thought going through my mind was 'Al must have some unfinished business', and sure enough, I was right.
Enter Emil Amos. Composer/instrumentalist for the one-man army Holy Sons, and drummer for the group Grails (who I highly recommend), Emil brings a much fresher, yet still completely hypnotic influence to Om. Before I let Gebel Barkal really set in, I decided to give a couple Grails releases a try. I chose "Burning Off Impurities" and the "Take Refuge.." albums, and honestly, from there I knew Emil Amos would be a perfect fit in the Om puzzle (however small it is).
Gebel Barkal starts off like many newer Om songs, with Al quietly setting the tempo and feel of the song, but when Emil comes in, it takes a complete 180 from Pilgrimage.
Whereas Pilgrimage the drumming was quite repetitive in rhythm, Emil improvises in quite a few sections with varied patterns, utilizing lots of dynamics and the full kit as well. The toms are still for those who dig them, but there's just less.
For the song itself, well, I personally think it's genius. If Sub-Pop had just released the first side as the single, I would still be more than happy. But with the addition of the dubbed out, more freeflowing (Version) on the other side, it shows us the bigger scope of vision that Om has employed. That is, expanded instrumentation (note the kick ass organ at the end) and varied aural devices, such as the snare delay. This was absolute genius of them on their part, I don't even care if it's essentially the same song twice.
I'm excited to hear what Al and Emil have to offer in the future, especially seeing as they already have LP4 written completely and a Japan 2008 live release coming, both slated for '09. As well, bring on Shrinebuilder!