(Live Review) OM + ZOMBI - Thalia Hall Chicago, Sept 15/22
Review by Mark McQueen
Tonight, The Beard gets to knock off another bucket list band in seeing Om. With me, as always, is Little Johnny, and we are at Thalia Hall in Chicago. Great venue with always amazing sound and lighting. If you can’t sound good here, you probably can’t sound good at all.
Ensconced in our favorite seats (just right of the soundboard), Johnny and I await tonight’s excitement. The Beard is drinking Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Johnny (of course) has his ever present IPA.
First up tonight is:
(A two piece instrumental band from Pittsburgh) Their introduction music was akin to almost power metal. Majestic and full, piped even louder thanks to Thalia Halls amazing sound system.
Zombi’s music is keyboards and drumming using a looping effect for a fuller sonic reach. The keyboardist does dual roles also taking on guitar duties to provide a heavier low end sound to their numbers. Sound scaping, to create a mood seems to be the intent of Zombi and under the murky blues and purple lights adorning the stage indeed a “mood” is what they create.
Low end doom is the Beard's initial thought, but Zombi actually digs deeper into the creative Earth of doom/stoner and even new age style sounds to create their unique production. An admirable feat for a two piece band. If anything, I found many of their numbers too short. In a Russian Circles, Ufomammut way, I wanted the songs to go on longer and ride their sonic grooves a bit deeper. Zombi’s shorter numbers were like appetizers when I wanted a couple of main courses. Tasty, and they got the job done, but I longed for about an 8-10 minute piece to really get into the song’s journey.
One number near the end of their set had a very distinct Richard Wright feel, as if the Pink Floyd keyboardist had composed it from somewhere around the early 70’s Echoes sessions. Good stuff.
All in all, The Beard found this an enjoyable 40-minute set. Johnny seemed bored by the lack of speed in the music. Not everything has to be played at breakneck pace little dude. 86/100
Headliner Om was the brainchild of the non-Matt Pike members of Sleep, merging doom with almost religious feeling music. This band has been on the Beard's must-see list for years, and judging from the size of the crowd, on many others' lists as well.
A three-piece band consisting of bassist, keyboardist and drummer, they play distinctly rhythmic music. The eastern religious influences coming immediately to mind. Songs are longer than Zombi’s and build slowly in almost trancelike approach. Blink and you’ll quickly realize that 17 strands of sonic webbing are already attached to your body.
Their Music attempts to produce an almost hypnotic sound despite the fevered drumming that often lingered in that ceremonial sub space. The keys touch on a My Dying Bride sound, reminiscent of their Angel and the Black River-era. I love that Om incorporates this style, as The Beard always thought that haunting keys lent great fullness to My Dying Brides' sound, and the same thing is happening here.
One negative is that in a venue as light-friendly as Thalia Hall, Om lost out on the advantages that a better lighting show could have brought them. Their decision to mostly go with a simple flat blue look lacked the chance to visually travel with the music. A light show that transitions with the movements of their music would have made them stronger overall. The Beard is pulling a few points for what seems a missed opportunity.
Also, hypnotic can quickly become sleepy too. Little Johnny nodded off for a bit midway through their set. It’s a fine line when crafting a trance like creative state. If you are into it, their multi-layered form and function with subtle changes move the journey along. However, if you’re used to guys on stage yelling for circle pits, Om may NOT be your type of band.
Still, Little Johnny’s opinion aside, the Beard found Om enjoyable and I will award them an 87/100.