Review Summary: While being far from a perfect album, OMG finally made what I consider to be the best representation of their earlier sound (excluding Seminar III) with Christmas.
Almost every old OMG review starts off by introducing them as a supergroup or a side project consisting of members of Cave In (Caleb Scofield – RIP), Isis (Aaron Turner) and Converge (Nate Newton) and how each individual band has influenced the project’s overall sound. While I have just fulfilled duty by already mentioning it also, I think there should be a disclaimer noting that their early sound is characterized mostly by ambient/noise sections with short lived bursts of heavy sludge metal/hardcore.
Another intriguing aspect of OMG is that the band members themselves appeared to be very humorous and non-serious about the band. That has changed a bit given the attention and increasing relative success they have achieved over time; maybe it’s because after the breakup of Isis, Aaron Turner had more time to focus on OMG and subsequently even formed his other “main” project Sumac. The more recent passing away of Caleb Scofield had also garnered more attention to the band just as it did with Cave In, with remaining band members of the latter even putting out new material.
While their debut album Meditations in B offered a very much primitive way of contrasting ambient noise sections and short-lived heavy songs, and then Seminar II improving upon this approach by adding more intriguing guitar lines and melody, it’s the seminal post-metal song and album “Zozobra” (Seminar III) that demonstrated the amazing talent behind and the unique dynamic between the band members. They proved to be able to construct a more engaging experience that didn’t have to test the listeners patience too much.
After almost a decade of silence, the band released NO which served as a more transitional album between the sound of Christmas and The Ape of God albums that represent the band’s more modern post-metal-oriented sound. So how does Christmas compare to Seminar II and Meditations in B? In my opinion, this album is the best representation of what they tried to achieve with those albums.
Produced by Kurt Ballou of Converge, Christmas does explore several sounds in a way only this group of musicians can; Caleb Scofield post-hardcore bass lines are very present in songs like “’Tis Better to Receive” and the groovy 7-min behemoth that is “The Volcano”, which is undoubtedly the best song on the album. “Girth and Greed” and “Skullstorm” conjure more of a chaos reminiscing of Converge, while “Gift” displays more of a Celestial-era Isis. Of course, none of these songs could work without the very prolific drummer Santos Montano, who can go from fast paced metalcore/hardcore to more rhythmic approach like with “Sleeping with Snakes”.
Where Christmas truly shines, though, is in that both Caleb Scofield Nate Newton turn out to be excellent and very creative guitar players throughout the album. Their riffs have a more classic metal vibes here and stand out in tracks like “Valhalla” and “Sleeping with Snakes”, and it’s unfortunate that this is largely absent from their more recent material. Another great aspect of this album is that OMG found a way to make the ambient sections more “musical” and relying less on the noise. For example, “Lukeness Monster” is an acoustic number that builds into “’Tis Better to Receive” and “Sonic Dust” builds into “Valhalla” a very effective way.
The album is not without its negatives, though. The title track, which is an instrumental ambient song that has a whopping 16:17 min runtime, starts off incredibly solid and further proves how much they’ve been able to make the ambient passages work, but then decides to deviate into a latter portion of nothingness and background noise. The same can be said about “Accord-O-Matic” that doesn’t do anything to justify its 8-min runtime at all. “Something for the Mrs.”, while being a bit eerie and slightly more interesting, does feel disjointed in its placement on the album.
While being far from a perfect album, OMG finally made what I consider to be the best representation of their earlier sound (excluding Seminar III) with Christmas. And, while a few corners could have been cut here, in the end we’re left with a well-produced unique sounding album that even the band themselves haven’t tried to replicate and probably ever will.