OHM – Circus of Sound
Circus of Sound (Tone Center) is the latest release from the SoCal-based instrumental power trio OHM. The core of the band has always been ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland and bassist Robertino Pag Pagliari; two highly original players whose styles are instantly recognizable. Several drummers have played with OHM through the years, and three of them (that’s right, three of them) appear on Circus of Sound – Joel Taylor, Frank Briggs, and the band’s longest tenured drummer Kofi Baker.
OHM could best be classified as heavy fusion, but their sound and style are unlike any other band in that genre. Yes there’s distorted guitars and heavy riffs – but the unique styles of Poland and Pagliari, and more importantly the band’s writing, give OHM a very distinctive flavor. Poland is one of fusion’s truly great guitar players; silky-smooth runs and a liberal approach to bending are the hallmarks of his style, and this new album will not be a disappointment to his fans. Circus of Sound seems to have more guitar solos per square inch than any of OHM’s previous releases. Pagliari plays a six-string fretless bass, often employing a wah-wah to accent his lines, and is just as responsible for the band’s unique sound as Poland is.
Traditionally, OHM has had a stripped-down sound. The minimal use of overdubbing has given their past studio albums OHM (2004) and Amino Acid Flashback (2005) a live feel at times (the band also released Live On KPFK 90.7 FM in 2004 which actually was recorded live). Circus of Sound is a change of direction in this regard. A lush recording full of layered guitars and harmonies, Circus of Sound is OHM’s richest-sounding album to date. The material is a change of pace as well. Overall, the writing seems less eccentric than it’s been in the past. While the band’s signature off-kilter sensibilities are still present here, on the whole the compositions are more approachable than they’ve been on OHM’s previous releases. Songs such as Fun House, Abracadabra, and Steps From Home are among the most melodic, tuneful pieces OHM has ever recorded. There’s some complex, tight arrangements on Circus of Sound also. The point-counterpoint middle section of the fantastic title track is a good example. System of a Clown is another great song with a deep, layered arrangement. Drummer Joel Taylor take a nice solo on this track as well.
As out there as OHM’s music can sometimes be, there’s often a strong undercurrent of blues in their songs. This is largely due to Poland’s input, and the new album has many great examples – on tracks like The Shortest Straw and You Don’t Know, he peels off plenty of wicked-fast blues runs that leave you either shaking your head, or reaching for the rewind button for another listen. The funky Mr. Brown is another tune with a heavy blues vibe. It’s also one of the best tracks on the album. Pagliari in particular sounds great on this song.
Circus of Sound is OHM’s most ambitious album yet, and it succeeds on every level. It’s a more expansive production than anything they have released in the past (more guitar parts, more solos, more players, etc), and it’s one of the best heavy fusion releases of the year so far.
OHM – Circus of Sound (Tone Center)
1. Fun House
2. System of a Clown
4. Circus of Sound
5. Point Omega
7. The Shortest Straw
8. The Black Hand
9. You Don’t Know
10. Steps From Home
11. Mr. Brown
13. Leap of Faith
14. Pan’s Plan
Chris Poland – Guitar
Robertino Pagliari – Bass
Joel Taylor – Drums on tracks 1-3
Frank Briggs – Drums on tracks 4-7
Kofi Baker – Drums on tracks 8-14