Thom Nguyen “Imago Ossuary”

Guitar, or in this case bass, tone is one of many things I obsess over, but it’s been even more at the forefront of my mind in recent months. While I usually think of Thom Nguyen as a drummer (his incredible SIGE album from earlier this year is the main culprit), Imago Ossuary is a full-body experience. Percussive elements are few and far between on this cathartic 11-minute piece, but it will leave impact wounds with its hammer blows. 

Again, I go back to the tone. In the early moments, Nguyen rips open a black hole in the ground with shredded chords through blown-out distortion. Bowed cymbals throw up metallic walls, but Nguyen adds another layer and the electric guitar-soaked howls are aural projectiles. Caught in the storm, the only thing to do is hang on and let the sonic undertow work as an arrow pointing forward. About halfway through, the cathedral doors open.

Harmonium drones bend into ritualistic shapes, a beckoning call for the underworld to emerge in victory. Loops spiral into the sky, gashing a flare for all to see. Continually grinding ahead, Nguyen’s emotive playing is full of sustenance, the lifeblood of “Imago Ossuary.” Sacrifices must be made and while the sequenced synth passages sing last rites before being sucked into the hollow murk. A crash rings out, new percussive timbres flame into view offering a surprising familiarity while furthering the auricular destruction.

Breaking points come and go like dust devils, the endless warnings never heard. Nguyen’s grip loosens slightly, a single string rising toward a crescendo. “Imago Ossuary” time has passed, the skies clear and everything is gone in the blink of an eye. This is one hell of a catharsis.

The flipside features an excellent remix from Landon Caldwell and Mark Tester that plays out like a memory of the original events passed down for generations, triumphant and unconcerned with the bones beneath the soil. 

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