OHM: – Amino Acid Flashback

OHM: - Amino Acid Flashback


Blacknote Records
Release date: October 18, 2005

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OHM: (spelled with a colon) is the latest and greatest project in the continually evolving career of Chris Poland. Fans of Poland’s work with Megadeth, particularly those whose musical interests have evolved along similar lines as Poland’s, i.e., into Progressive Metal or Jazz Fusion, are obliged to take note of Amino Acid Flashback, OHM:’s third marvelous release of Fusion instrumentals.

Far from Megadeth, OHM: is nevertheless a logical point in the progression of Chris Poland’s talents. He achieved popularity in the ’80s as the original lead guitarist for Megadeth and was recruited again in 2004 to record lead work for Dave Mustaine and company on The System Has Failed. A critical look at the points in-between, including Poland’s solo outings Return to Metalopolis (1990) and Chasing the Sun (2000), reveals a common thread within diversity, an identity that is uniquely Poland and that is now seasoned and embodied in the music of OHM:.

The trio features Poland on guitar, Robertino Pagliari (Divine Rite, The New Yorkers) on six-string fretless bass, and Kofi Baker on drums. Repeated listening to Amino Acid Flashback will attest to the depth that each player brings to the music. For the ultimate OHM: experience, however, attending a live show is a must. Fortunately, Amino Acid Flashback captures the atmosphere of the band in a live performance. Those who listen to the album but haven’t heard the band live might want to know whether Poland remains faithful in a live set to the frequent and colorful changes in the guitar sound heard on the album. The answer is a resounding yes.

Poland’s Metal beginnings may account for the robust instrumentation employed by OHM:. His guitar sound is immodestly processed: lots of compression and sustain, dreamy chorus and modulation effects, delays, and other tools in Poland’s arsenal are utilized — not as gimmickry in a void without musical substance, nor as an attempt to distract from a lack of playing ability — but to achieve a stylized voice that integrates with Poland’s artful compositions and technical proficiency on the instrument. The result is a musicality all his own. Whether or not the music would benefit from a little less compression on his distorted lead sound is debatable.

Complementing Poland’s sound is Pagliari on fretless bass. His placement in the songs’ mix is distinct, but cohesive. His sound has just the right amount of grit and tightness to be the glue that holds all three players together. He knows when to assert himself melodically and when to lay back and groove. Comparisons could range from Jaco Pastorius’s solo phrasing, to Geddy Lee’s rhythmic feel. Pagliari’s command over the hefty six-string neck is awesome. Most players would find his lightning-fast runs difficult on a four-string. His wah-wah accents add a little musical color and flash without going overboard.

Kofi Baker, son of the late Ginger Baker of Cream fame, brings to the music the sophistication and finesse of Jazz drumming, plus he adds the power of a Rock feel at the right times. That innovative combination allows OHM:’s fusion to really reach fruition. Also an impressive soloist, Baker makes good use of the full drum kit for a multiplicity of rhythmic patterns with exact articulation. He opts for a dynamic, seamless motion rather than a stop-start, phrase-oriented approach.

Amino Acid Flashback offers a variety of moods — edgy and angular, soft and melodic, happy, sad, quirky, even demented — and is always intelligent and expressive. Highlights include, appropriately enough, “William’s Amino Acid Flashback.” The Swing feel of the chorus and the extraordinary guitar solo give it the heaviest Jazz feel of the album. The sublime “What If…” begins with a Holdsworthian hook and slides into a Jazz-Blues progression with the silkiest guitar solo and the most sonically intense wah-bass solo. “Joog In Da Boot” starts funky in 6/4 time and takes some interesting twists and turns along the way, including a Latin bass groove under a fat and speedy guitar solo that would send Santana into retirement. The contemplative “Rooms of Telemetry” is the most obvious instance of the Allan Holdsworth-influenced chord voicings and progressions. Pagliari’s melodic ability and poise are at their height here. “Skint” is the edgiest cut and shows off Poland’s unrelenting speed and intensity, while Baker’s slick drumming fits like a glove. “Spun” begins with the trappings of Frank Zappa, but then goes off on a Metal-ish riff, and ends in a loose-but-tight, spacey improvisation.

OHM:’s brand of Fusion may not be for those who reject out of hand a highly processed guitar sound or eclecticism in a Rock/Jazz format. Those who dig it, however, will find that with Amino Acid Flashback, OHM: have achieved a level of consistency and integration that approaches perfection within their genre.


  • Jason Sagall

    Jason was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He was born in Illinois and currently reside in California, USA, where he works in the field of Information Technology, and is a freelance web consultant hyperacuity.net. His favorite Rock and Metal subgenres include Classic, Progressive, and Power. He is a guitar fanatic and listen to a lot of Instrumental Rock and Fusion. Jason has been playing guitar as a hobby for some 25 years.  

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