«OME World – Aztec Myths and Legends» is one of the most ambitious New Age music releases in recent times. Not only is the group OME trying to capture the atmosphere of 10 Aztec myths and legends, but they are also aiming to recreate the sound and expression of this proud ancient civilization. I’m happy to report that OME is succeeding in almost every aspect of their incredibly challenging task.
OME consists of composers, record producers, recording artists, writers and singers/songwriters Paola Treviño Todd and Rodrigo Garcia MZ. Paola and Rodrigo have been in the music industry for over 25 years. They met in 2000, married in 2001 and it was not until 2007 that they gave birth to OME. A complete list of OME releases can be found here.
And so it begins
Since this is a themed album, I will give a short introduction of the myth behind each song. After all, this is not just a collection of 10 songs. “OME World” represents the complete cosmology of a once great civilization, and this is ment as a narrated concert. I did mention that this was an ambitious album, right?
The first track is called «Cipactli – And So It Begins». According to myths, Cipactli was a primeval sea monster. The deity Tezcatlipoca sacrificed a foot when he used it as bait to draw the monster nearer. He and the serpent-god Quetzalcoatl created the earth from Cipactli’s body. As an introduction to the album, the song is very well made. It has speed and instantly takes us on a voyage back in time. The vocals are amazing and nicely mixed with strings, flutes and percussion. Before your inner eye you can see the hungry monster rising from the deep black sea, the struggle, and ultimately, the creation of the earth. It is also a nice introduction to OME’s style. Right away you will notice the high-end audio design; there are so many levels of sound to enjoy, and the instruments are expertly chosen to recreate a long-lost sound.
“Nanahuatzin and Tecuciztecatl – A New Era” is track number two. The Aztecs believed in sun gods. The current one known as Tonatiuh, was the fifth. After the fourth sun perished, the gods assembled to decide which god was to become the next sun. They built a bonfire to sacrifice the next volunteer. Proud Tecuciztecatl insisted that he should be sacrificed, but at the last moment hesitated. Nanahuatzin showed more courage and jumped into the fire – thus becoming the sun. On the song you can hear the crackling of fire and a bold, hard drum beat. The flute melody is very nice indeed.
Cihuacoatl – La Llorona
“Cihuacoatl – La Llorona” is the next track. The legend of La Llorona, or “The weeping woman”, is a ghostly figure that wanders in the middle of the night, wearing a long white gown and disrupting the silence with her agonizing scream, mourning the death of her children. It is impossible not to be impressed by the orchestral arrangement and the first-rate male and female vocals by Paola Trevino and Garcia MZ (I’m tempted to say world class; Darlene Koldenhoven, known from Yanni’s “Aria”, couldn’t have done the female vocal better).
Next track puts us in a romantic mood. Aztec mythology relates the legend of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. It is a relationship that is doomed from the beginning. Notice how the song has different parts; the introduction is light and there is not a cloud on the horizon. Suddenly there’s a deep roar, like the earth itself is advising against the impossible love. Like fairy tales, myths have their own kind of logic – and OME does a magnificent job in retelling the myth. The story ends badly for Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, which are both turned into volcanoes.
The promised land
Like almost all civilization on earth, the Aztecs had their idea of a promised land. Tenochtitlan was the capital of the expanding Aztec Empire until it was captured by the Spanish in 1521. OME’ s song “Tenochtitlan” has a dark atmosphere. Their focus is obviously on the struggles and fall of this mighty city – and all the changes the Spanish brought with them. I love the song’s build-up. The vocals are, yet again, breathtakingly beautiful.
I’m amazed about how much material OME covers on the album. It is like a complete book on Aztec mythology and view on life. Given the complexity of the material, one would think that OME would require a symphony orchestra, a fully staffed major label studio and a few professors of Aztec history as well. No, OME does not need that at all. Indeed, their presentation feels honest and without unnecessary effects. Their interest in the Aztecs seems genuine and heartfelt too. On a few of the songs though, the mentioned orchestra would have come in handy, if only to give it a more live feel. Going to an OME concert would for sure fix that impression.
God of rain
My favorite track on the album is “Return of the Quetzalcoatl – The Prophecy”. The Legend says that Quetzalcoatl, Civilizing Deity of the Aztecs, descended one day from the heavens to teach people about the arts, wisdom, kindness and knowledge. Notice how the flutes and the rhythm create a “wind effect”. Close your eyes, and you will see the god descending from the sky. The melody is very nice and upbeat. On the next track, “The crying of Tlaloc – God of rain”, we are still in the heavens. As supreme god of the rain, Tlaloc was also a god of earthly fertility, thunder, and the lord of water. The song starts carefully, almost inaudible. There’s nothing but the sound of nature. Then suddenly, like a lightning, the song rises in intensity. Perhaps the god is angry and saddened by the destruction that followed the Spanish invasion?
There’s even more darkness. According to myths, the ahuizotl was a dog-like creature, and its waterproof fur often clumping up to create spikes. It was feared due to its liking for human flesh, crying like a child to lure people into the water. OME’s song “The Ahuizotl – Myth and Legend” has a haunting sound. It is like you can hear the dangerous creature growling, deep down below.
Mictlan – The Underworld
Track 9 is called “Journey to Mictlan – The Underworld”. In Aztec mythology, the underworld consisted of nine levels. The journey from the first level to the ninth was difficult and took four years. The song has a larger-than-life atmosphere. Carefully we travel into the unknown. Each level has a distinct sound. In the end we reach the 9th level, «the land of the dead». The sound design here is fantastic! It is hard to believe that it is possible to get this much change and different expressions into a little more than 4 and a half minute of music.
Last track is called “The Birth of Huitzilopochtli – Sun and God of War”. The legend tells about the many dramas surrounding the pregnancy and birth of Huitzilopochtli. There’s both magic, murder and even war. Slowly Huitzilopochtli gains strength and becomes one of the most powerful Aztec gods, which is brilliantly described in the song. I love the majestic ending, which also a fantastic album finale.
In conclusion: «OME World – Aztec Myths and Legends» is not exactly easy listening. But give it some time, read the myths and you will see what a truly rewarding listen this is. OME succeeds in making the Aztec cosmology accessible in a whole new way. Indeed, OME extends the limits of what storytelling through music is all about.
Score: 95/100 – See how I rate music here
Make sure to check out OME’s homepage for more music samples – and to purchase the album.
Sources: OME World, Wikipedia