Whether you call it math-rock, mathcore, experimental or progressive, if you’re looking for technically proficient, emotional and heavy music, look no further than El Paso’s Omega Man Collective.
The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and singer Danny Bonilla-Garcia, the project first grew out of the remains of several now-defunct local bands in the late 2000s.
The Omega Man Collective released one EP, “Rebirth,” in 2013. But while that band also fizzled when Bonilla-Garcia moved to Seattle to pursue a degree in music therapy and psychology, the Omega Man idea grew.
Five years later, Bonilla-Garcia is back in El Paso with a new full-length Omega Man album, “Vermiform.”
The album is jam packed with Bonilla-Garcia’s own brand of progressive metal and post-hardcore. He composed all of the music on the album and performs most of the instruments, including guitar, bass, piano and vocals. He also got a little help from Seattle drummer Evan Hansch and a handful of others who performed strings and helped on production.
While Bonilla-Garcia hasn’t had the chance to test out the songs live, he’s been putting together a group of musicians with the chops to pull off “Vermiform” songs for audiences.
Q: What is the concept behind “Vermiform”?
I wanted to write lyrical content that would serve as a cathartic experience for myself.
Animals such as alligators and anglerfish feature these vermiform, worm-like appendages, as bait to lure their unsuspecting prey with the promise of nourishment. This instinct to attain what they do not have ultimately leads to their demise.
In a metaphorical sense, the tragic events in my personal life that led to the disarray of my cognition and behavior really stemmed from a pursuit of something I could not attain and was not actually there. In that sense, I was the unsuspecting prey, chasing my thoughts down the mouth of a beast.
But pursuing treatment through therapy helped me to become self-aware of the problems I was creating for myself and escape.
Q: Your music is very technical and progressive. What training do you have?
I performed all of the other instruments on the album, including, guitars, bass, piano, synthesizers, clean and screaming vocals.
I began playing (guitar) at the age of 11, after my cousin visited for a family get-together and showed me how to play “Seven Nation Army” on a guitar. My interest pretty much took off from there. I went on to get my associate degree in music at EPCC, then I continued to study jazz and classical guitar at Seattle Pacific University for my bachelor’s degree in music therapy and psychology.
Q: Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, technically proficient bands like Cave In, Dillinger Escape Plan, and even El Paso’s own The Mars Volta gained national followings. Was that era an influence?
Absolutely, that was the era of music that I identify as most influential to my writing style.
I would say that the Mars Volta does hold a special place in my heart, being a native El Pasoan, as well as Evan’s (Hansch, Seattle drummer) having grown up loving them and integrating their influence into his playing and writing style.
I think in a local sense, the El Paso scene has always had an affinity for math-rock and musical prowess.
Q: Lyrically it sounds like you’re tackling some pretty heavy, personal stuff.
On “Vermiform,” my goal, from a compositional and instrumental standpoint, was to compose music that not only intertwined genres such as progressive rock and metal with emo and pop punk and experimental rock, but also have the musical content reflect the progression of the lyrical content.
As the stages of grieving, depression, confrontation and treatment progress throughout the album in lyrical content, the narrator becomes more self-aware of his mental processes and what began to create this turmoil in the first place.
Once these are addressed and recognized, the lyrical and musical content becomes more reflective, pensive, anthemic and lighter in overall affect.