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Om – Advaitic Songs

Drag City

There’s something that’s always struck me as a bit weird, not to mention lazy, in Om‘s usual categorisation as a doom metal band. Sure, they are one of the awesome phoenixes to have arisen from the ashes of doom pioneers Sleep, and they’re kinda droney and dirgey, but they’ve always been more celebratory than doomladen. Not quite joyous, but certainly devotional. They’re more like stoner metal but on weirder drugs – possibly incense, communion wine and ayahuasca. You know, the religious stuff.

That is, of course, not to say that they won’t, or indeed don’t, appeal to the same kind of people, and the same parts of the brain, as doom metal does. Deep, languid riffs cycling endlessly through the lower frequencies, spooky invocational vocals, and drums that sound like a giant earth-moving machine are all present and correct, but within these constraints Om are about as much a polar opposite to, say, Burning Witch, Cathedral or Khanate as it’s possible to be.

And then they go and open the new album Advaitic Songs with something entirely different- “Addis,” which sounds like nothing so much as Dead Can Dance jamming with Muslimgauze, and is truly beautiful. As seems compulsory in such circles these days, there’s a cello now, and the overall effect is… I genuinely can’t think of a better word to describe it than “smokey”. It’s like lying on a couch in a room filled with opium, hash or incense smoke, and it’s every bit as awesome as that would suggest. Then Al Cisneros comes on for “State Of Non-Return”, and it’s tempting to say it’s back to business as usual, except it isn’t, not really. It’s very definitely, unmistakably Om by this point, but the strings add a much richer, fuller feel to the affair, and it settles into a body-quaking and mind-fucking groove, like slow desert funk for the truly hammered, before the strings take over.

The rest of the album consists of three epic ten-minute tracks, “Gethsemane,” “Sinai” and “Haqq al-Yaqin,” although as with many great works Advaitic Songs is far better considered as one long piece of music in five movements. Om need time to work their magic, and just a few minutes isn’t enough to really experience the full effect. Played quietly, it’s soothing. Played loud, it’s overwhelming. It’s the sound of passionate restraint, of tightly-controlled excess“. It’s lazy, languid and lovely, but you can hear, and more importantly feel, the immense effort going into that laziness. It’s more like meditation than metal, especially “Sinai” with its sampled chanting and ecclesiastical drones. By the time we get to closer “Haqq al-Yaqin,” it’s obvious this is even more fitting music for a pilgrimage than 2007’s Pilgrimage was. If not music for walking through the desert to, this is certainly music for MEDITATING about walking through the desert to.

Om have always been awesome, and often transcendent. But I don’t think they’ve ever been quite as beautiful as this before.

-Deuteronemu 90210 has the munchies. Got any crisps?-

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