Om - _Advaitic Songs_
(Drag City, 2012)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (8.5 out of 10)
I have been sold on Om since their inception. In the fabled lands of stoner doom, the closing riffs of Sleep's 1990 opus _Dopesmoker_ marked the end of the band. The splitting of Sleep halved the individual elements into two equal yet separate entities. Sleep's early aggression and sludge qualities would be carried on by Matt Pike in High on Fire. Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius would continue Sleep's hypnotic aspects in Om. _Dopesmoker_ brought a listener to a strange land which stood on the crossroads of drug fantasy and eastern mysticism. I am glad this world has not been forgotten.

Om continues building upon the world begun in _Dopesmoker_. The band bows in reverence to a nondescript mystic religion which has roots in old testament Christianity, Egyptian mythology and Hindu philosophy. With references to scripture and subsets of Hinduism, the band pummels through trance like low-end bringing the listener to a state of full attention. More than ten years later, the place once glimpsed by _Dopesmoker_ only echoes with reverb and any element of metal has long been blown away in sandstorms. _Advaitic Songs_ maybe the band's least heavy hour but by God, it maybe their best.

One could line up Om's albums and see a calculated departure from their traditional sound. While I praise the band's seamless transition, a joint exists in 2009 with the release of _God Is Good_. 2009 saw the departure of Hakius and the addition of Grails drummer Emil Amos. For the past three years, Cisernos and Amos have been pushing the sound and concept of Om to its most logical conclusion -- one that is heavy and resonating and without distortion.

_Advaitic Songs_ possess its moments of heaviness though in a very different aspect as heard before. Much like _God Is Good_, the band plays with the concept of heaviness and fills soft mediations with subtle yet dense low-end. The result is trance like and unlike the band's earlier work, which feels more ominous when not clouded with distortion. Even opening songs like "Addis" have little to do with previous metal structures, but work in a so much more effective way than their contemporaries. The soft yet haunting work of cellist Jackie Perez Gratz has enhanced other metal records like Agalloch and Cattle Decapitation, and feels natural for Om. Gratz's addition transforms the sound, leading to one of the most pleasing and balanced results of the band's career.

_Advaitic Songs_ works in so many ways and feels almost criminal when the band has skirted the low end of praise for so many years. The dense framework for songs like "Gethsemane" and "Haqq al-Yaqin" are astounding and hit with more force than the band's heavier contemporaries. While this place was once built from silly stoner fantasies, it has now changed to a sober yet transcendental empire. Play on, brothers. I will follow this caravan until the end of days.

(article published 15/7/2012)


ALBUMS
1/14/2008 J Ulrey 9 Om - Pilgrimage
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