Om - Advaitic Songs
Drag City
Eastern-influenced Stoner Doom
5 songs (43:49)
Release year: 2012
Reviewed by Koeppe
Album of the month

For many fans, the reunion of Sleep was a double-edged sword; the return of stoner metal’s pioneering formation to the scene was a welcome possibility for those not around in the band’s hey-day, but within such good fortune was the chance that it would undermine the amazing projects that the individual artists had established since the split. However, with High on Fire’s upcoming winter tour and this year’s De Vermis Mysteriis, and now Om’s own release this year, Advaitic Songs, those concerns, I can say, have been safely put to rest. Simply put, Advaitic Songs is a masterful helping of character, atmosphere, songwriting and fucking riffs. Honestly, no other Om release has impressed me quite like this one.

A bit of background with which to begin, the sound “om” is a monosyllabic sound that’s chanting results in a vibration, according to several Eastern religions, which makes possible an attunement between the individual and the universe. Al Cisneros of Sleep mirrored such a sound with the minimalist presentation that he orchestrated in past albums through relying only on bass and drums, with only minor contributions from pianos or strings earlier in their career. Advaitic Songs presents an overhaul to that style via the heavy incorporation of Indian instruments, the tabla (like bongos) and the tambura (a type of lute), but also Tibetan chanting, pianos, cellos and possibly other sounds that my ear couldn’t pick up. What this presents, rather than a Western tribute to or interpretation of Eastern meditation via stoner doom, is a depiction of the East in its Orientalized form. Rather than finding a meditative calm through drone, the listener is instead presented this kitschy-y image of the Oriental bazaar. And honestly, it’s fucking awesome. An argument could be made that Om is cluttering their minimalist roots and losing that initial gimmick to their name, but honestly it’s inconsequential as this album is done so well. Where Om never quite hooked me before, I enjoyed them while studying if that tells you anything since they did not distract me, this album has been on steady repeat since initially having heard it.

Their sound may have become more grand, but Om still rely on a basic formula of droning stoner doom that locks the listener in. All the fuzz and rumble that one could ever ask for, but now with forays into orchestration and diverse soundscapes. The album begins with calming chanting before the tablas kick up and the cellos work to create a mist around the sound. Only in Om’s brand of stoner metal do cellos make you want to sway in hypnosis. By the time that Cisneros’ vocals appear on the albumin State of Non-Return, they almost appear as invasive and you have to come to terms with the fact that the first track was only an intro to that sludgy, droning bass that is Om’s trademark. Gethsemane opens up with the traditional droning swirl but this time from the playing of the tambura and not however silly Sunn 0))) creates it, before taking up a simple repetition that calls to my mind the cymbals present in belly dance performances. The droning swirl returns bringing the cello with it, creating a grander atmosphere than the main drum beat and riff allowed before the track trails off with a grooving bass riff. Sinai continues this sound to a degree, dropping the droning for a much straight-forward rocking drumbeat. The final track, Haqq al-Yaqin, presents the ultimate synthesis of the Eastern sound, Cisneros chanting and the doom metal pace (albeit warped and presented through the tabla and a cello). The foundational riff is taken up by multiple instruments being reinterpreted and distorted, but maintaining that plodding pace which it originally set forth on as the tablas are pounded till they fade out entirely.

If Om’s past efforts had seduced you (catch that orientalizing joke?), then by all means I would recommend this one insofar as I find it to be their purely most enjoyable work to date. Diehard Om fans might be perturbed by this new direction, but experimentation is always a risk and I think the sound they have created is worth such a risk. The album straddles a thin line between minimalism and cluttered, but also balances between rhythmic and hypnotic, metal and non-metal. This is one album that I think should intrigue anyone with ears to hear despite any inclination or aversion they have to Om’s brand of sludgy, droning stoner doom metal.

Killing Songs :
State of Non-Return, Haqq al-Yaqin
Koeppe quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Om that we have reviewed:
Om - Pilgrimage reviewed by Alex and quoted 75 / 100
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