Thursday, September 6, 2012

Album Review: Om - "Advaitic Songs"

I haven't posted an album review in a couple weeks now, so I think it's high time to put up another one. Considering my last review was of Pig Destroyer's Prowler in the Yard, a ruthless grindcore album, I decided to travel all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum and take a listen to Om's new album, Advaitic Songs.

"And it was thiiiiiis big!" -- John the Baptist
Om is one of two musical projects formed by the splitting of stoner/ doom metal giants Sleep. While guitarist Matt Pike formed the sludge metal band High on Fire, bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius formed Om. Om's original sound was loud, cacophonous droning music, with Al's bass run through a shit ton of thick and heavy distortion, and Chris pounding on his drums in a style similar to Sleep's final release (widely regarded as their masterpiece), Dopesmoker (also known as Jerusalem). In Om, Al's voice took on a softer and more monotone vibe, bordering on a sort of chanting rather than singing. Overall, Om's sound was a massive smothering, droning wall of sound to lose yourself in.

Over the years and releases, the sound Om had produced changed dramatically, but still kept some of the same qualities as well. Starting with their 2007 release Pilgrimage, Om dropped the distorted bass riffs for more melodic clean bass playing for half the album. The droning enveloping sound was still there, it was just a calm form rather than an overbearing monster of noise. Come 2009's God is Good, the calmer sounds were more of a focus of the album, rather than an embellishment, and the spacey and transporting qualities of the music were enhanced by the addition of guest musicians manning the cello, flute and tambura. God is Good also had Hakius replaced by a new drummer, Emil Amos. Emil brought a more dynamic drumming style to he mix with his relatively laid back rhythms, but vicious, powerful fills.

Advaitic Songs pushes the elements of God is Good even further. 6 guest musicians come and go over the course of the albums 5 songs, with two cello players, a flutist, a violinist, tabla player, and an additional singer on the opening track, "Addis". The small string section gets to step into the spotlight a few times as the album trucks along, and personally, I find these sections my favorite parts of the album. The melodies, harmonies, and counter melodies played by all of the strings and Al's bass really create a beautiful and enveloping atmosphere. Things sometimes twist, turn and reveal oriental or middle-eastern themes or tones which really seem to embody the theological and philosophical subject matter covered by Cisneros' lyrics.

Al Cisneros stoned out of his mind. In other words, just Al Cisneros.
Cisneros' bass playing is still mellow, save for the second track, "State of Non-Return" which sees somewhat of a return to form of Om's earlier material. The remainder of the songs are more toned down, sometimes with the guest instruments fully taking over where Al's bass would normally be.

Because of the electric bass guitar and two cellos going at it on this album, things do get very thick and bassy, but fortunately, nothing gets muddied up in the mix. I don't know what production wizardry they managed to pull off, but every individual instrument is clear and audible while still maintaining that warm and rounded tone of the album.

There's not much I can criticize Advaitic Songs with, because I'm a big fan of Om's recent sonic direction. If you're looking for catchy, hooky tunes to get your blood pumping, you'll find none of it here. This is an album you toss on when you're tired as hell and want to relax, or if you're feeling all contemplative and soul searchy.

On a Playlist With: Sleep (Dopesmoker), Faun, Musk Ox

Overall Score


Advaitic Songs is another bomb-ass release by Om. It's got the perfect blend of loud and quiet dynamics and the larger focus on the guest instruments really pushes this album to standout among the stoner/ doom crowd. Listening to this release sends you on a journey to another world. And quite frankly, I'm not sure if I want a return trip.

That's all for now, folks!

1 comment:

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