ADVAITIC SONGS (Drag City)
When metal pioneers Sleep finally hit the sack in 1998, former members Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius mobilised Om to transport the listener on a musical pilgrimage; layering Christian imagery and Byzantine chanting music into something deeply spiritual, versatile and incredibly ambitious in its depth. With Grails member Emil Amos replacing Hakius on percussion in 2008, Advaitic Songs is the sound of a band on fresh form, towering over 2009‘s God is Good in its tonality and never ending ambition.
Fresh meat to the church of Om might be confused by album opener Addis, a slow and pulsing jam that features a droning female vocal line as its principle hook. Like Earth’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light series and Sunn O)))’s Monoliths and Dimensions, the lack of guitars providing meaty hooks is instead counter-balanced in the atmospherics and space between the beats. Om experimented with the cello, flute and tambra previously to fill this void, creating intense background tapestries that challenged the confines of what ‘heavy’ music is. Yet on this record these tools of hypnosis have been brough to the fore, creating a dense sound that is incredibly effective, rhythmic and deeply unsettling.
Gethsemane is perhaps the most commanding example of this. Lead principally by a dense drone, the addition of Amos is felt strongly as the beat grooves and flourishes, constantly trying to escape the thick sonic fog which threatens to engulf it. While this goes on Cisneros whispers over the top, and like the rest of the record, the vocals barely compete with the rest of the instrumentation, making little sense when they eventually do pierce through.
These hypnotic qualities make minor intrusions very noticeable, and if they are not totally in keeping with the tone the results can be devastating. Sinai and State of No Return fall into this trend, with thick bass lines and guitar leads hampering the sound of each track. Yet despite this, it’s hard not to become totally absorbed in the record, in the ambitious variety of instruments and the deep sensory journeys each respective track leads you on.
Throughout Advaitic Songs, OM have created their own sonic universe based upon a form of spirituality found in the depths of heaviness. The record isn’t perfect, but you would be hard pressed to find a metal record as hypnotically beautiful, experimental and heavy all in the same breath.
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Words: Alex Hal