Advaitic Songs

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Nom du groupe Om
Nom de l'album Advaitic Songs
Type Album
Date de parution 23 Juillet 2012
Labels Drag City
Style MusicalStoner Doom
Membres possèdant cet album24


1. Addis 05:33
2. State of Non-Return 06:05
3. Gethsemane 10:26
4. Sinai 10:20
5. Haqq al-Yaqin 11:24
Total playing time 43:49

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Chronique @ InfinityZero

14 Octobre 2012

Haunting, beautiful atmosphere, music that flows like water, taking risks but never falling short.

I love Om. It’s unfortunate that so few metalheads are aware of their transcendental meditational doom-influenced brand of music, because its unique blend of metal heaviness and rich cultural awareness and soft, subdued rhythms really showcase just how powerful atmosphere can be in music. Though their music is decidedly more chill since obtaining new drummer Emil Amos for their 2009 album God Is Good. So maybe they aren’t the most metal band now, but they were never really about the hard-hitting ugly sludge-doom that other bands of the genre have been known for.
As Om ages, they press for slowly-shifting landscapes that swirl like smoke around the listener. Their newest album, Advaitic Songs, is a great example of Om’s strong musicianship and yet again does not fail to bring their music to a higher level than before. Again they’re trying new things via layered instruments from tempura to cello that seem like natural accelerants and important pieces to the music. Though I initially missed the 15 or 20 minute epic songs that Om are known for, they are made up for by the great material here.
The middle-eastern philosophical vibe is laid down thick and heavy here as a chanting voice sings the Sanskrit Mahamrityunjaya Mantra (known in English as the Great Death-Conquering Mantra of Hindu origin). The production is made so that the voice echoes as if over a great room, soon followed by a tribal beat and the occassional touch of rhythm and melody that builds and builds until the music is almost orchestral. And with that the shivers in my spine start, and they don’t stop until the album is over. The ominous trance that Om weaves hardly fades throughout either.

Perhaps it’s because of how great the production of the album is. Don’t worry—in songs like State of Non-Return, there’s plenty of burning, crunching bass guitar, distorted as any song off Pilgrimage or Variations on a Theme. The clarity of the backing instruments is really phenomenal. The way every instrument works in their own level so that no other is obscured, the way the vocals pierce them—there’s so much clear attention paid to the production and the result is full of emotion and tone and moodiness. Nothing feels stripped-down or bare here, and because of that every new instrument, brought in as each song progresses, totally changes the course of the song as it pulls its own weight. The winding way the music runs and flows like river water was enough to justify my completely blind buy of the record. I’m glad I wasn’t deterred by the album art of Christ. I would get into all the philosophical implications of featuring Jesus on the cover of an album obviously dedicated to Eastern beliefs, but that’s probably here nor there.

There’s a great range on Advaitic Songs. Calm serenity can be replaced by heavy sludge and low-key, almost gothic doom without catching on itself and sounding forced. Songs use melody heavily here and there, but also go for slow drone vibes similar to some of Earth’s music. The album comes at the listener in great waves one at a time, each tide bringing more forward that pushes along not only the song itself but the album as a whole. It is an album with a clear direction, one that leaves the listener in a different place from where it started. It is almost like a reverse-image of the band’s previous album God Is Good, where instead of long tracks becoming shorter and shorter as the album goes on, the songs spread out wide and become longer, explore more places, dance in different planes. Long sections of minimalistic note-playing and quickly-timed rhythms played loud and heavy juxtaposing them. It’s clear Al Cisneros learned a hell of a lot from being in Sleep about placing and spacing notes to create different effects, and those effects are explored thoroughly here. There are so many breathtaking moments created as a result of the way the instruments work on each other that I would go so far as to call this Om’s best album so far (although their two albums before this are still very close in the same field). A string section may be present, but Om is conservative and precise in their utilization, saving them for a sweet moment placed perfectly within the heart of a song instead of exploiting their newfound guest musicians throughout the song. Just because the instrument is there, doesn’t mean you need it to permeate every second of the moment with all the subtlety of a caveman (you hear that, Dimmu Borgir?).

The album has five songs (the most songs any Om album has ever had, by the way), and each of the songs has its own place in an elaborate tapestry of culturally-saturated ominous meditational music. Advaitic Songs only further solidifies this band as one of my favourites. To date not one of their albums has been lacking anything, and yet every album brings something more to the table without collapsing under its own will to explore and shift the genre they are a part of. I really can’t say anything disparaging about this album. I guess I should point out that if you’re more into Om’s earlier super-heavy bass-laden stoner/doom, you may find a lot of Om’s earlier heaviness lacking. There is no “Bhima’s Theme” or “On the Mountain at Dawn” here, but I think the band still knows very well what it’s doing and it’s still worth a listen. Al’s bass guitar may not be overwhelmingly present, here usually sitting behind various stringed instruments as a foundation rather than an outer structure, but hey, I have three other albums where his bass is loud and proud, and I think that this shift came to Om naturally.

Hands down, the best track here is the closer, Haqq al-Yaqin. It easily takes the prize as the most elaborate structuring of flow and instrumentation, the range of instruments working extremely well in the song’s favour. A traditional Om first few minutes, with Al chanting in his usual tone, laying down poetic lyrics over a tribal drum beat and the patterned appearance of cello and violin. Here the music really takes hold of you—it’s impossible to avoid moving your head to the beat of this song. Especially as Al’s voice fades away and allows a slew of various instruments to take up his space with great intertwining melodies, even bringing in an acoustic guitar later on. The emotion is deep and raw, the music in itself haunting and giant.

Advaitic Songs is probably a great way to start off on listening to Om. It flawlessly blends the atmosphere of Hindu-esque world music, the melodies of rock and folk, the grandeur and power of doom and drone. The fact that I bought this without having heard a song off it and still ended up enjoying every minute of it shows you how well Om can please the listener. Advaitic Songs may take a few listens for someone not quite so accustomed to the style of music to enjoy, but I think there’s a lot here for a lot of people, and it’s a definite must-buy for Om fans and anyone into dark but beautiful music executed with intelligence.

3 Commentaires

3 J'aime

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InfinityZero - 18 Octobre 2012: Hey thanks man! Too early to say whether or not I'm actually 'back'. I'm still forum-shy and hardly get the time for reviews any more!
Atmosfear - 20 Août 2013: Thanks a lot, great review for a great album !
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