Review Summary: For those with ADD, this album may be your worst nightmare.
Om are the ex-members of Sleep minus Matt Pike, who most of us know from High on Fire fame. After several years of Sleep disbanding, Al Cisneros on bass/vocals and Chris Haikus on drums formed Om in 2003. Yes, they are a two piece band, but don't let that fool you because Al and Chris provide enough heaviness on their own because if you are familiar with Sleep, then you know these guys really know how to groove. And it really shows on their debut album, Variations on a Theme, which was released in 2005 containing three extremely slow, massive songs of drone clocking in at 44 minutes and 31 seconds.
The album starts off with "On the Mountain At Dawn," this song being the longest song on the album running at 21 minutes and 19 seconds. Right off the bat, the distorted bass kicks in with a killer stoner-like riff, and then bam, the drums follow right along with the riff creating a solid marijuana-induced journey. With no guitar present on this album at all, at first you may think that this can't be that heavy, but really, the distorted bass is really all you need. Honestly, if there was guitar on this album, it would take away from the what makes Om so unique and mesmerizing. Now, that brings me to the best part of this band, Al Cisneros's vocals. It may not be too impressive to the untrained ear, but it really sets the mood for the ride that the music takes you on. In a way the singing is monotonous, but unlike singing, it is more like chanting. According to Wikipedia their music is somewhat based on Tibetan chanting, now, this may not be too reliable of a source, but the vocals definitely have the feel of a Buddhist ritual that should take place at dusk before fasting a month straight. You could definitely "meditate" to this album after indulging in a some sticky green substance that alters you state of mind into total relaxation. "Kapila's Theme" and "Annapurna," both clocking in at just 12 minutes, bring more of that spaced out, groove laden drone. The detail of each song would be more of the same, but that doesn't make the album boring by any means because throughout the whole album, the riffs are tasty and huge, the drums are smooth and crisp, and the vocals are captivating and solid.
Now, if you are looking for an album that has a lot of tempo, style, and/or multiple riff changes, this album will not be for you. Yes, you wonder how an album with songs that are longer than 12 minutes long can keep you fascinated through the whole listening experience. Well, the best part of the music is that it is so monotonous, groovy, and riff heavy that you kind of find yourself getting lost in the music. One really doesn't have to be stoned to listen to this album because if you listen to this album long enough, you will feel like you are stoned. And that is what makes Om excellent, that if you focus on the music long enough, it will take you on a self-exploring trip into oblivion. However, if you have a short attention span, this album may lead you to plead insanity.