Review Summary: dune metal.
To earn its rather straightforward nickname, stoner metal exhibits the same behaviors as its namesake: lumbering slowness, slack-jawed vocals, and (when it isn't medieval knights, space, or Satan) blatant references to the grinchweed itself (for most obvious examples, see: Sleep
, Electric Wizard
). So when a band such as Om is billed as "stoner doom," possibly the least-expected result is a massive undulating record of desert drone, spilling over with orchestral string movements.
Om, however, are a beast of their own. They employ the warped spirituality and connected-to-the-divine feelings associated with an especially thick haze of potsmoke, and shackle their "stoner" metal to a solid Buddhist tilt. Advaitic Songs
is lush (if not positively overgrown) with Arabian and Middle Eastern influences, peppered with skin drums' boinging bent tones and swathed in an mbira-like drone canvas, deep wandering tones creating rolling dune-like movement. The low, low-end throbbing bass and trapset drumming are the only elements tying Advaitic Songs
to its doom roots (other than the dark composition), the channel usually occupied by guitar leads is completely inhabited by strings. The entire record is astonishingly string-heavy, an orchestra's worth of humming violas and cellos purring like a tiger's throat. Even the lyrics, though hard to decipher fully, are based around Middle Eastern themes, seeming to edge around early religions (The words "Lebanon" and "mosque" can be heard clearly, as well as "Nicodemus"). Simply put, Advaitic Songs
doesn't lay its influences on lightly or even wear them on its sleeve, instead it inhabits them and molds them from the inside out.
is as slow and as thick as molten glass, every sound seeming to ooze and slither forth from the band as if every muscle is slack, falling against and sliding along the instruments in a lax, hypnotic state. It ebbs and lurches in a sleepily serpentine manner. There is a dramatic tension to the flow of the album, a sense of mystery that normally has a History Channel narrative describing the dark arts practiced in the Near East (In a more modern reference, the opening of "Sinai" evokes a protestor with a megaphone from across Tahrir Square). Single "State of Non-Return" is the only example of straight rumbly boulder riffs on the album, boiling bass evaporating to give way to somber violin. There are no sharp edges, no crunch or bite to Om, just slow-burning substance dripping like heavy syrup. It's a calm kind of metal, if that can be imagined, the sort that inspired head bobbing rather than banging. Vocals are sparse, used only when absolutely necessary and then almost as simply ornamentation. Nasally and monotone, sounding for all the world like the self-righteous incantations of an ancient Egyptian grand magus (or young Ozzy Osbourne, go figure).
is (are?) not a spiritual (or musical) revelation. The record is thick and extravagantly layered, expertly crafted and executed. The sheer mass of heavyweight sound produced is richly delicious. Om themselves are certainly progressive, redirecting a genre that normally spends most of its time modifying any restraints out of their bass amps and trying to find a clever word to put "dope" in front of into one of plodding Buddhist catalepsy. But despite their derelict appearance, Om and Advaitic Songs
are not the clunky chunky-riff slop of The Sword
. They are smooth and well-formed, baked all the way through in the sweltering Oakland sun.