As the era of legendary stoner metal outfit Sleep came to a close, bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius moved on to form the experimental, droning metal of OM. Hakius later left and his spot was filled by Grails percussionist Emil Amos. The band in its new iteration has pushed further into psychedelia and mysticism, the slow-churning oceans pushing for something like a religious ecstasy. On Advaitic Songs, their second album with Drag City, Cisneros and Amos reach their meditative high thanks to more religious imagery, mantra-like vocals, and a healthy helping of strings, tabla, and chants.
The incense hangs heavy from the start, as album opener “Addis” rides in on Eastern-tinged female chanting, tabla, and cello. In fact, individuals uninitiated into the church of OM may not have any idea that this is a metal album and instead consider that they’ve wandered into the midst of some foreign rite. As the distorted bass rush of the following track, “State of Non-Return”, kicks in, that impression is immediately changed, the incense mingling with dope smoke. The strings remain, adding an Electric Masada pulse to the whole thing, and Cisneros’ brassy talk-singing hits every polysyllabic word like he’s about to free your mind.
The religious imagery continues on “Gethsemane” and “Sinai”, two ten-and-a-half minute suites of decadent hypnosis. The former works off of a spiraling drone, poly-rhythms, and slinky bass richness, all with more of Cisneros’ shadowy monk delivery. “Back toward Lebanon, priest ascending,” he intones over the bassy slither on the latter, clashes of cymbal and string broadening the scene.
Advaitic Songs is an album for metalheads and the metal-curious alike, one of those records that opens the gates to the genre. While there are those that will bemoan the loss of Sleep to the end of days, and in consequence the loss of the riffier element of OM, this album is too rich an experience to start squabbling over genre or pedigree. OM delivers transcendental moments on Advaitic Songs, entrancing washes of mystic depth.
Essential Tracks: “Sinai”, “State of Non-Return”