In a state of semi-consciousness, its sacred cadence causing spiritual arousal, its silken refrain moaning in my ears, the smell of illusory incense lapping at my nose as I lie writhing in bed, resenting the meditative rhythms for being loud enough to keep me from sleep yet hypnotic enough to prevent my awakening.
Eventually stirring from my gold laced haze, my only priority is to discover the source of my blissful discomfort. I follow the winding strings and heady incantations down the corridor to find music seeping from behind the closed door of my housemate’s room. I open the door. This was my inaugural experience of Om’s Advaitic Songs.
Om began as Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius, the rhythm section of doom metal acolytes, Sleep, often credited as pioneers of the stoner/doom genre. Advaitic Songs is Om’s fifth studio album, second to feature drummer Emil Amos, and their most ambitious yet.
Since their debut, Variations on a Theme, a crushing, time-bending amalgam of bass and drums, Om has slowly shed its weight and increasingly adopted more divergent themes. Advaitic Songs furthers the development of tones and themes found on Om’s fourth LP God Is Good. Catholicism, Hinduism and Sufism contribute to the massively successful transcendental atmosphere of the album. Tonally and lyrically, its mysticism and mythologies prove both soothing and unsettling, both ominous and uplifting.
I awoke that afternoon to find its decadent motifs already embedded deep in my mind, such is the potency of Advaitic Songs. Divine violins wrap around squirming bass, lilting piano rests softly atop choir chants, glistening tamboura dances around weeping cellos, all of which is woven together in a beautiful and maudlin tapestry.
The album’s five songs feature enough rich textures and unfamiliar allusions to prove rewarding through repeated listens. ‘State of Non-Return’ bears the most resemblance to Om’s heavier works. Cisneros’ bass lurches between mewling and menacing below his mantra-like vocals, much of which are absurd and impenetrable.
Lyrics sway between the ascension of Lebanese priests to the descension of healing ghosts, from the burning of dross to the triumph of the phoenix, each line is steeped in religious or mystical imagery. But Om’s message has never been conveyed through mere semantics, more through the all encompassing spirituality of their sound.
Drummer Emil Amos exercises a balanced mix of expression and restraint throughout. His extended yet often minimalist drum fills provide a fitting accompaniment to the opulent drones, particularly on ‘Gethsemane’, as his ride cymbal peals like church bells and his toms roll like the mountain ridges of East Jerusalem.
Cisneros shepherds a sonic trek through the Holy Lands and eventually back to reality as the ancient and exalted melodies of ‘Haqq al-Yaqin’ brings the journey to a close. Since stirring in semi-conscious wonderment at its sound, the splendour of Advaitic Songs has not withdrawn from my mind.
It is a pan-global pilgrimage in 44 minutes; it’s a pilgrimage well worth your time.
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