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Writing for a rock and metal site as I am here, it is somewhat odd to be reviewing a band which contains no guitarists in its line-up, the instrument one would have thought is the very essence of these great genres. But with Om, formed from the ashes of stoner rock legends Sleep for those not in the know, the crunch of the guitar riff has been replaced by the tuneful, seismic rumble of Al Cisneros bass sound and a meditative, Hindu percussive performance which results in this great act sitting on the very boundaries of rock music.
Having moved away from the more droned bent of their earlier records, on LP 5 "Advaitic Songs" showcases an increased emphasis on the lead qualities of the cello and Eastern percussion, as best served in "Addis" and 11-minute closer "Haqq al-Yaqin" where Cisneros' plodding bass sits behind trancelike Eastern hand-drum rhythms. Right from the band name, Om have always borrowed liberally from the meditative qualities of Arabic and Indian derived music to create the kind of long songs more suited to deep relaxation (perhaps under the benefit particular substances, I wouldn't know...) than the kind of explosive energy I am used to reviewing. Emerging with smooth female vocals, first track "Addis" works from a very deep bass tone and descending piano riffs to create a very down-tempo opener; "State of Non-Return" soon brings in the first example of Cisneros' bass taking the charge; deep, heavy and hazy, it sits with his clear vocal style to generate a huge desire in the listener to nod his head along to the beat.
"Gethsemane" is a quasi-drone tune, working from spacey synth noises, a slow drumbeat and Cisneros' sparse vocals for a quite delicate collaboration of Western and Eastern drone music. "Sinai" is very indicative of Om's style - slow droning intro met with dissonant chanting before the low bass tones and cello join the party to provide impetus for the song's 10-minute length.
Unlike past Om albums which have grabbed me more instantly than "Advaitic Songs" has instead grown with each listen as extra dimensions in the already simplified production emerge to create a release greater than the sum of it's parts. Being essentially a drone, doom and world music album all in one you get a glorious wealth of styles come together in the addition of another string to Om's colourful bow.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net