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So this is a good album to get stoned to. If you know about Om, you already knew that, though. This means you probably know about Sleep, and by extension the people in Sleep, those being Al Cisneros (bass vocals), Matt Pike (guitar), and Chris Hakius (drums). Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius are in Om, and you'd think because of Matt Pike's absence (he's in High on Fire, though) that Om might actually suck, but that is not the case. Sure, the guitar god is missing, but the bass demon and the drum hammer are still present, and it actually makes up for it. It's just them jamming and making bass and drum-only songs and it rocks. That combination really doesn't work that much (the only other band I can think of right now is Bell Witch) and it's just a testament to the extreme skill of Al and Chris. All of Om's material is good, but this album, Conference of the Birds, is definitely the best.
The first track, “At Giza”, aside from being my favorite Om track of all time, is the best track on this album. It starts off with Chris's steady drum beat, then has Al's vocals and his bass. A note about Al's vocals: reverb is applied liberally, but to good effect. Especially getting into the 4-5 minute mark, his vocals get really good as his bass and the drums settle into a nice little groove. The bass gets distorted for the last two minutes, which is okay, but I prefer his bass clean.
The second track, “Flight of the Eagle”, is heavily distorted, much like most of the songs on Variations on a Theme, their debut album. It's pretty good, and of course Al's vocals are good, the drums are great, and the bass is good, but there's something about it that doesn't measure up to the first track. It's a personal preference thing for me, though.
In closing, Conference of the Birds is an amazing album. It's Om's best album, a great album to get stoned to, and it totally lives up to the legend of Sleep. It drones on like the best Earth albums, but dare I say this is the best drone metal album out now.
Om are one of the best stoner doom acts ever, period.
Om are entirely made up of the rhythm section of legendary stoner doom band Sleep, meaning the band is made up of nothing but bass and drums. I can see some people clicking away from this review right now...well, don't leave just yet. The bass is fuzzed out to the point where the listener can barely tell the difference between the two instruments. Al truly knows how to play bass in a captivating way. To prove my point, I've literally had to go back and replace "guitar" with "bass" while describing the music of this album. Yeah, it's pretty fuzzed out.
My first review I ever wrote was on Om's first album, "Variations on a Theme", which I loved as well. Let me just say that this record is even better than that one. At the risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I will say now that "amazing" is the only word to describe this album.
There are only 2 tracks on this album, but the goodness of both of them make up for the lack of tracks. "At Giza" is the first track and, as opposed to "Variations", which was heavy pretty much all the way through, is a chilled out and blissed out track and is probably my personal favorite Om song. It's soft, calm, and the complete opposite of the almost droning hymns as seen on "Variations". Al's vocals in this song are lovely, chanting oh so blissful verses:
"And lighten pon day
The solarics raise
Falls upon the Ziggurat electron school
And reap upon field
The host moon fade away
Glides the aeronaut toward the objiect form"
As you can see, OM still incorporate confusing and spiritual lyrics which give off an optimistic aura. These are the perfect tunes to listen to on a breezy autumn night under the stars. Like this one.
The music continues in the same Floyd/King Crimson-esque vein for the next 13 minutes when suddenly, at 13:10, the band explodes into the feedback/fuzz that they are known for. That part is the best in my eyes. This continues for the next 2 minutes before the song ends. Simply cathartic.
The next song, "Flight of the Eagle", is more in the vein of the normal OM heaviness throughout its entire 18 minute duration. The lyrics remain just as strong while Al chants under a hypnotic looping bass riff. The vocals remind me a little of Electric Wizard here because of the fact that they are put farther in the mix, but this adds to the atmosphere of the song, giving off an echo which makes you feel as though the band are playing in an abandoned temple in India. The song remains heavy throughout it's duration, ending with droning guitar feedback.
This is my personal favorite album of Om and is doubtlessly the most optimistic and powerful. However, Om manages to keep their music optimistic and quite happy without straying into the mainstream area, which deserves a mention. My only minor qualm? The length. The band could've easily added another 10 minute song...still though, without a doubt, my favorite Om release.
Let me start this review off by saying that I can't stress enough how mind numbingly good this album is. I mean seriously, I have never in my life found myself listening to the same songs multiple times a day from any other band. Everytime I feel relaxed or just feel meditating I turn this album on and everytime is practically better than the last. I can feel myself drift from a state of a cluttered mind and a busy schedule to a mindset of complete comfort and vibration. It really is one of those things you have to just experience for yourself. Some people get it, some people don't.
The first song At Giza starts off with a ridiculously chill sounding bass and light cymmbal tapping. This is a perfect way to start off the album. It's almost like slowly drifting into the outerworld when you perform meditation. The real highlight of this song is the section towards the end. I have never in my life heard such a soothing and vibrant part in a song than this. Most people think weed is mandatory to feel the full effect of these guys but I'm here to tell you that you don't even need to be high for the music to send your mind into other realms. This section of the song is the perhaps the perfect example of this. The ending of the song as well is extremely "alive" and never fails to keep me bobbing my head in a trance induced state.
The second song Flight of the Eagle starts off right away and picks up right where At Giza left off. It's almost like these two songs were universally meant to be together. Right from the start of the song you can feel the exact same atmosphere and feel as where At Giza left off. The song is very long but never gets old even the slightest bit. Als droning yet soothing voice truly puts you in another world. The middle section is without question my favorite in the song. The rhythm and groove is simply unmatched by any other band. The end of the song ends perfectly repeating the first section and then ringing out at the conclusion.
In conclusion this album stands for me on a pedestal above all others. The feeling each song gives me is indescribable and never gets old or boring. I urge you to get your hands on this now, you won't be disappointed.
Up on high
Off black-lacquered Rickenbacker rolls
& on snare ‘n’ ride writhes
Sounds the tone
There’s no place like Om
There’s no place like Om
With words as air in graven gaps
And voice is the stone
There’s no place like Om
There’s no place like Om
“THEY DRINK IT IN THE CONGO”
A long, long, crazy time ago, back in the confusing brain-damaging stress-fuck year of 2008 I had a drugs, booze & painkillers assisted altercation in a bath with a broken Gillette blade and, disappointingly, came out on top. Where at the time it seemed like my entire brain was screaming to DO IT DO IT KILL KILL KILL SLASH GOUGE FUCKIN DIE BLAUGHWALGRAGHALLAU FUCK, in retrospect it seems that that couldn’t have been the case because some deep primal part of my mind was thinking different and managed to get me up and to drag myself to hospital, whereupon learning of my recent splashy-slashy-fun-tub-time the doctors decided to punt me over the road to another hospital, wonderful Whyteman’s Brae Mental Hospital. OH and indeed, NO.
However, in hindsight it’s both a good and bad thing that that tiny part of my tiny mind did drag me there, good because it probably came in handy when I was trying to convince the doctors that I had the self-awareness to decide that I was later A-OK and should be let out to rejoin horrible society. Bad because, well…
Everyone has a soft spot for people with learning difficulties right? Or crazy people, people with brain damage and the like. Even people who’ve drove themselves nuts with drugs, because can you really blame anyone who decides that for them, happiness is a dish best served Right-Fucking-Now-All-The-Fucking-Time, when you think that most of us are gonna wind up senile & fucked anyway, or who knows, hit by a bus tomorrow and severely mind-cooked.
Aye, it really could be any one of us at any moment people, so you’d have to be one cold hearted fuck not to be extra-civil to any of these types, have a quick chat with them when they start talking at you, give them a shake of the hand if they initiate one, flash a smile at whatever they’re saying, holding the friendly look in your eyes by brutal force, lest they detect a trace of doubt or confusion on your features, even if you don’t know what they’re goin on about in the slightest. Society expects this these days, and why not? You’d have to be a fuckin asshole not to at least spend the time & energy to act out this simple decency, right? Right? RIGHT?
Well then A Fucking Asshole I must be then because 6 days and nights spent sleeping in the same room as someone who gets up at multiple times in the early hours of each morning to brush his teeth and blast out the same grim side of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (HAH!) album over and over on horrible tiny portable speakers, living with people who openly tell you that they want to kill Bob Dylan because they went to one of his gigs once and he didn’t say hello, who babble crazily about how Jack Nicholson’s whole family are in this film, and she knows because she met them all somewhere and look, that’s his son, and look, that’s his daughter… yes the black girl… who helplessly freak out at super-tense family visits from their now cripplingly confused foster-cared children and make a horrible scene leaving everyone around, involved or otherwise, depressed and wondering how the fuck life is so shitty to allow things like this to happen, that kinda thing, followed by 2 months living in a scatter flat with a crazy can’t talk, has OCD and various special needs and gets incredibly agonizingly hurt if you don’t socialize every minute of the day…
Yes, dragging myself along to Whyteman’s Brae had a bad side because I realised that although in the eyes of the world I now probably am a cold-hearted fuck, I have no time to waste, or energy to spend whatsoever on crazy people and their crazy things anymore, which is why, nowadays, I only listen to Om; THE SANEST BAND IN THE WORLD.
That’s right, all I’ll say it again in a big gap in case anyone is scanning over this review and finds the first 600-or-so words really unnecessary and boring,
OM; THE SANEST BAND IN THE WORLD
I know what you’re thinking though, and I shall address your doubts thus;
Q: How can a band which only has 2 members, of which one is the singer/bassist and one is the drummer, be thought of as particularly sane? Surely that in itself is a pretty crazy set-up from the off?
A: Fuck off.
Nah, not really, the answer is Fuck off BECAUSE, if you really think about it, Om has a perfect line-up to achieve what they want, what all bands worth their salt want, which is Supreme-Life-Enhancing-Telepathic-Subconcious-Perpetual-Inspiration (SLETSPI) leading to Musical Awesomeness, and really wouldn’t the idea that a group of 4 or 5 people, usually who have met though random circumstances (like college, or growing up in the same area) hoping that somehow, their 4 or 5 disparate personalities and minds could gel and achieve something close to this Musical Awesomeness be pretty un-sane? ‘Course it would, it’s fuckin crackers.
Because for a whole group to achieve SLETSPI you would need all 4 or 5 members to suspend their ego and sense of self enough to reach simultaneous total-awareness of their communal thang. Most people won’t even be bothered to make the effort, but even if they are, and really, really want to achieve it, it’s still really, really hard. However, in Om’s case, it seems that they really, really have.
And so onto the background, while labouring my point a bit more. Om formed from the proverbial ashes of stoner-rock band Sleep, who had 4 members on their first album, which was OK, 3 members on their second album which was really good, and 3 members again but only one 60-minute song on their epic 3rd album Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, which is ridiculously righteous and amazing, although I can’t listen to it anymore because it’s also clearly barking-fucking-mad. Anyway, they disbanded after that album got rejected by the record company and nothing much was heard from bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius until 2005, when they formed Om and released their great and relentlessly sane first album Variations on a Theme.
This first album basically set the formula for the core of Om’s sound, 3 huge tracks with mega-righteous names like “On the Mountain at Dawn”, of epic distorted bass riffage and incredible sparse groove-drumming, setting the backdrop for Cisneros’ mantra-like vocals and lyrics, which now seem even further refined from the stripped back lyrical style of lyric introduced on Dopesmoker to an almost not-a-syllable-wasted new form of grammar bordering on pure meaning. Indeed, witness the song “Annapurna”’s grammatical mindbombs;
“The flight to freedom gradient raised the called ascendant,
And reach supreme the coalesced eye unto surrender,
Centripetal core of soul sojourn the field vibrates to absolution,
I climb toward the sun to breathe the universal”
These lines are pretty representative of Om’s whole thang, the words pulled right back to a kind of quasi-nonsense/hyper-sense, while the not-a-word-wasted approach is mirrored in every perfectly chosen bass note and drum hit.
They were on to something. Something good. And they knew it. Because something told them. Something told them they’re onto something good. But despite that, the opening seconds of their second album, the one I’m supposed to be reviewing, told us that something (but not THAT something) had changed.
Or maybe not, maybe it was there all along. But here was a different approach, a whole new dimension for the band’s sound, at first shockingly different, but soon unmistakeably Om. This is one of the few times I can remember being genuinely shocked at what came out of the speakers when I pushed play on my CD player. I mean, there have been bigger stylistic changes by bands that I love, and it’s not exactly Lou Reed going full-on noise with Metal Machine Music or Radiohead getting all Autechre on our asses with Kid A or the like. It’s not even Sporty Spice goes rent-a-punk to be honest (remember that?), but it was more of a shock maybe because of the relentless mono-riffage of Variations On A Theme, where it sounds like it’s never occurred to them that they could do anything even slightly different, and then all of a sudden along comes a magical little circular silver slab of a whole lot of different.
Conference Of The Birds opens with the fantastically titled supreme motherpump that is “AT GIZA” (capitalization is my own although it probably shouldn’t need to be), starting off with soft lush twinkly free-time cymbal hits and an ominous sounding drone as Big Al taps the back of his bass neck and the strings vibrate warmly and awesomely to create some brief illusion of stillness and/or no-time and just when you think its gonna end up bein some pissy pre-drone half-idea before they launch into “Still On The Mountain At Lunchtime” or “Kapila’s Got A Brand New Theme” or “Annapurnagain”, NO! Chris Hakius taps his foot gently on his hi-hat pedal TISS TISS TISS TISS, builds up into a totally unexpected snare-on-the-one kinda beat like they’re gonna kick into a mogadon-speed version of a Dave Clark Five song or somethin, still over the drone, before Ally Bally C plucks out a sparse riff on his newly clean-toned Ricky bass and intones gently into the mic, in a massive reverby whisper of a singing voice;
RISE AVIATOR SUN WILL FOLLOW
everything suddenly sounding super-epic and unmistakably Om in a totally new way, sending the listener huge waves of excitement and recognition and happiness and realisation like someone just told you 2+2=4 and you were like “oh shit, yeah, it does! Wow this explains a lot of stuff!” Yes, Musical Awesomeness just happened to you and don’t thank Om; they wouldn’t want you to, thank the King of your country, no wait, thank the invisible sky Gods, no wait, thank the Big Bang for exploding in such an exact manner that eventually human beings were created with secret un-seeable un-touchable un-tasteable Joy-rods in their hearts, minds, souls, balls and ears so that they could share these incredible secret ecstasies through the endless possibilities of SOUND. Yes, we’re about 40 seconds into AT GIZA and there’s a long fuckin way to go.
It’s a fuckin super-continent of a track, a massive journey of a track, an exodus, a mothefucking lifetime in song, continually stopping to rest, recuperate and build momentum in endless amazing verses and couplets, lurching onwards again and again, like an inevitable duty, like a BURDEN even, DESTINY, FATE, fuck! The song goes through all kinds of changes from the snare-on-the-one rhythmic pattern to a weird tom-beat Arabic sounding instrumental section, though to more recognisable slow stoner-y groovin, to the amazing middle journey where the bass slowly plucks 2 A notes FOREVER and the tension builds, right though to the final, unbelievable conclusion, feedback screaming in suddenly as the bass doubles up to instantly crush Al’s now wailing vocals and the rest of the track under super-heavy full-on distorted riffage, still with the same restrain in terms of notes but with an unbearable sense of release as the track shifts from it’s newly introduced second chord/root note back to A, C to A, over and over again in sheer joy as the musicians, listener and probably large parts of the universe thrash about it a wonderful feeling of RESOLUTION & fades out into silence, as if it could go on forever and ever for all fucking time like a righteous and sacred task handed down through the generations YES YES YES YES!!!!
After this earth-shattering life-bomb of Art for the Ages is done with you could be forgiven for wondering what the fuck could possibly come next? Well yup, Om fucked your mind so good with the genius re-twisting of their whole thang on AT GIZA, stuffing and toploading your memory with so many great and new and fantastical things to remember from only the immediate past that it probably feels like a long, inferior lifetime ago when you assumed what they’d do with album number 2 was More Of The Same, man. And so onto the monolithic FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE where it’s inevitably Variations On That Theme Again, only MORE SO.
After the beautiful slow fade-out of AT GIZA finally succumbs to gorgeous silence and you’re left reflecting on the sheer greatness of existence, you probably won’t even notice the little track number slipping gently from 1 to 2, but you will definitely notice Cisneros’ distorted bass pummelling your head with yet another devastatingly on-the-money 2 note E-riff before BRAKKA-DOODOM-BOODOM Hakius rolls up to usher in another relentless sermon from the hole in the collective unconscious that Al’s beat in with his forehead. The pace of this “Variation” works particularly well, with the riff almost seeming to take place in-between the massive gaps in Hakius’ unrelenting cymbal-bell hits. As with the first album’s epic opener On The Mountain At Dawn, Al’s singing about fields and suns again, this time in a manner that suggests he’s way past caring about this life other than in preparation for the next. He sounds fucked. But whereas the first album’s sun was merely “descending”, this one’s sun is “high above” and also “red”, hopefully indicating that he’s fast approaching whatever is on the other side of the wall he’s banging his head against, or at least getting a decent view of it through the hole.
The track shifts several gears after about 7 minutes and again they build the momentum up until Hakius’ drums almost fall over themselves as he rolls us into more 12th fret rifforama & another rhythmic rant from Al, here each line delivered in huge gaps between bass licks as Chris pounds away. A great moment happens around the 12 minute mark where Al accidentally hits a harmonic on his bass as he runs the riff down for another line, curiously at almost exactly the same point on the live release “Live At Jerusalem” as when someone in the crowd screams “YEEEAAAAAHHHHH!” ecstatically, his shout picked up by the stage microphone and echoed through the venue, as much a part of the music as anything Al & Chris are doing. Truly Om are a band where special things like this happen & listening to them drag FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE to it’s inevitably open-ended conclusion you’d have to be a total klutz not to think so.
33 and a half minutes, 2 storming epics, 1 genuine stone-cold-all-time-classic, at least 2 heads’ worth of supreme knowledge & answers, and of course like all the greats, at good few questions too. Where next for Om?
On Conference Of The Birds Om showed the true possibilities of what at first seemed a hopelessly restricting line-up. 2 men so in-tune with their instruments that really the only reasonable boundary is their imaginations, 2 men completely in-touch with, and respecting of, the limits of their instruments, 2 men deadly determined to take their respective sounds to wherever they can be taken, and by the sound of things 2 men who are happy in the knowledge that they have a very, very long time.
Of course, they are just 2 men, mere mortals despite what you might think from the God-like soupfuck of AT GIZA in particular, and it would prove to be an up-and-down path for Om from Conference Of The Birds through to the time of writing this review. As a big fan of their previous band Sleep, I’ve been lucky enough to be on the Om-float from their first album and certainly I would advise anyone unfamiliar with Om to start right at the start with Variations On A Theme, which for me is up there with anything else, ever, in terms of a sheer statement of intent. As I’ve said in this review, the band would soon take their sound to other places, some fantastic, some not quite hitting the mark for me personally, and there would be other disappointments along the way. But keep an open mind, take it in a little bit at a time and take everything in your stride as it comes. That’s what they told me in Whyteman’s anyway.
The additional notes suggest that 'Om' is the Hindu syllable known as the natural vibration of the universe, often used as a mantra (a rhythmic ritual word that Hindus use and repeat for a long time when getting in trance mental states). The most important factor about this description is the last three words, ‘trance mental states’ because that is exactly what Om have planned for it’s audience on their records, not to mention this one, ‘Conference Of The Birds’. The stoner genre is an interesting one. I suppose, like many other genres, it’s a mixed bag. Whilst you have some incredibly insane acts that manage to induce comas with dull and uninspiring long songs, acts like Om are intent on putting a different spin on the genre. There is a definite spiritual feeling to the album, especially in terms of vocals, which was pleasing because it added a new twist to the proceedings.
Bands like Om are rare bands. They produce a sound unlike any others, but stick to the rules of the genre they play within. The doom and stoner crossover is hardly new, but with bands like Om circulating, it will remain interesting for some time to come if their music remains as inspired as it is on this particular record. ‘Conference Of The Birds’ could be said to be simplistic. It’s a very controlled record that uses a minimal amount of techniques to produce it’s sound. For one, the bass is incredible. It’s a central figure in the conception of this acts main sound. The rhythmic sound of the bass is imperative to the soundscapes because it, along with certain repetitive riffs, creates a feeling of expectancy which further lulls the audience into false states.
It’s constantly plugging away, inducing trance like states on the audience, which is what the name of the band suggests it will do. The one surprise omission that will certainly shock, is the lack of guitars. I find this to be a brave and oddly inspired move. A guitar would change the texture of the music and on this particular record, it’s perfectly set up due to the solid song writing that goes on behind the scenes. Usually, the guitars on doom and stoner records are heavy, crushingly so, but Om use the bass for that, so guitars would feel unnecessary. The minimalist nature of Om's music may not appeal to everyone, but there is at least one element of the music which can at least be appreciated. If nothing else will, the atmosphere will, it's epic.
Both musicians have the ability to simply play off one another in a confident and commanding manner. It’s as if they’re completely alone in the world and have no audience in which to impress. They simply do what they want and it produces one hell of a sound. The central instruments, the bass and drums, aren’t always pivotal to the genres that are covered in this record. Doom relies heavily on low distorted guitars, whilst stoner, to me, is fixated on the work of both the guitars and the vocals. The vocals on this album are clean, which is important because if it were any other way, they would stand out and not in a positive way. The vocals are sung in such a way that they compliment the melodies that the bass produces. What this produces is fantastic soundscapes which knock the audience down and induce trance like states that hold the attention for the duration of both songs, which are fairly long.
The drums are just as important as the bass, don’t think any different. Whilst they may not command the attention as much, they do play a significant role in creating a stir of emotions. At times, they can appear to sound fairly tribal, which only further enhances that trance like state on the audienceThey may not be as crushing as the drums usually are during doom records, or even stoner records, but there subtle spiritual nature allows the sound created by the drums to weave in and out of the work that the bass produces, in a cocoon like manner. What this manages to achieve isn’t bound by words due to it’s immense stature. The music of this American act stands up to anything like it and squashes it with it’s massive bass lines and hypnotic vocals.
This record by Om is a strange one indeed. This is definitely the sort of album that completely disengages your brain when you're listening to, and thus makes reviewing extremely difficult. That's an definite compliment, however. This is trancey, spiritual music that transports you to another world, whether you like it or not. So I'm sorry if this review is a bit rambling and disjointed, but let that be a testimony to the goodness of this album.
When I got this record I didn't really know what to expect. I'd heard some Sleep and was fairly impressed, but I had no idea what to expect from this record. One thing that people need to realize is that this band is made out of a rhythm section, and that's exactly what it sounds like. There's absolutely no attempt to make the bass sound like a standard electric, no weird effects on the bass, no pitch shifting, no playing up the neck the whole time. Maybe it's just down to me being an idiot, but I was very surprised when I found this out. Oh well!
But it's vital for this kind of music that there is no playing up the neck or whatever. This is music that is very minimalistic and it couldn't really be any other way. The jams laid down here are incredibly sparse and hypnotic. The steady, undulating groove in At Giza is a real treat for the ears.. So minimalistic and hypnotic, repetitive but still always changing enough to keep you interested. The song drops down to a two note drone for a bit, and damn if that isn't the most perfect bit of music ever. The second song is also a classic, in more of a Sleep-style vein, a bit more distortion and big riffs but still very ritualistic and trance-like nonetheless. A possible weak point could be the vocals- droney monotone stuff isn't everyone's cup of tea- but I didn't find it terribly annoying or anything- they do help with the atmosphere of the music, but it's clear that Al is not the most gifted singer ever. Nonetheless, they aren't used too often, and I doubt people will hate them.
One thing you notice when you'll listen to this album is the absolute confidence that comes from Al and Chris. Their jamming skills, the way they play off each other, and the absolute command of their respective instruments is astounding. The effortless, totally natural distortion kick up in At Giza, the big riffs throughout Flight of the Eagle- sure, these guys aren't playing at 200 bpm, but they're completely in control of all of their instruments, the dynamics, the tones they extract- it seems to me that these guys can play as well as any technical metal band. It helps that they've been given a spacious, monolithic production job by Billy Anderson, with the drums in particular sounding excellent. The next album is being done by Steve Albini- a great producer who will have his work cut out trying to top this production job.
Yeah, this is a really good album, dare I say better then Dopesmoker, even? I can definitely see this band getting surprisingly big, as while most Sleep and Stoner Metal fans will enjoy this recording, I can see freak-folksters, ambient fans and probably a heap of indie dudes enjoying this record too. If you're in one those camps, I highly recommend you check this album out! It's basically got the same effect as getting really stoned.. But you won't find any weed that is this good for the price of a CD.
The second full-length album by the duo Om is a very self-assured and single-minded work that illustrates how great music can arise from a very basic set-up, in this case a bass guitarist (Al Cisneros) and a drummer (Chris Hakius) playing deceptively simple yet strong and melodic bass lines with crisp and precise drumming. Cisneros's singing is also simple in the technical sense: his vocal range may be limited and his voice is virtually empty of emotion, yet his near-monotone chanting, for we can call it that, is compelling and hypnotic in the way a shaman reciting a spell, a Buddhist monk in a temple chanting a long hymn and a muezzin calling Muslims to prayer from his lonely tower may be spell-binding just by the sheer drone-like quality of their voices in a religious setting.
There are just two songs on this album, "At Giza" and "Flight of the Eagle", each clocking in at over 15 minutes, and this fact in itself hints at the self-discipline needed and the musicians' complete understanding of and trust in each other's abilities as they are playing throughout with very few obvious breaks, no support musicians and few if any special effects to paper over any joins in the music. (I assume the guys did each song in one take.) Cisneros sings like a holy man possessed and well he might have been, at least when he wrote the lyrics as they have an obsessive quality and when you read them in the CD booklet, they read like instructions to perform an ancient ritual. In the case of "At Giza", the ritual is to transform oneself into a bird; "Flight of the Eagle" contains further instructions to continue and complete the rest of the ritual while in bird form. The chorus in this second song is like a response a congregation might make during a religious service to a priest's chanting.
At first clear and quiet, the music itself gradually builds up momentum and power until it reaches climax with the transformation of the worshipper into avian form and then proceeds with a deep doom metal strength (Cisneros starts using a fuzzed-up bass guitar at this point) and majesty all the way through the rest of the album. By necessity Cisneros assumes lead guitar duty particularly during the early half of the album when the music is at its most spare and simple. At one point the music holds together by just one shimmering cymbal cloud. Not long after, a short series of two repeating bass notes is all that can be heard and then a lone bass note seems to keep reverberating in clear space after it's actually ended. The music is so trance-like and mesmeric that you can't help but be drawn into it and the ritual itself - and you become the subject of the transformation from human to bird.
As the two songs are different from each other - the first is more hard rock at its most minimal and has a careful and moody build-up, the second song is powerful doom metal - I hesitate to say which is "better" (as though reviewing was some kind of competition where you have to play the ever-odious Simon Cowell role) but my personal liking is for the second song "Flight of the Eagle" as it features some sublime instrumental passages although it has a really hard act to follow where the lyrics and concept of the album are concerned. That bass-playing dude might look nerdy in Om's photo on www.metal-archives.com but when set loose on those four strings, why, he becomes the equivalent of Clark Kent changed into all his Superman power and glory.
Anyone who needs reminding that doom metal basically boils down to the force, intensity and grandeur of the deep end of the music scale should listen to this album and be transformed into a true follower of the Tao of Doom! This is music of total conviction!
Okay, I'll admit one little thing. I pirated a leaked copy of this album before it came out. That's how desperate I was for new Om, but on release day I bought the album for myself, so please, don't bitch me out for downloading some of the greatest music ever.
On with the proper review..
Om. If you say that word enough, it starts to sound like a religious exercise. Om, om, om, om.. if drawn out long enough, it can shake your skull, rattling and vibrating each sector, comfortably transforming into a submissive technique used for meditation. As with 'Conference', Om have taken this ancient technique and revitalized it, breathing new life into it in the form of music, crafting a fine piece of tranquility, meditation, and psychedelia in one beautiful, bird-laden package.
With 'Variations', the album introduced itself with a blast of ear-splitting feedback, and a powerful bass line, slowly transforming into a trance-inducing psuedo-groove, taking every aspect of rock and metal and advancing on it, except on a primitive, stripped-down level. Anything you knew of music (unless of course, you're used to the likes of Earth, Boris, the Melvins, or more obviously, Sleep) was be tossed out the window carelessly, because with Om, music is a religious and spiritual affair.
But now with 'Conference', Om open with a quiet fade in of oriental-esque drumming, with a quiet, clean bass line eventually finding its way into the mix. As opposed to the balls-out aggression of "On the Mountain at Dawn", "At Giza" is a laid-back trip, almost like a real good mushroom trip without the OEV's, one that takes your mind to pleasent planes of euphoria and well-being.
"Flight of the Eagle" is more of what we're used to, with Al's gigantic fuzzed-out bass tone muscling it's way through the mix, working with Chris's impeccable drumming in a sense of holy matrimony. A powerful marching styling, with the first and last beats being the first thing one notices, until one notices nearly three different drum patterns being played at once. A hypnotic, driving piece, one can't feel like drifting off into a trance-like state, as the sinewaves and sub-bass gently wash over you, covering you in a blanket of meditation and mind-preservation/exploration.
Unlike the previous album, 'Conference' has a much better production. The bass isn't buzzy, and the drums are loud and clear. The songs are well thought out and structured nicely, with an almost planned-jam feel.
A great new release from Om, now just to get a hold of the two new splits and the Japanese issue..