on 12 November 2012
Om is one of the simplest and yet most intriguing bands out there. Created by the rythm section of the Doom Metal band Sleep, Om are consisted of only bass guitars, percussion and vocals. Pilgrimage is what I find to be their best cd.
The four tracks are part of a single piece, that has been divided into these 4 "chapters" to make our lives easier. Everything starts and ends with the tune of "Pilgrimage". Unified Knowledge of the Godhead is actually my favorite Om song. Bhimas Theme is great as well.
If you like Doom and Om, this is their best album yet, not that the others are bad, but this is clearly a masterpiece.
on 26 April 2009
To me, Om have sounded similar throughout their career. Despite being a relatively new band to the doom/stoner hybrid scene, having established themselves under Southern Lord since 2003, Om have built a tremendous fan base and repertoire of records based around this similar sound from day one, though the production has suitably altered to fulfill the needs of the average fan who is definitely a fan of clear soundscapes. It probably comes as no surprise, since Om have released all three of their records within a close time period, the first coming out in 2005 and the latest in 2007. `Conference Of The Birds', which was actually my first taste of this band, is the only source of material I've covered by this American band and considering its similar approach to the slowly developed crossover genre, this makes `Pilgrimage' difficult to review. Its minimalist style isn't particularly pleasing in this sense, since there isn't much content for me to pick out and review. Reviewing Om is like reviewing the well established drone act, Nadja. It isn't as much about the instrumentation, or levels of experimentation but, instead, its more about the conjuration of emotions and imagery that allow the record to become memorable in any sense. A lot of bands can be reviewed as they are - bands that play a certain musical style, but not Om. This isn't music, this is a lifestyle. A religious and spiritual journey that will test your soul of its purity. Whether the bands members themselves are religious is not known, though the lyrics seem to suggest they are, since the concepts follow spiritual patterns. I don't consider Om a life changing experience, like getting heavily involved in religion would be, but they're certainly different enough to cause a lot of thought provoking sounds within their capable, yet limited approach.
The base of this record, like all the other Om records, is merely formed on astral vibrations that conjure up some of the most fascinating imagery you're ever likely to hear from any doom/stoner hybrid. To me, there is more stoner than doom involved, but it doesn't detract from the essential divinity of the records special feel. `Pilgrimage' is defined as; "a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion" or "any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage." There are a lot of key words used in the lyrics that describe the sound of Om particularly well. Words like "celestial", which is defined as "pertaining to the spiritual or invisible heaven; heavenly; divine: celestial bliss." Words like this aptly portray the astral sense of soundscapes that slowly become the true nature of Om. The slow turning songs, which highlight the performances of the bass, guitars and poignant vocals, are essentially minimalistic and seethe beneath the surface, where the battle is raging. There is an odd sense of spirituality throughout the record, which is particularly displayed in the vocals, which are clean and portrayed in a chanting method - slow and repetitive in sound. Though they're not actually chants, they manage to feel like it with their surreal touch. The vocals slowly scatter themselves and the emotions that are visibly displayed in them over the instrumentation and soundscapes like a thick coating of dust. The dust is only ever swept away by the splendiferous soundscapes, which subtly divulge from the normal sound into an intoxicating drug trip of epic proportions. The psychedelic proceedings, although soothing, are inevitably dull after long and sustained periods of time. I appreciation the depth in emotion, yes, but this is a experience saved only for times when you're feeling a certain nostalgic, or reflective way.
I'd imagine this sort of music would be effective as a method of relieving writers block, or inspiring creativity, as long as you're not writing about it directly. The soundscapes swirl and twirl along a similar path throughout and, like most other Om records, they're diverse without being instrumentally brilliant or outstanding in any sense. Om work within their own limitations and they do it well, forcing their sound through the thick layers of bass and vibrations. The tribal undertones to this record remind me of Tool, particularly on `Lateralus', which consists of a similar percussion driven tribal feel. There is a truly hypnotic feel to the music, which is mostly drawn out by the influential percussion section, much like Tool do. Having said that, Tool certainly have more to their game than Om, though I imagine this is exactly how Om want their music to sound. It suits their personalities, but is definitely an acquired taste. Though I don't consider the percussion to be essential to the sound of Om, like all other aspects of the instrumentation, it is included simply for its mesmerising and imagery inducing touch. Not all of the instrumentation is presented so kindly. There is a heavy feel to the incredible distortion of the guitars. There is some experimentation undertaken in the songs, take `Bhima's Theme' as an example of that. It begins typically hardened, then eventually flows out like the tributaries of the rivers bend due to the high increase of slow instrumentation. The percussion is omitted, leaving its harsh texture behind and the bass takes its foot of the gas. In doing so, Om show that they are capable of achieving different tones and textures with their play, but that they'd rather save those as if they were the ultimate highs of a drug experience. As soon as the song slows down, it begins to build and build towards the obvious crescendo. However, there is a disappointing factor ahead as Om always seem to manage to end without a bang. There is an anti-climatic feel to their records that just doesn't sit well with me. Good, but not great.
on 22 January 2008
I saw Om play not two months ago at the Portishead curated Nightmare Before Christmas; All Tomorrow's Parties Festival. They were one of the bands I was really excited about seeing; to witness that awesome bass tone in a live setting. Seeing them perform made me realise how good they really are and how what they're doing at the moment is such a departure to anything else. Aside from seeing Portishead play live for the first time in 10 years, Om pretty much blew everyone else away. The fact that they were pretty sloppy, didn't really end a song properly; just stopped playing when it felt right and Al Cisneros' voice is definitely a weak point really says something about their performance.
That bass sound; Chris Hakius' awesome drumming talents; those massive riffs..... it was something to behold. This is why I was so disappointed with Pilgrimage.
The two preceeding albums were amazing and completely consistent. At Giza from Conference of the Birds is monumental and suggested at a cleaner & purer Om sound in the future. On Pilgrimage this sound is developed further; At Giza finally erupted in the usual wave of distortion and was an utterly cathartic experience. However, the opening title track stays mellow for it's duration. Whilst being pleasant it does feel lacking in the essence of why we listen to Om in the first place. Like if John Garcia from Kyuss started playing guitar instead of singing. Pilgrimage fades out after almost 11mins and reprises for another 4 as the final track fades out again; essentially going nowhere and suggesting Om could have dragged it out for hours.
However, when Al's massive bass tone finally appears on `Unitive Knowledge of the Godhead' it makes it all the more powerful after waiting 11 mins!
Steve Albini has most effectively captured Om's live sound on this record too. There is a lot more range in the production on here compared to the low-end-preffering Billy Anderson produced albums prior. After the initial joy, this second track never really hits the usual Om mark. Sure it's similar but it hasn't got any really memorable parts and at 5 1/2 mins it fades out without much recognition.
Bhima's Theme on the other hand is another Om classic and is pretty much worth buying the album for. It has some brilliant riffs in it, especially the breakdown section after the verses.
Another point why this record isn't catching me as much as the first two is Al's hypnotic vocals are much further back in the mix than before. This detracts from ther overall enjoyment I think because the lyrics; however bizarre they are, are an essential factor to enjoying and understanding Om. Whilst being peculiar, they're also usually pretty catchy but they're drowned underneath that massive bass tone.
It is a good record, just not up to par with the first two I'm afraid. Too inconsistent, and like the first two; too short! Another track of Bhima's Theme quality could have made this another sure fire winner.