Company: Southern Lord Records Release: 2007 Genre: Doom, drone Reviewer: Etiam
By striving to be somber they fail to be interesting
Drone and doom are two genres that have long carried the torch for minimalism in metal, a genre often characterized by its chronic lack of restraint. The cleverly titled Om is one such act. Since splitting from the influential sludge/stoner act Sleep, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros and former drummer Chris Hakius formed this introspective duo that is far removed from their rollicking days of yore. 'Pilgrimage', their third LP, continues to explore themes of repetition and structural economy. (Since this recording, Chris has left the band and been replaced by Emil Amos of Grails.)
The instrumentation is refreshingly sparse, consisting of percussion with plenty of air and reverb, drop-tuned bass, and one voice. The vocals and bass are low enough that they could be shifted up an octave or two and still sound fitting for sludge metal. Still, this is not sub-aural noise; these tempos are fast enough to nod to, but not quite fast enough to be infectious. 'Chant' is a word often used to describe Al's vocals, and it is technically true: monotonous, ritualistic declamation. But his voice is a little reedy, his demeanor understated, and the result sounds less momentous in actuality than "chant" would suggest.
And that's the problem, in that all of 'Pilgrimage' is less momentous than it is made out to be. 'Pilgrimage' just ends up sounding incomplete, like a sketch of ideas that rarely gels. A better take on minimalist sludge would be UFOmammut, who can turn single note riffs into ghastly behemoths that quake brains from stem to cerebellum. To be fair, Om are going for a much more introspective and even peaceful state of mind--quasi-religious instead of psychedelic--but by striving to be somber they fail to be interesting. Om is a respectable and professional outfit with credibility to spare, so one cannot write them off based on this questionable exploration. Besides, 'Pilgrimage' does have some quality passages that hint at what this form has to offer. Hopefully Om will break through this phase of minor mysticism, or at least perfect it, and produce more substantive material.
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