Music

Om: Pilgrimage

Rajkishen Narayanan

Om's third studio release, Pilgrimage, is one step further in the band's quest for musical enlightenment and doom metal glory.


Om

Pilgrimage

Label: Southern Lord
US Release Date: 2007-10-02
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The walls stand silently in a temple that’s been long forgotten. The night surrounding the ancient pillars of this place is pierced by the glow of a subtle fire in its pit. Pitched and swirling amid the smoke and haze of colossal statues is a ceaseless chanting. The source is a priest and a drummer. They are the flowing blood and the heart beat of the gods they wish to keep alive. When the music begins and burns, these musicians/artists/servants have no names, no identities. They are simply one word, Om. Outside of this aura, Om is Al Cisneros on bass and vocals and drummer Chris Haikus.

Om's history is as fittingly epic as their music. The band was formed from the break-up of Sleep, one of the most profound bands to ever step foot into the genre of stoner rock. I use the term "stoner rock" casually but don't cast Sleep or Om aside as a bunch of pot-smoking hippies plucking strings and banging pots in their garage. Their music has defined the genre of doom metal and Om is certainly expanding upon that theme. Om's third and most recent studio release, Pilgrimage, is a testament to how easily the music can coax you into a hypnotic sleep and then without a warning dunk your body into an icy cold reawakening. In the end, all you can do is keep your head above the water and get lost in the ocean of grooves.

The title track "Pilgrimage" is the opener for the album. It becomes clear after a matter of seconds that Om is all about creating an atmosphere. The bass line sounds like an ancient hymn composed from times when continents looked nothing like they do now. The soft entrance of bells and drums add to the scene of an abandoned temple. With such limited tools, the members of Om create a sound and a mood, which would falter otherwise. The quota of bass, drums, and rhythmic bells are essential to the spiritual context of their music. The soothing vocals on Pilgrimage are equally befitting their sound. On the first track they are soft and patient, adding a dimension of psychedelia to the song, but this is the subtle spell that is cast from the start of the album.

"Unitive Knowledge of the Godhead" is the second track and it is one of the major highlights of the album. It starts with a foreboding arrhythmic distorted bass. It can only be described as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse preparing their weapons and fixing on their unfeeling faces and stoic smiles. There is a soft bass line, which grows and grows and then the black, comet ridden clouds shear in half and the horsemen are loosed upon the earth. At that instant, the volume explodes and a gorgeously doomed riff cuts through the ominous air. It felt like I had just woken up in a land of gray, rainy desolation. I slowly turn around, trying to find the horizon and the sun. Then the bass and drums blast open the gates of heaven and hell and I stand facing the Four Horsemen, tall as mountains. My friend literally fell out of his chair when he heard this song. Still does.

Pligrimage is doom metal, and about half of the album has a dark undercurrent to it, but try listening to it while driving on the highway on a sunny day. It seems like the polar opposite of that whole darkened temple idea, and it really is. Like Pilgrimage, Om's previous album, Conference of the Birds also has an enlightening side to it. The third track illustrates this dichotomy well. It begins aggressively, with a loud bass line, Haikus' ceaseless drums, and Cisneros stoically repeating the same chant in the same intonations. It's like being in the thick of battle, and so the song is aptly named "Bhima's Theme", after the great warrior in Hindu mythology. With every bar the music gets seamlessly slower until finally everything stops…the flurry of arrows in the sky, the oncoming attackers, the beating drums…everything except for the endless flow of the bass guitar. We hear the vocals pierce the again silent temple. Soon, all that matters are the words of the priest. The lyrics are calling to a greater being, for redemption and ultimate knowledge as Cisneros drones. "Extol the solar rays / Arise, Consolidate on winds/ The Chariot". It's been something repeated throughout the entire song, but only within the two minutes of quiet can you really hear the meaning.

One major factor that helps Pilgrimage stand out from the rest of Om's albums is the quality of sound. If this was a deterrent for you in Om's previous work, give Pilgrimage a listen. Then re-listen to their other albums. Then do it all over again. It definitely takes some time to get into Om, but don't let impatience hinder you from experiencing the epic combination of peace and chaos that Al Cisneros and Chris Haikus convey through their music.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.