If one is looking to absolutely destroy the speakers in a stereo or headphones while zoning out to atmospheric and brilliant music, then look no further than OM. Formed in 2003 by Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius, following the break-up for their previous outfit Sleep, the duo kept it simple. It was just the two of them and their talents, dishing out a wall of noise and spiritual lyrics that entrance the listener into a heavy, yet meditative, state. In the beginning, there were only 4 elements in the OM mix – heavy bass, haunting lyrical phrases, hypnotic drums, and the listener’s own imagination. But if you fast forward through the band’s discography, you’ll instantly notice a forward evolution to their sound that gradually incorporated more and more musical bits, just to keep it interesting. Come the arrival of 2008, original drummer Hakius would depart the group, making way for Emil Amos (Grails) to occupy the drum throne, and thus began the more intense appearances of musical shifts, with the focus on setting a mood rather than deafening the listener. Amos’ first appearance with OM, the single “Gebel Barkel,” was still the bare bones approach that OM fans recognized, but with a much different flavor on the drums, and simply a great first step in the right direction.
“It’s a part of the form of a natural evolution,” says founding bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros via telephone, just prior to OM heading out to Europe for a one week string of dates. “It’s simply a reflection of where you are in the path of your life and you would hope that evolves. But it’s always secondary to the primary work of the path, ya know?” The latest step of OM’s evolution is “Advaitic Songs,” their 5th full-length release, which sees the addition of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (currently of the band Lichens, who also made appearances on OM’s fourth album, “God is Good”). OM’s latest is jammed with intricate musical passages to keep the listener entertained from all angles, as well as female chanting to compliment the deep mantra-like vocal tones of Cisneros. But how would they replicate this live? “Well, we’re trying to coordinate some concerts where we can have all the musicians that played on it play live, but for now, for budget reasons, we can’t have every musician go on tour with us,” says Cisneros. But not to leave the fans awaiting disappointment, he adds “The three of us are happy with the renditions that we are bringing to the stage.”
With the band’s progression to this point, from monolithic bass-heavy mantras to atmospheric and spiritual passages, there’s bound to be a few disappointments here and there, but Cisneros doesn’t seem fazed by this and simply says “I think over time, through your discography, your audience reflects and acclimates. There’s fewer and fewer people that come to OM shows expecting to bang their heads and hear Sleep. But that happened over 5 albums. Occasionally there’s a person that yells for Sleep stuff at the OM shows, but whatever.”
Prior to this album though, OM’s live appearances were few and far between, especially in North America. Now that “Advaitic Songs” is released, fans can be assured that OM will make an appearance as near to them as possible. “We just are working now towards a lot of touring on the new album,” Cisneros reveals. “We put a significant, greater amount of time into this recording, compared to some of our previous albums. We want to support it accordingly.” Still, it seems like a string of US tour dates are long overdue. As Cisneros explains, “We would have already done our US shows if Emil hadn’t been in the skateboard accident.” The accident he is referring to resulted in sidelining the band while Amos nursed a broken arm. Disappointing as it is to the band, their main focus was on the healing process above all else. “We were just concerned that his arm would be ok. Of course, the sooner the better, so you can get back on the road. It was unexpected, but we just dealt with it. We’re happy that the mobility in his arm is ok, and everything’s good.” After a brief pause, Cisneros pipes up and adds in “No more fucking skateboarding! Last practice, I was like ‘Dude, let’s get rid of them.’”
European fans should be assured that with Amos’ arm back to its prime condition, and the band ready to head out in support of their new album, they will certainly be in for a great musical experience that will surely not disappoint. After all, you heard it here, straight from the horse’s mouth, that the band surely won’t skimp on dishing out what they are well-known for. Prepare for the aural onslaught that is OM.
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