Song Premiere: Om, 'Gethsemane'

Jul 3, 2012

It's always an adventure to ask NPR Music's resident metalhead and "outer sound" maven, Lars Gotrich, for song recommendations. Sometimes, doing so can lead down a path of impossible listening — banshee wails over blast beats, recorded inside what appears to be a toilet tank — but it can also lead to awesome epiphanies like Darkest Era or Deafheaven. Both bands play wildly different strains of metal, both are amazing, and neither would have crossed my path without Lars' proselytizing.

One of Lars' latest obsessions is the brainchild of Al Cisneros, best known for his role in the epic compositions of the stoner-metal band Sleep. (When I say epic, consider that Sleep's last album, Dopesmoker, consists of one 63-minute song.) These days, Cisneros sings and plays bass in Om and, while it'd be a stretch to call it "metal," his emphasis on bludgeoning hypnotics hasn't waned. Here's Lars, writing about one of the five tracks on Om's forthcoming album, Advaitic Songs:

For almost a decade now, Om has wandered the more meditative realms of metal, with Al Cisneros intoning hypnotic chants and heavily distorted bass riffs over slightly swingin' drums. For fans of Cisneros' previous band, Sleep, Om was the spiritual next step after the much-delayed but now-classic stoner-metal saga, Dopesmoker. But after Om's original drummer left and Emil Amos stepped in, there was a transformation, ingesting the Grails multi-instrumentalist's Eastern proclivities and fraying its ties to doom metal.

At the center of Advaitic Songs' five-song suite, "Gethsemane" connects the ever-expanding dots of Om's sound. A tamboura pulses underneath Amos' crystal-clear, tightly snapped snare/hi-hat/kick-drum combo, begging to be sampled by a producer with a drawling Southern rapper. Cisneros goes distortion-less on his bass, letting the rhythm section pop like the very "drops of blood falling down to the ground" that Jesus wept at Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. As on the rest of Advaitic Songs, Giant Squid and Grayceon cellist Jackie Perez Gretz does the hefty melodic lifting, proving just as essential as the band's core membership.

While just one part of the whole, "Gethsemane" is representative of an album that seeks the Advaita — the identity of the Self and the Whole. If 2009's God Is Good was the journey, then the forthcoming Advaitic Songs is the enlightenment.

Advaitic Songs comes out July 24 on Drag City Records.

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