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Hello Down There

The Rapture of Om

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Two scuzzy doom guys critique a list of bands playing this year's MusicfestNW. Upon spotting Om, whose bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros fronted Sleep, the quintessential stoner-metal group of the 1990s, one character groans an odd, lazy "disastrous" to the other.

It's one of a few seemingly off moments in an animated spot that publicizes the festival's acknowledgment of metal music while lampooning metal culture. But had the advertising agency that made the commercial already heard Om's forthcoming God Is Good album on Drag City—not Southern Lord, which released 2007's soft/loud Pilgrimage—the caricature's dis would make perfect sense. On its fourth LP, Om pursues "more meaningful things," explains new drummer Emil Amos (also of Grails and Holy Sons).

"It's leaving behind a lot of those obsessions with darkness. Because really, is Om a doom band?" he asks. On "Meditation Is the Practice of Death," where the reward for braving the always-steep Om incline—not the least bit rocky—is a guest flautist's breeze, the answer is no. The two-part "Cremation Ghat" attains similar peace. Droning tamboura, hand claps, comfortable drumming—no distortion, no doom.

Amos, who lives in Portland, joined the California-based duo when Chris Hakius—Cisneros' rhythm-section partner since his pre-Sleep band Asbestosdeath—left amicably in January 2008. Says Amos, "The way Chris and Al saw music was more of a parallel language to a spiritual progression, and that made a lot of sense to me." He fondly recalls "heated discussions" on Grails' tours with Om. To them, bass and drum fills were like confessions. "What you decided to play to them would mean something about who you are—your spiritual education."

As for today's naysayers, be they animated or simply bored?

"When people put the Om record on and they're like, 'Oh, not heavy enough,' we're just going to go, 'Yes, exactly.'"

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