Metal at its most transcendent: OM plays tonight at Gabe’s

Video still via Mathias Nielsen
OM plays music that is both musically and spiritually transcendent while still being undeniably metal. — Video still via Mathias Nielsen

OM w. Watter

Gabe’s — Thursday, OCt. 25 at 8 p.m.

Tonight’s OM show at Gabe’s is a chance to see just how far a metal act can evolve while still being completely true to the genre.

OM was started by members of legendary metal band Sleep, who are famous for recording Dopesmoker, arguably the best doom metal album of all time. The only track on the album is an hour-long song consisting of a single riff, the subject of which seems to be a group of exiled weed-smoking mystics searching for the marijuana promised land … or something.

This alone should be enough to interest any self-respecting metalhead, but the things that make OM interesting don’t require a scar from carving “Slayer” into your arm to appreciate.

On the one hand, one hesitates to call OM a metal band. Over the years the band’s music has grown softer and more contemplative (yeah, somehow that was actually possible). They have begun to experiment with musical styles from India and the Middle East and the range of instruments on any given recording is well outside the scope of most conventional metal recordings.

Yet not characterizing OM as a metal seems somewhat disingenuous. Some of the most interesting and challenging music being made today is being made by metal bands like SunnO))), Earth and Deafheaven, among others. OM fits comfortably among these metal acts by refusing to be limited by the conventions of the genre that spawned them.

The band is given to a sometimes bewildering combination of thematic and stylistic influences. The covers of their last three albums featured Eastern Orthodox Christian icons while the song titles betray a deep interest in Hindu and Islamic mysticism.

The lyrics of most OM songs are filled with obscure mystical ramblings that are only slightly less silly than Sleep’s. That doesn’t actually matter though. It’s not as though the silly and the sublime are necessarily mutually exclusive. Many moving works of art are deeply silly when approached with an unsympathetic mindset and OM’s music is the same way.

The band’s music clearly comes from a place of contemplation; contemplation of the music itself as well as the timeless themes that have inspired mystics of all cultures throughout history. What might appear repetitious or even boring is necessary. The endless repetition of the same themes with only slight variations is an ancient method of bringing about a state of trance, and this seems to be precisely what OM is trying to induce with their music. An altered state.

This is the sort of thing that requires patience and openness. OM is going on a journey and they would like the audience to come along. This is difficult music and it requires some effort on the part of the concert-goer. However, if the effort is put in, it gives back exponentially.

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