Om

Pilgrimage (Southern Lord Records)

To think of a pilgrimage is to think of a progression, or even a procession—a steady, continuing path to somewhere over the horizon, even if it's a road to nowhere. Pilgrimage is a very apt title for the third effort by Om, the duo of Al Cisneros and Chris Haikus, who once formed the rhythm section of the band Sleep, but who have long since made their own specific mark. With a focused obsessiveness, Om taps into the sense of centuries-old mystery and murk that made Black Sabbath seem like a bolt from beyond then and now, Cisneros' keening wail now just as easily given over to murmuring, as he does on the title track. When in full rage—and armed with a killer title like "Unitive Knowledge of the Godhead"—that same sort of pinpoint aim is also evident, which is one key reason why Om not only succeeds, but stands out. Drummer Haikus and bassist Cisneros—guitars never have been part of Om's equation—relentlessly avoid the type of indulgence that punk rock originally claimed to hate, but with a totally different goal in mind, favoring simple-but-not-stupid mantras (the group's name has always been a clear statement of intent) that steadily unwind no matter the decibel level over three-chord thrash. Cisneros' lyrical standby of using involved theological and historical terms to help increase the air of invocation and mystery in its original sense doesn't fail him here either. Songs may subtly shift in tempo, but never in drive, as Om embraces evolving relentless flow, creating sludge rock like white-hot, raw lava endlessly pouring down a mountainside.

 
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