London experimental metal quartet Asian Death Crustacean release their debut album, Baikal, on 26th June 2020. The album combines their breadth of influences in extreme metal, post-rock, electronic/ambient music and jazz. Very impressive stuff – our review here.
Drummer James Kay writes for us about the impact of the San Francisco Metal band, Om.
I first came across Om back in 2008 when I was given their album Pilgrimage. That record has the stripped-down sound of their early to mid discography – just bass, drums and vocals – but straight away I got a sense of the band’s unique, mystical aesthetic. I played along to the album as a warm-up track for drum practice for years and saw them live supporting Sunn in a tiny venue in Birmingham in 2010, but the band didn’t fully click for me until the release of Advaitic Songs.
That album expanded the elements I’d heard on Pilgrimage into a much broader territory, keeping the partnership of bass and drums at its core but bringing in string arrangements, additional vocalists, sampled religious chants and more expansive compositional ideas. A big part of my love for Om, and Advaitic Songs especially, is the unique atmosphere evoked by their sound, lyrics and artwork, combining stoner/doom metal with an esoteric mixture of Abrahamic and Eastern spiritual themes. It’s a mix of elements which could easily come across as ridiculous but which Om pull off with a sense of sincerity and conviction which draws you deep into the incense-soaked world they’re painting.
Due to his work with Sleep, Al Cisneros (bass and vocals for Om) was already legendary within the stoner/doom metal scene, but through Om he’s created a whole new take on what this kind of music can evoke and explore, potentially drawing in people who might not otherwise have been intrigued by it. The aesthetic style the project has developed plays a significant part in setting it apart and helping you become immersed in its world.
From Pilgrimage onwards, Om’s albums have all featured Eastern Orthodox themed art depicting saints or angels, which complements the music perfectly with its simultaneous intensity and serenity. The overall effect achieved by the way Om have made music and art work together is something I’ve taken inspiration from when thinking about the choice of artwork for my own music.
My favourite of Om’s album covers would have to go to Advaitic Songs. Between hearing Pilgrimage and Advaitic Songs I’d been mostly into tech death, focusing on developing speed and intensity in my playing, but listening to the latter played a big part in making me want to combine extreme metal elements like blast beats with a broader set of ideas, bringing more groove and space into my drumming. Both of the drummers who’ve played with Om have a great ability to create a hypnotic feel which strikes the balance of being continuously engaging while maintaining a consistent atmosphere, judging the right intensity and frequency of ornaments and fills.
More generally, Om have pushed me in my compositional thinking towards allowing ideas to play out properly and ‘earn’ their payoffs, creating a more satisfying feeling of progression and development.For anyone wanting a few choice pieces by Om to check out, I’d recommend State Of Non Return, Gethsemane and Thebes.
Many thanks to James for sharing his thoughts on Om.
Listen to Asian Death Crustacean’s latest single Baikal Part II: