Once upon a time, man was blind. He saw not the walls that threatened to enclose him, and Montréalers were not immune to this malaise. And then, with one swift strike that lifted this veil of mediocrity, OM came to town. Now, foolish mortal as you are, you might ask: who is OM? Or what is OM? OM is a centrality. OM is the omniscient voice. OM is the tangential gem of one of the best stoner metal bands ever.
Al Cisneros first came together with fellow Sleep member Chris Hakius to form OM back in 2003. The project quickly established itself, and in 2009 Emil Amos replaced Hakius on drums and Robert Lowe joined on guitar last year. Focusing on spirituality and religious mysteries, the band has grown better with every album; their fifth, Advaitic Songs, was released last July to great critical success.
Montreal’s show was begun by local duo Maica Mia, a part post-rock, part experimental pop band that I had caught a few times before. The combination of Maica’s strong vocals and Johnny’s unique drum beats resulted in an enjoyable set overall. They were followed by Daniel Higgs, a folk banjoist/ancestral preacher from Baltimore. I’d be lying if I say I knew how many songs he performed, since he kept playing each round as long as he could without having to pause for water or tuning. He was relaxed, improvising and possibly composing songs all night long, occasionally nodding at his brother that he introduced a few times to us. In his own way, he was quite enjoyable — Higgs Boson joke and all.
Lucky that I was, I was standing right next to the speakers when OM took the stage and as soon as Cisneros struck his bass, I was literally pushed back by the resulting wall of sound. Two minutes into the set and the crowd witnessed him playing in a trance-like state with eyes closed, and we could only stand in awe of the great rhythm he and the rest of the band exhibited. Lowe was another noteworthy performer, moving tirelessly with each song and changing instruments regularly. They played mostly from their most recent album, but also included a few older songs alongside a smattering of unreleased material. The whole set flowed so smoothly that at one point, when the two vocalists were in a duet, everyone’s head went from one side of the stage to another until we were all in a “State of No return”.
All in all, it was a brilliant show and the band members were so immersed in what they were playing that I found myself asking Lowe later how challenging it must be to do this each day on tour. All he did was smile and say, “Well, I sometimes ask myself”. With that in memory, I was returned to the land of petty men, with assignments and tests, to await until next week, when another tangential from Sleep, High on Fire, would be in town.
– Bimo Niraula