Mystery-shrouded Aum explore spiritual terrain, life and death on hypnotic debut ‘Om Ah Hum…’

AumMixing the fury of death metal with more spiritual and intellectual themes is not totally a foreign concept. It’s been done before, though it’s kind of a rarity in these parts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t expect to mix utter brutality with themes that demand more from your brain, and when done right, it can be a stimulating version of this extreme art form.

We turn toward French mystery Aum for more on this idea, as the music and themes on their debut “Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum,” which is basically a Buddhist chant that roughly translates to “I invoke you, Vajra Guru, Padmasambhava, by your blessing may you grant us ordinary and supreme realization,” pushes spiritual boundaries. Digging into the mysteries and rituals of Buddhism is at the center here, and I don’t claim to have enough knowledge of this terrain to explain any further, but it doesn’t take much time with the music to fall under its power. The record itself is a journey to understand the experience of life through death on both physical and astral planes, and while the content may go over some heads, the basic understanding can be had. On the crudest level, it’s spacious, blackened death metal that stretches you mind and body, and when this nameless, faceless entity is done with you, you’re bound to be exhausted with all that you’ve just encountered.

Aum cover“Moksha” begins the record, ripping away at your senses with clubbing madness and guttural growls. The track feels like it’s doling out violence, but then we head into chant-like throat warbling that seems to indicate another agenda. Doom slips into the room as banshee wails are unleashed, the tempo grinds and chugs, and another round of chants brings the song to an end. “Patisandhi” is gritty and lurching, with growls bubbling to the surface and the guitars boiling and giving off heat. The tempo switches back and forth between aggressive and calm, with the final moments dressed in bells ringing and whispered words. “Dattatreya” leads off with a strong, burly riff, moving into creaking growls and, eventually, the song tearing open. From there, the sound is pure demolition, with the music splattering and more monstrous growls surfacing. “Dukkha” also starts with chants before the brutality kicks in. Grim growls meet up with a mind-altering pace that mixes in with the heavy sludge. The leads burn while the tempo grinds, and toward the end, murky, weird synth rolls in as the whole thing slows down and bleeds away.

“Brahmastra” is a wrecker right away, hammering and unleashing infernal growls that are nasty and smashing. The soloing goes off as the beastly assault leads to another eruption of power and chants that would chill your brain cells. “Hemvati” lets the chants spill over as riffs swirl in the air, speed arrives, and the growls seem like they’re spat out. The song jerks to an abrupt halt, making you think it has ended prematurely, but then it flows back in, lets the blackness unfurl, and slithers away hypnotically. Closer “Vipashyana” begins with Sabbath-style doom sinew before opening up into the track’s main chambers, where ugly riffs and charred sentiments await. The growls get deeper and muddier, while the track hulks along slowly, the drums crush everything, and eerie soundscape bring the record to its end.

You’re going to feel physically and mentally challenged at the end of “Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum,” but that’s a good thing. Aum keep you invested and working throughout these seven songs, and their ultimate destination should be a place of higher understanding both for them and you. If you just want to immerse yourself in cavernous death metal, that’s also acceptable. But those who push beyond that ultimately are going to be the ones who gain the most from this record.

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