Variations on a Theme

Variations on a Theme's cover and type font hint at jazz austerity. Play the sucker, though, and you're submerged in sludgy mantras, as though wallowing in tar pits while zonked on Gaia's strongest herb. You'll want to listen while clutching the Oxford Unabridged, to look up every other word vocalist Al Cisneros intones like a baked Ozzy, and possibly for ballast amid his earth-moving bass lines. While most metal artists align themselves with forces of darkness like Beelzebub or H.P. Lovecraft, the real mavericks espouse devout religiosity, just like Om (former Sleep bassist Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius). If these guys don't Rock for Light, they at least strive toward a cryptic sort of enlightenment and spirituality. Cisneros carves monumental, undulating bass riffs out of obsidian that'll inspire hip-grinding with your primary lust object as Hakius maintains steady cymbal taps, stoner-funk beats, and stray ratatat fills. Little changes during Variations' 45 minutes, but the disc does capture the satisfying inexorability of viewing a landslide in slow motion, with much arcane verbiage to boot.

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