If the name Al Cisneros doesn't ring an immediate bell, his impressive résumé no doubt will. In addition to fronting the godliest (and highest) of all stoner metal bands Sleep, Cisneros has gained even more popularity fronting the offshoot stoner/drone rock band Om, as well as appearing in the recent doom metal supergroup Shrinebuilder. If none of that seems impressive to you, just know that Cisneros is one of the most respected people in drone/doom as a genre; when he composes, it's a pretty big fucking deal.
As if to prove the man just cannot rest at all, his recent single Ark Procession comes on the heels of Om's sublime Advaitic Songs, released just last year, as well as a series of remix dubplates from the album courtesy of Alpha & Omega, released in the past few months. This gives some frame of reference with which to analyze Ark Procession, which seems to be much more restrained and toned down than his recent endeavors. Completely instrumental and lacking any embellishment, the two tracks (the titular A-side and "Jericho") reduce the hypnotic drones of Om to their purest and barest, packing all of the reverence into as small as space as possible. Though the two seven-and-a-half minute pieces don't have much in the way of development, they don't seem to lose power either, remaining at a constant level of intensity and movement throughout, heavily reminiscent of Conference of the Birds. Instead of relying on manipulative progressions, the songs gain power from their steadfast refusal to build anywhere, creating a musical tension truly deserving of the phrase.
The only real downside to this release is that the songs aren't that impressive by Cisneros' standards. Though they're undoubtedly quality tracks, they sound like the kind of thing he (comparatively) could've strung out in an afternoon, especially alongside his legendary releases like Dopesmoker and Pilgrimage. Maybe it's unfair to judge someone in the shadow of his earlier releases, but there's no denying Cisneros has some musical baggage going into this single, and the unfortunate truth is that he just doesn't deliver what we've come to expect he's capable of.
Again, it's not a bad release--Cisneros is a fine musician, and I suspect he couldn't release a bad album if he tried--but anyone familiar with his work will find Ark Procession to be underwhelming. Only the most green stoner rock fans will be able to appreciate Ark Procession as divorced from the rest of his impressive catalogue, and only the most read and dedicated of his fans will be able to enjoy it unconditionally. Those of us in the middle are doomed to smile and nod politely, then move along.
Recommended if you like: any of Cisneros' other projects
5.5 / 10
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