The Ocean


Written by: AP on 15/09/2013 12:39:44

If Richard Dawkins listened to metal, then The Ocean probably rank among his favorite bands. Propelled by the wits and song-writing prowess of the outspoken Robin Staps, this Berlin born quintet's conceptual framework has always been one of fiery atheism and the advancement of Darwin's theory of evolution, culminating in a fundamental and philosophical critique of Christianity on the band's 2010 double LP "Heliocentric" / "Anthropocentric". Ideas of such scale naturally require an equally grandiose instrumental backdrop, and this, The Ocean have never failed to deliver. Certainly not on this latest opus "Pelagial", either.

But "Pelagial" does not concern itself with religious topics. As its title suggests, the album adheres to a two-dimensional concept, the track titles referencing, in descending order, the oceanic depth zones. On the literal level, the album is to be experienced as a physical journey from the surface to the lowest depth zone, with the songs growing progressively darker and more claustrophobic to mimic the diminishing light and increasing atmospheric pressure. On an allegorical level, the seven ocean layers are to be interpreted as a metaphysical journey into the inner depths of the psyche, with Staps describing "Pelagial" as a "movement towards the essence and origins of our desires, wishes, dreams, and all the... attributes inside of our own inner selves that generate and shape them. And, because "Pelagial" was originally envisioned as an instrumental album (it is available in that form as well), the thematic essence exists first and foremost in the musicianship, with the lyrics almost an afterthought. Indeed, some critics have pointed out a clear disconnect between the music and vocalist Loïc Rosetti's contributions to it. But while Rosetti's phrasing is, at times, a little too literal and prosaic, his capabilities as a singer alone are enough to warrant his inclusion on the record. His passion is evocative, his delivery powerful; affording even more conviction to the idealistic universe of the album, and weight to its monolithic soundscape.

The full merits of infusing Rosetti's stunning vocal abilities to "Pelagial" are disclosed early with the magnificent "Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny", an inspired, multi-faceted composition with a typically strong rhythmic foundation complete with ambitious string arrangements; and again on the standout "Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams", the hair-raising roar of "I wanted to shape and change them, but it's they who've changed me. I wanted to get on top of them, but they wouldn't let me" in its chorus presenting itself as one of the most chilling moments on the record. Descending into ever greater depths, "Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts" grinds through brooding dirge into a stunning violin lead quietus seguing into the almost balladic "Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety", which, as its title suggests, veils the listener in a lonely, limbo-like atmosphere of otherworldly beauty. In a more pragmatic sense, the pelagic zones that occur both on the musical and lyrical level give "Pelagial" an element of surprise that I've occasionally found lacking on The Ocean's previous efforts, with no two songs seeming too similar or compromising Staps' grandiose vision; a red chord runs through the entirety of the album, giving it a riveting character of dynamism, diversity and consistency. But perhaps most gratifying is the strength of virtually every song on its own as well, so that although "Pelagial" is clearly designed to be a single unified listening experience, the breathtaking nature of songs as inspired as "Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe" makes them just as easy to appreciate on an individual level.

Having said so, however, the album does require one's full undivided attention in order to divulge all of its subtleties; and in order to fully understand the concept and its role in the music itself, having a lyric book at hand is absolutely necessary. "Pelagial" is an emotional leviathan; a record of extraordinary ambitions which, by virtue of the collective genius behind them, are realised with baffling exactitude. For all intents and purposes, "Pelagial" could only have been written, performed and recorded by The Ocean, who, in my opinion, remain one of the most forward-thinking metal bands in the world. Few other bands have an equivalent ability to instill notes from ideas, and words from tones to form as articulate and full-fledged a concept album as this. Listen, and be intrigued, challenged, and ultimately rewarded.


Download: Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny, Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams, Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts, Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe, Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
For the fans of: Cult of Luna, Light Bearer, Rosetta
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.04.2013
Metal Blade Records

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