Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Isis - Oceanic CD (album) cover



Experimental/Post Metal

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I would recommend that if you are new to Isis you should start with Panopticon. However, this album is also quite good. One can see the same great musical elements on this album that they seem to have honed and polished for the Panopticon album.

Isis is still not your typical prog-metal band, as they do not feature virtuoso musicianship as much as they feature a totally new approach to metal songwriting. The tracks are drawn out and have a tendency to drone on and on, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing in the case of Isis. They do it very well. They build up themes and layer tibres and sounds the way good post-rock bands such as Mogwai do.

Highlights of this album include "Maritime" and "Weight", whose light grooves are a nice break from loud guitars and dirty vocals (altought the track is still undeniably heavy), and female vocals on "Weight" serve to round out this well-composed piece. Another highlight is the final track, "Hym", which features bone crushing riffs that flow together so smoothly you'll think you're floating peacefully along a river of hot lava. Beautiful on one level, but hot and heavy at the same time. Wow, that metaphor was terrible. Sorry, I'll try better next time.

All in all, this album is another post-metal masterpiece from Isis, though overall the songs are not as tightly composed or dynamically beautiful as the ones on Panopticon (to which I gave 4.5 stars). Get that one first, then try this. 3 stars.

Report this review (#64139)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of those few records that I seriously have never gotten tired of. It really is amazing. I use it very often as a "pump up" disc, cause the songs here are that powerful.

Certianly not your typical prog sound, but that is what really makes this special. They have not simply re-hashed old familar sounds from the '70's, but really taken their own road and created a sound that should really be appreciated by someone looking for a different type of experience.

The vocals have sadly been one of the main reasons people have given them the cold shoulder, and to tell you the truth, I CAN see why. They can be quite harsh at times, and even disturbing, but, at least for me, only at first. They grew on me, and then inside me, until they went completly through me. This goes for the music too. At times, it really feels like it has taken you to the middle of the ocean, with no one in sight, and it doesn't matter, cause it all makes sense. It is listening to you as much as you are listnening to it.

Report this review (#69198)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the ep "Sgnl>05" which was released in 2001, it was time for Isis to release their second studio album. The line-up remains the same. Oceanic was my introduction to Isis and still remains my favorite album of the band. It's also the first Isis album that has that unique characteristics found in the best albums released by the band.

You could tell from the previous albums that they weren't just another sludge metal band. This album has elements from many other genres. While they keep the aggressive elements from their hardcore influences they mix it with post-rock, ambient and someone could say even a few elements from alternative. The songs are slow- paced, the compositions simple and the vocals really aggressive. The killer guitar riffs of Aaron Turner and Mike Gallagher combined with the powerful minimalist drumming of Aaron Harris (which is one of the highlights of the album), Jeff Caxide's solid work in the bass and Turner's vocals (which are something between screaming and growling) create a devastating atmosphere. It's like tons of energy coming out of the speakers. There are also moments where clean guitars take over and the music becomes so spacey remind you of bands like Mogwai.

At first listen you may think (at least that's what happened to me) that the production isn't good, that the compositions are too simple and repetitive and the vocals excessive. Well after several listens I just think it's truly brilliant and very carefully written and recorded. The raw sound really helps to the final result. The compositions are just amazing. While the melodies (riffs mostly) are simple they have the ability to be played several times without loosing their power. The vocals in the whole album are really good too. Ayal Noar and Maria Christopher help with the vocals on the songs on "The Beginning and the End", "Weight" and "Carry" and create a new dimension.

This is a concept album (as usual) and reintroduces the water and female themes of past releases the Red Sea and Celestial and Sgnl>05 through a story. If you are interested into figuering out the concept either read the booklet of the album or find on the web the file with a radio interview where Turner explains the whole story. Turner is also the guy who did the artwork which is beautiful.

In conclusion, a very uniue album that many could argue wheather it belongs in the prog metal category. In my opinion it's closer to post-rock. The music, vocals, production, concept and artwork are great and as a result we have a great album. I think it's a great introduction to people knew to Isis. Try it!

Report this review (#103284)
Posted Friday, December 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is my first experience of ISIS music, and the MUSIC itself I must admit is very good. But the singer totally puts me off!

ISIS were recommended me as a band somewhat related to PELICAN (awesome band!) and NEUROSIS (whose “Eye of every Storm” I enjoyed very much). With another good find from the Sludge/Art-Core genre (I mean GIANT SQUID) and awesome Post- Metal THE MORNINGSIDE release I decided to give a chance to both ISIS and CULT OF LUNA (fortunately, our musical shops have some CDs of them). And here I am reviewing “Oceanic”.

This is no way a bad album. But IMHO, if PELICAN manages to work in different moods and related genres (like Post-Rock), ISIS is a bit too straight-forward for me (judging from what I’ve heard here). Even few weeks of numerous listenings didn’t change my mind. They’re not about melodies, they’re about creating atmosphere, and they’re skilled in it, but sorry, only 2-3 memorable tunes per album? And yes, the singer. Not that kind of guy I’d like to invite on my wedding party to sing something :))) – consider this to be a recommendation!

After all: recommended, but beware of the screams instead of vocals and listen to this in a certain mood (otherwise depression will tear you apart! ;) )

Report this review (#141756)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Oceanic ISIS found their sound and what a breakthrough album this is. Isis began to involve more mellow passages in their music and they developed their own unique sound. Very heavily influenced by godflesh, neurosis, and Tool. Oceanic is what sets them apart from other bands. This album has a more edgy sound than Panopticon or In the Absence of truth. Highlights of the album are the opener The beginning and the end, The other, False Light,Carry, Hym, and my favorite track on the album is Weight. i never thought metal would be so beautiful, a very melodic song. If your starting out with Isis get Oceanic, previous albums like Red sea and Mosquito Control are very heavy compared to recent releases. A must have album if you are a Post Rock Metal fan. The first Isis masterpiece gets 5 stars
Report this review (#152122)
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The post metal band we call Isis really hit it big with this one. Oceanic is faster, more agressive, and maybe a bit less mature then than their next album panopticon. This was my first Isis album, I had struck out with Neurosis' Given to the rising, and kinda liked City of echoes, but had never really listened to post metal, until this. At first I didnt get it, yelling vocals that dont even pass as harsh IMO, and weird chord structure build ups, but I wasnt ready to give give up on the album. After about two weeks it finally clicked with me, and all the music came together suddenly came together into one great album.

The mood Isis constantly gives is highly atmospherical. Songs usually starting with a more brutal and heavy mood, quickly drop to a soft electric guitar riff, which then of course builds in the usual post fashion until every band member is playing loud and fast, with power chords, and trippy lead lines. Isis soups it up on this album though, the drumming is very simplistic, virtually no double bass, and a very primal beat, keeps the center of attention on the guitars, which are either doing long drawn out lead lines, or very down to earth riffs, and when the climax hits, vocals are more of a backround noise, more then the actual vocal point, with either yells, or a very etherial melody to contrast with the lead guitar riff. This album would be a three star if it werent for Weight, one of the greatest instrumental songs I've ever heard. Clocking in at ten minuetes, you can almost call this an epic, starting with soft tuned percussion, then toms to fill the emptiness. Female vocals, just mumbling random jiberish come in, and then on build the song, and after the song is over, you realise the song dosent even really have a climax, the most intense moment is at the end, but dosent really reach the level of power needed to call it a climax, and still, the greatest song on the album. The rest of the album follows the trend I explained before weight, until the last song, Hym. Pretty much the most powerful song on the album, and clearly portrays what panoptican is going to sound like. Starting with power chords and the spacey vocals in the backround, this song never really does back down from where it starts, just a nine minuete power train, and the second best song on the album.

Though it is a great album, Isis still had trouble finding the spacey post metal sound they acheived in panopticon. With sometimes moving guitar melodies, and brutal vocals and drums, this album is hard not to love, and I highly recomend it to anyone interested in post metal. 4 stars.

Report this review (#152300)
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A warning just popped up at me when I chose my 5-star rating for 'Oceanic' by Isis, asking me to not be hasty and to carefully consider my feelings before officially judging. I can appreciate why - Prog Archives has yet to fall prey to trolling dickheads and retains its place as one of the best progressive music sites on the net. But I must stick to my guns on this one. 'Oceanic' is not only 'Essential', I believe it is a milestone in rock music, and its effects have been felt in the five years since it was released. Its influence is trickling out steadily, affecting first Isis' peers, and now the grassroots underground is showing signs of its influence. Some very notable bands are emerging from the UK, Europe and Scandinavia who bear the hallmarks of this album.

First of all, I'm very surprised to see that this is Isis' lowest rated album on the site. Personally, I love them all - the dense guitars, the slow, uncoiling melodies, the panoramic power of these riffs... but 'Oceanic' is their masterpiece. 'Panopticon' is almost as good. 'In The Absence Of Truth' is a very interesting exploration and contains some great moments, but over all it lacks the focus of this record. And 'Celestial'? Well, that's [%*!#]in' HEAVY, of course.

'The Beginning and The End' opens things up with a drum fill I'd now recognise from the first microsecond of sound. The strength of this track is exemplary of the strength of the rest of the album - the instruments (2 guitars, synth, bass, and very occasional vocals) lock themselves around dark, throbbing rhythms until it's time to open out, to be delicate or to be intense. Aaron Turner's epic vocal surges are perfectly placed - they are cathartic emissions of unrestrained power and emotion. Isis have the power to lead you along with a thumping groove, seduce you with sparsely beautiful, post-rock-esque melodies and then cap the whole thing off with absolutely vast doom-inflected post-hardcore riffs that peak and pummell you and then drop away quickly to silence. It is awe-insiping, honestly.

And that's enough poetic spouting - frankly, this record is a big part of what I'll remember about my youth and it will always remain one of my prize possessions. For those of you who aren't new to this scene, for want of a better term, you can say this is the logical progression of a mindset where Breach, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Neurosis and heavy-as-[%*!#] space rock are likely to draw out equally intense emotional reactions from you.

Highlights: 'The Beginning and The End', the big riff at the end of 'False Light', 'Carry' - beautiful in its entirety, 'Weight' - the best naturally-evolving piece of music I've ever heard, and 'Hym', the last song. I've seen them play the album live all the way through. It was unbelievable.

'Oceanic' is not really a proper prog album, nor are Isis a proper prog band, but I can't not give it 5 stars. It changed the way I look at music after I bought it when I was 16. I can't hold back just because this isn't really the right place for it to be.

Report this review (#156139)
Posted Friday, December 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Here we have ISIS - An Avant-garde metal, Experimental rock, Post-metal, Psychedelic rock, Atmospheric sludge, 'whatever you call them' band. Now, my first experience with Isis was their latest record - In The Absence of Truth. I was impressed by what i was hearing, but i didn't believed in matched the hype surrounding this band. I decided to venture back to their past records which were both hailed as masterpieces - Oceanic and Panopticon. I immediately purchased both.

As soon as i received Oceanic, i gave the CD a listen. I thought i would be doing this album and Isis an injustice by not sharing my opinion. Here is a track by track review:

(1) The Beginning and the End:

This song starts out with a nice drum groove accompanied by mildly-heavy guitar. At 0:35, Mono-tonal vocals kick in and the song becomes blisteringly heavy. The guitars becomes fierce, the vocals letting out a brutal, almost robotic yell. At 1:25, the song takes a complete U-turn. Everything becomes softer, more ambient, not to mention the vocals cut out. This part shows off Isis' trademark. The passage continues for a few minutes occasionally steering away to reveal its heaviness. This song becomes mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. The repetition of the instruments, the subtle changes to each one - It all builds and molds the atmosphere Isis creates with this song (and all of Oceanic, in fact). At 4:25, All instruments cut out except for guitar, which plays a subtle riff before being joined by the sheer onslaught of the rest of the band. Things become hectic, the vocals return again, Isis reveals some of their best musically here.

(2) The Other:

This song begins on a softer note. It begins to build-up and grow as the intensity rises. At 1:50 we are again greeted by Aaron Turner and his guttural screams. The song becomes heavy, like it's predecessor, but this passage only continues for a short time, before returning to it's previous state of tranquility. This does not remain for very long, and we are again faced with the same heavy passage. This continues much longer than before and shows a great amount of dimension to Turner as a vocalist. The song then alternates between heaviness with vocals, and without. The song then ends on a heavy note.

(3) False Light:

This song begins brutally heavy. and continues that way until 3:00 where the music takes a sudden stop and turn around to the more subtle, atmospheric passages we are quite familiar with. This song steadily continues this until 6:00 where the guitar takes in-front and leads the rest of the band into full-fledged chaos. At 7:00, The infamous Turner returns with his guttural screams and the song ends on this note.

(4) Carry:

A very mellow song from the beginning, Carry follows the classic Isis trademark and builds up slowly until 4:00 where everything becomes heavy, the vocals soon accompany and the song dives into uncharted-heavy-territory, but this time we find Turner with a female accomplice. Her subtle presence adds a great deal of depth and purpose to this simple song.

(5) - :

This track acts more like a rest than anything else. This track does not feature Isis playing whatsoever. In fact, it really isn't anything. Just an array of natural sounds. The track offers the listener some comfort and reflection on what they have just experienced, and what they are about to experience.

(6) Maritime:

A track must like its predecessor. This track is actually quite different from the entire album in that it has a distinct electronic flavor to it. This song is relaxing, calm, gentle. The song has no real change in dynamics and retains a very soothing tone.

(7) Weight:

Now, this is where Isis return! A song very similar to 'Carry' in structure. However, this song is much more patient. It steadily builds and grows until 8:33 where we are greeted by that female singer which we were introduced to in 'Carry'. She repeats a line that is lost and buried in the mix, her vocals are hypnotic, and as the music becomes heavier, you find yourself in a trance, unable to break free until the song comes to a sudden end.

(8) From Sinking:

One of the heavier songs on Oceanic. It begins and ends on a heavy note. Throughout the song, there is mild contrast to the heaviness with soothing passages, but these are sparingly disposed of for heavier and more brutal passages, that tend to dominate this song.

(9): Hym:

The final track on the album. This song has more of a heavier tendency, but their is no shortage of softer parts. Overall, a fantastic end to the album. It shows diversity, and some of Isis' best songwriting yet. It is a good representation of what the listener has just experienced with Oceanic.

Oceanic. Words cannot describe the sheer beauty of this record. The majesty of Isis' instrumentation, the multi-dimension to Turner's seemingly mono-tonal voice, the way in which a unique atmosphere is created every single song.

Probably the most amazing quality to this album is its ability to replicate an ocean. The heavy parts feel like the rough, unforgiving waves, and the softer passages like the gentle sea-water splashing at your toes.

Do yourself a favor and buy this album. Experience this unique journey. Let Isis encompass your every senses and drag you out to sea. 5/5 = 10/10 = 100%

Report this review (#188778)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars A beginning, and an end...

Oceanic is what lays the groundwork for what I see as Isis' best album Panopticon. This is solid post metal, and is played with a somewhat alluring sense of ambiance.

But, it feels like mediocre post metal. The recording is thick and clear, with a Wagner-esque style of wall of sound. The wall of sound that can be quite a delight to the ears. I just didn't get much more out for it than any other average release. The songs seem to drone, and there is not much diversity, which would be better implemented in Panopticon.

As enjoyable to listen to the songs as it is, they don't seem to give me that goose bump factor that other releases have. For that I say this is a fine album, but not Isis' shining moment. Three Stars.

Report this review (#209235)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oceanic is the second full-length studio album by US post metal/ experimental metal act Isis. The album was released on September 16, 2002 by Ipecac Recordings and produced by Isis and Matt Bayles.

The music consists of crushingly heavy riffs and mellower clean guitar parts which brings lots of atmoshere to the sound. The music is generally repetitive and slow. Building themes and creating climaxes. The mellower parts introduces a post rock element in Isis music which was only hinted at on the debut album Celestial (2000). It brings much appreciated variation to the music IMO. The vocals are raw and shouting. They are a bit low in the mix but I guess that´s on purpose. There are some female vocals too but they are even lower in the mix. I like the shouting vocals but I don´t find them excellent. I would have appreciated a more varied vocal approach.

The production is really good and the musicianship is excellent. All musicians have great understanding of dynamic playing.

Oceanic is a great improvement over Celestial (2000) which I found was a good album but not really to my taste. With Oceanic my expectations to how a great post metal album should sound like are more fully met. 3.5 - 4 stars is my rating. I´ll round it up to 4 stars because 3 stars would be too few.

Report this review (#224210)
Posted Thursday, July 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
5 stars

Ah, now there is nothing like a bit of old school Isis. As it stands they have two periods: the heavy, early hardcore-ish period (first EPs, Celestial and Oceanic) and their later mellow, melodic and atmospheric phase (ITAOT and Wavering Radiant), split down the middle by a mixture of the two Panopticon. Now for those that know me, it won't be hard to guess which era I prefer, but for those who don't, this particular album is my favourite from the post-metal fathers. Not what I consider to be their best (read my review for Panopticon if you want to know that), as it is not as concise and mature as their later stuff, but this album is definitely closest to my heart and the most creative of the bunch. In here we have, in my honest opinion, the most eclectic mix of music the band has ever given out. From the funky riff to open The Beginning and the End, to the sludgy wall of sound in False Light, to the Baroque type chord sequence in Carry, to the warm and atmospheric sound of Weight and to the brute force of the guitars in From Sinking. It is all on this record, and although a lot of the songwriting and production could use a bit of work, it is all perfect in its own right.

Now I will talk about a few of the songs.

The album opens with The Beginning and the End, which is excellent, cited as the band's best song by some. To break it down, it goes from the funky intro riff, through some mellow sections, melodic guitar lines, hardcore screaming when appropriate, build ups to die for and once more, good old sludgey verses. This wraps up my feelings for Isis in 8 minutes. Definitely a highlight of the album, and the ending is just superb. So mellow, yet so heavy at the same time, it is what Isis pull off best and what sets them apart from other Post Metal.

Carry is possibly my very favourite song by Isis ever. Only short in comparison, yet 7 minutes is all the song needs to take you on a journey without sounding too rushed. And that's what this song is: a journey. The lyrics portray the sentiments of someone drowning, which is a very unnerving and poignant theme in itself. Combined with the music, it is something spectacular. It starts with a very thin line of guitars and synths, which is later augmented by a simple drum line and a delayed guitar melody. Very nice, not too much on the ears, yet if you listen closely, there is about 3 guitars, a bass, drums and a good few layered synths all at once. One big thumbs up for production. The intro, as incredibly emotional and deep as it is, cannot compare to when the chord sequence that changed my life kicks in at about the fourth minute. This, on top of the vocals is possibly the best Isis moment of all time, and makes the song. Simple, yet so effective, like all post metal. We are then treated to some more funky metal chords and low tuned brutality, and well, that pretty much sums up the perfection. The female vocals in the background of the middle section are also a really great addition. Perfect.

Weight is another special song. Full of atmosphere, it is inherently one massive 11 minute long build up, and boy what a build up it is. It merges certain melody lines together so smoothly and intricately that it all sounds like one riff repeated over and over again. But because it changes a lot with instrumentation, you never get bored of this "one riff". The most striking thing is the drum build up. It is just perfect, the production just makes it a dream to listen to and is probably the most relaxing thing on the album. Then as all the instruments creep in, and you barely notice this by the way, we are gently introduced to a wall of sound that is so common in the genre. Really, you just have to listen. It is unbelievable and is probably the best instrumental to ever come out of the band's discography. Yes, even better than Altered Course. Magical.

One final thing to note about the album is the vocals. It is all hardcore screaming, and to those not used to extreme vocals may find it a little cold and empty. If this is the case, then I wouldn't recommend you listen to the album further. However, if you like really dark, atmospheric, heavy music and enjoy extreme vocals, then please goi for this. It is a masterpiece of its genre, and one of the cornerstones of Isis's career. 5 stars.

Report this review (#254080)
Posted Thursday, December 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Isis' second album is a more mature album then their debut and it reveals a more personal sound. Isis toned down the aggression a notch and opened up the sound to let in more melodic and rhythmic development.

As shown by the opening track, there are still some growing pains though. The song has a difficult start, beginning with a second-hand Tool riff that fails to get under your skin. Also the dry & gruff vocals don't work well, failing both at being forceful and fearsome. After less then 2 minutes they resort to standard repetitious post-metal riffing. It lacks both the drive and inspiration to get going. Also The Other is an faceless doodling exercise.

But with False Light the band gets the post machine rolling. A churning riff, jagged rhythm and gruff shouts make up a compelling piece of music. After 3 minutes they balance it with a very strong quite section with beautiful harmonic bass and guitar chords. Carry is more abstract, building up slowly out of layers of guitar feedback. It ends with another section of richly layered guitar textures. One of the most compelling pieces is the sober Maritime, featuring not much more then calm guitar picking, a slowly flowing rhythm and a short touch of melody at the end.

In order to appreciate this music, you need to indulge in the slow build up of the music. Weight for example sounds like an unfinished drum track with slightly dissonant clean guitars for almost 3 minutes. But patience can be rewarded, dreamy repeated female vocals are added, then heavy guitars that build to a great climax.

Just like the opening tracks, the closing tracks leave me completely cold. They are repetitious drones that lack the good riffs and rhythms to get anything going. The heavy parts aren't heavy nor interesting enough, the few quiet parts don't bring anything new to the table.

An uneven album from a second tier post-metal band with enough talent to write an occasional highlight. Average release.

Report this review (#271008)
Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Really 4.5 stars.

As far as post-metal goes Isis are the be all and end all of the genre, no one really does it as good as they do and travels along the same sonic wavelength. That said I can't give this album 5 stars as it just doesn't live up to the masterpiece that is Panopticon.

Oceanic possesses a lot of the same dynamic qualities and intelligent riffing as Panopticon but the execution isn't quite mastered, the songs don't flow quite as well and it doesn't feel like as much of a journey as the latter. All that being said Oceanic certainly has it's moments with the epic 10 minute crescendo track 'Weight' complete with trip-hop-esque female chillout vocals is a definite highlight.

A fine release indeed but ultimately destined to live in the shadow of it's older more handsome brother Panopticon.

Report this review (#276967)
Posted Friday, April 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
5 stars Oceanic is the second full length studio album by Isis, characterized by sludgy guitars, dominant instrumentation and frequent interplay between delicacy and roughness. This distinctive sound has been highly influential to Post-Metal bands such as Pelican. Listening to the album, it doesn't feel strange that Oceanic is Isis' highest regarded album up to date alongside Panopticon.

Like already mentioned, the album features a notable interplay between delicate ambient music and crushing metal, making the album sound diverse and exciting. The musicianship is excellent, to say the least. The music isn't incredibly complex or technically outstanding, but the band rather relies on powerful, thick sounding riffs varying from explosive and sludgy to more melodic. The riffs sound original and strong, often with chugging downtuned guitars, pounding drums and groovy basslines. All in all, the music is very energetic and dynamic. The album is a concept album (like other Isis albums), telling the dramatic story of a relationship that makes a man commit suicide by drowning himself. Aaron Turner's vocals also are great, varying from beautiful melodies to fierce screams. Sometimes the clean vocals tend to sound a bit lost in the mix, but I can't blame the riffs for being as powerful and dominating as they are.

The album is driven by instrumentation rather than vocals, but doesn't tend to drag at all. Every single piece of the album is a great and unique experience, though they all share the same conceptual theme. Oceanic is an incredible album and is sure to blow fans of heavy and sludgy post-metal of their chairs. Absolutely mind-blowing, hence the rating.

Report this review (#280218)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the most influential albums in underground metal.

Hailed by some as the definitive text of post metal as we know it now, this album has spawned countless imitators. Though the genre's roots lie with the music of Neurosis, the atmosphere of Tool, grew from the sludge of Melvins and shoegazing elements, (and was hinted at by Cult of Luna, Pelican and earlier works by Isis), this was the album that truly defined the genre of post metal. Melded all the aforementioned styles into one that is aggressive, atmospheric, hypnotic, bludgeoning and cerebral.

If you want to understand what post metal is, then listen to Oceanic. This album is about creating atmosphere rather than musical showmanship.

Oceanic is heavy, very. In fact it takes metal to a very pure form. The frills and speed are completely removed, and even riffing is absent as the guitar playing is built almost entirely on chords. Heavy, dense walls of chords. A sonic assault of guitar work.

To a new listener it may sound the same, but when one really listens to the music you will see there is subtle progression. It's this progression, requiring a bit of a trained ear and patience, that is the emphasis of the music. You will find no guitar solos on this album to help you out either!

However, all the heaviness is contrasted with light sections. In fact the interplay of light and dark, usually a few times within each song, is the staple of post metal, soon to be beaten to death.

This is another important aspect of post metal, its unorthodox song structure. There are no verse-chorus songs here. Genres such as thrash and death metal feature structures that change abruptly, extremely and are usually complex, (if not anarchic). Oceanic makes theirs brutally simple: heavy, light. Lengthy songs, moving at a moderate pace alternating between sonic barrages and mellow ambient interludes reminiscent of Tool, or Pink Floyd and can be surprisingly dense in their gentle way. Of course, there is a bit more than this. Overall, the songs tend to move, gradually progressing to their climax (whatever it may be) even if several hills and valleys have to be traversed.

Turners vocals are hoarse barks, placed throughout the album and buried a bit in the music. This combination makes it impossible to decipher, but functions as a wonderful aesthetic to the music. Also makes them much more tolerable than usual. Pepper on some simple, slightly off kilter drumming that seem to continue pummeling along regardless and you have one extremely intriguing album.

Apart from the occasional interlude, no song stands out on this album. In fact they all are quite samey. Of course each is unique, and attention is needed for this, but overall every song follows the same structure. A bit formulaic, even if the numbers change.

Very influential album, and a great one at that. If you are a fan of progressive metal, or want a challenge this album should be high on the list. As dense and heavy as the ocean, sometimes as gentle and soothing. Great album.

Four Stars

Report this review (#634839)
Posted Thursday, February 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars It took me a while to wrap my head around Isis' brilliant Oceanic, but it helped that I've listened to plenty of post-rock and could readily see how the band were applying the song structures and almighty crescendos of that genre (as expertly applied by the likes of Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor) to metal. Oceanic is a fantastic musical trip, which delivers waves of tidal fury between spells of deceptive calm - much like the ocean the album is inspired by. Unlike, say, Maudlin of the Well's compositions on Bath/Leaving Your Body Map, the quieter more post-rocky sections and the louder metal sections sit together much more naturally in the context of the compositions, creating a fantastic and cohesive musical experience.
Report this review (#653205)
Posted Saturday, March 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars These guys were listening to a lot of Mogwai before they made this, their second album. Compared to the first album there is a strong post-rock influence here, which becomes even more important on the following albums (some of the members will later form their own post-rock group Red Sparowes). Oceanic by this Boston group is considered one of the earliest examples of what would be called 'post metal'. There is no verse/chorus structure, no guitar solos, no virtuosity. Atmospheric sludge metal with hardcore yelling type vocals. There is also female vocals that aren't really singing anything. There is some electronics and organ which works well with the guitars. A water theme to the album. A concept album about a guy who commits suicide after he finds out his love is cheating on him with her brother. Lovely.

"The Beginning And The End" begins the album as one of the more traditional metal sounding songs. Centred on changing riffs and the rough, yelled vocals. Already after a minute things mellow out and go into a light groove. Later gets faster and more aggressive sounding. Keeps the pace but gets less heavy. "The Other" basically starts out in mid-paced Mogwai territory, the music is fairly easy-going and not in a hurry to go anywhere. Then we get some metallic guitar (which Mogwai themselves sometimes have) and yelling vocals before it goes back. A lot more traditional metal sounding later on. Goes through some repeated chords before doing some riffs.

"False Light" starts out very sludge metal sounding. Just before halfway goes into mellow Mogwai territory (as opposed to loud and distorted Mogwai territory). "Carry" is one of the highlights. Beginning with atmospheric guitars and electronics, this is the most melodic part of the album yet. A very simple drum part lays the groundwork for the Mogwai-ish guitar playing. A Mogwai-like crescendo is developed as the yelled vocals make an appearance. Then female vocals in the distance. Gets more metallic and riff oriented towards the end. "Maritime" is perhaps the most 'post-rock' sounding track. A simple, repeated drumbeat overlaid with clean picked guitars and some lovely organ for the majority of the song. A vaguely Middle-Eastern guitar motif appears towards the end.

"Weight" is another highlight. It starts off very mellow and atmospheric. Some guitars and drums can be heard in the distance. The tom-tom heavy drumming gets more upfront in the mix before playing a beat. Simple repeated guitar picking and female vocals join in. The guitar picking becomes strumming as the music builds a crescendo. The female vocals repeat gibberish at the end. It finishes with some sampled and modified orchestra sounds. "From Sinking" opens almost sounding like Tool with growls. Later goes into Mogwai territory before returning to a Tool vibe. Halfway the drumming stops and there is some of the finest guitar sounds on the album. When the drums return the music is again more Mogwai sounding. Except for the vocals, even the loud distorted part at the end sounds more Mogwai than metal.

"Hym" begins with some memorable riffage before going 'post metal' on us. Then some sludge metal/stoner rock type riffs. Goes back to a more mellow vibe before building up a crescendo. The music on Oceanic is generally very good but the vocals leave a lot to be desired; I wish they just had the female vocalist. The album is over an hour and tends to sound too samey after awhile. They would refine their sound on the next few albums. Overall a decent effort and influential. I would give this a 3.5 but can't quite give it 4 stars, so 3 stars it is.

Report this review (#905310)
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars ISIS in my opinion is one of the greatest post-metal and sludge metal bands out there. Not only did they help post- metal and sludge metal evolve, they also helped establish post-metal. Oceanic is an over an hour long but it does not get boring. Aaron Turner and co. deliver an epic that is atmospheric and heavy at the same time. There is also minimal vocals on this album, with the main focus being the instrumentation. Oceanic is a great start for someone getting into post-metal, sludge metal, or just the band. While it is not their best offering, it is a great start for anyone looking for it.
Report this review (#2444936)
Posted Saturday, September 5, 2020 | Review Permalink

ISIS Oceanic ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of ISIS Oceanic

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.