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The Ocean - Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic CD (album) cover


The Ocean


Experimental/Post Metal

4.12 | 97 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Metal is dead they say! But is it? Of course not but the naysayers seem to think that since there is no unifying metal band such as a Led Zeppelin, a Metallica or an Iron Maiden to rally around in the 21st century that the grandiose nature of the genre surely must be just a pathetic shadow of its former glory. Au contraire! The metal universe has never been so large and seen so many torches carried from the past masters and an even greater number of new torches being lit seemingly every single day. The big bang that began in the late 60s with proto-metal bands like Gun, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Iron Butterfly just to name a few, quickly led to the first metal oriented bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. While it would take a decade or so for the genre to branch off from the parent trunk, once the process began, it splintered off into a million directions and well into the 21st century we are treated to a genre that can seemingly adapt to any disparate musical style and inspiration that has ever been proposed.

Bands like THE OCEAN remind me of exactly how far the metal genre has evolved since its humble nascency that was a mere angsty reaction to the blues oriented rock. This German band while starting out in their own state of sludge metal disquietude has continually ratcheted up the complexity of their albums as they went from a chaotically noisy punk infused sludge metal band to a bona fide progressive behemoth that tamed their aggressive tendencies and funneled them into a more post-metal paradigm that implemented the incredibly diverse classical music elements and electronic sounds that have placed them in a rather unique niche of the progressive metal universe. Led by founder and guitarist Robin Staps, this band that is also known as THE OCEAN COLLECTIVE found a more stable lineup beginning with their album "Heliocentric" and has continued to awe and amaze the world with a series of sophisticated albums that uniquely incorporate Earth's geologic history into the compositional process and while the geologic themes presented in all their nerdiness may seem a tad eccentric, the fact is that this band is absolutely brilliant in how they adapt the geological themes to the more personal human level of reality.

The title of THE OCEAN's 7th studio album (not counting re-recordings, EPs or demos) is officially PHANEROZOIC I - PALAEOZOIC, so first of all we need a few definitions of the title so that the lyrical content makes a lot more sense. The PHANEROZOIC eon is the current geologic eon in the time scale which hosts the most abundant eon for all flora and fauna that has ever existed and began 541 million years ago with the Cambrian period when a huge diversity of hard-shelled animals made their debut onto life's stage. The PALAEOZOIC era (also spelled PALEOZOIC) is the earliest of three geologic eras (the others being the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic) of the PHANEROZOIC era and lasted from 541 to 251 millions ago. THE OCEAN is serious about their scientific terminology and the seven mostly lengthy tracks tackle the unthinkable task of narrating the geological periods that the PALAEOZOIC era is divided into. There are only six periods, however the beginning Cambrian is divided into two tracks with the other periods following, the Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous (if you're really a nerd you'd know this period is divided into two sub-periods, the Pennsylvanian and Mississippian!) and last but not least the Permian whose ending saw one of planet Earth's largest mass extinctions in its entire history. That's your geology lesson for the day, so how about the music?

As i've already stated, THE OCEAN may insinuate that the lyrical content comes right out of a university text book but in fact, the lyrics are quite nebulous and have double meanings while relating to the geologic narrative, they also incorporate the personal aspects of life. THE OCEAN seems to get more ambitious with each release and this latest endeavor is certainly no exception to that trend. While it's true that THE OCEAN do not deviate from what came before and stick to their carved out niche like a scuba diver to an air tank, what THE OCEAN does accomplish on PHANEROZOIC is a nice mix of their early heavy chunky guitar riffs of sludge metal with frantic screamed vocals mixed with the sensual amorphous classical meanderings that showcase tender clean vocals with supplemental instrumentation that includes cello, trumpet, trombone, piano and symphonic atmospheres that find the band pulling a Jekyll & Hyde for much of the album.

One uniting factor is the progressive workouts that permeate both aggressive and placid aspects of the band as irregular time signature rich cadences jitter by with the accompaniment of jazzy drum gymnastics and hypnotizing post-metal meanderings that find repetitious riffing slowly transmogrify into a larger picture much like the geologic eras that change so slowly that we cannot perceive them. While the previous album "Pelagial" was in danger of exterminating the sludge metal aspects of THE OCEAN's own musical history, PHANEROZOIC unapologetically brings back the harsher aspects of the band's earliest recordings without sacrificing the progressive and atmospheric accomplishments they've accrued since their 2007 landmark album "Precambrian." Suffice it to say, THE OCEAN strike a mean balance between their harshest moments of albums like "Aeolian" and the post-rock serenity of "Pelagial." PHANEROZOIC finds the perfect balance between these two worlds and best of all this wider sonic spectrum is brilliantly mixed with a production value that perfectly balances the distorted metal outbursts with the exquisitely divine orchestral moments. While the final track is titled "Permian: The Great Dying," it seems safe to bet that THE OCEAN won't go extinct anytime soon. This phenomenal work is by far one of 2018's most ambitious metal projects even if it hasn't exactly expanded the elements that they are known for.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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