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

PHANEROZOIC I - PALAEOZOIC

The Ocean

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.07 | 59 ratings

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rogerthat
Prog Reviewer
5 stars A few months back, I had the privilege of watching this band in concert. It truly was a privilege. I have seen Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Satyricon apart from a bunch of Indian metal/rock bands in concert. The Iron Maiden show in particular was unforgettable as over 30,000 fans had gathered for what was Maiden's first show in India and we screamed out the lyrics along with Bruce Dickinson all the way till the end. The Ocean show I attended was in a small performing area attached to a pub and was attended by 100 fans tops in a venue that could have accommodated. And it was hands down the best rock/metal show I have attended. Nothing else has ever come close. This is doubtless also a product of the limited opportunities I get to watch top notch international acts. But it is equally a tribute to the incredible musicianship of Ocean, be it their energy or their precision or their eclecticism.

Yes, Rossetti's vocals ARE effective both when he's doing those growled screams and when he's singing clean. They performed this whole album and he can keep it up song after song without a drop in intensity. If he lost pitch ever, I didn't hear it. And he crowdsurfed while still singing, yes! He also came up with jaw dropping sustained screams. Needless to say, he does everything in the studio too that he does live.

Stags and Hagerstrand double up to form a super-heavy rhythm section. Man, are those riffs crushing. They mount a wall of heaviness so formidable and imposing you just watch and listen in astonishment without complaining about the lack of solos. Or the fact that the music largely stays in a mid range tempo. There are ebbs and crests but rarely do they play at thrash/death metal tempos. You THINK song after song of despairing, slow/mid tempo sludge metal is gonna get boring fast but the heaviness by itself is so awesome to behold you are gasping for breath instead.

The other reason it doesn't get boring is the drummer Paul Seidel. Bespectacled and genial (like a metal version of John Weathers), he is incredibly creative with his fills whilst also possessing the chops to pull off those intense, brutal metal breakdowns. He keeps changing up things just enough to nip any signs of monotony in the bud.

It is hard for me to describe the tracks very specifically on an individual basis. Ocean specialises in concept albums and the songs are deeply related and do run together. It is NOT a bad thing if you think of it as a sort of metal symphony as opposed to requiring lots of variety from one track to another. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of variation in here but the songwriting is cohesive to the point that it gets hard to separate one track from the other. It is best heard in one go from start to finish and the terrific production doesn't hurt at all.

The one possible flipside is that if for some reason, this kind of music isn't really your thing, NOTHING on here is going to work. But I can't imagine why that would be. If you read this up to this point, you are a metal listener aware of where metal is at these days without nostalgic yearning for the days when metal bands were slotted in very specific genres and made the same album again and again in service of genre purity.

As is the case with these awesome 21st century metal bands, Ocean is a hybrid that draws from metal through the ages to come up with something that is undeniably and unabashedly metal and yet doesn't sound like a rehash of metal classics like, I don't know, Altars of Madness, Obscura, Transcendence, None So Vile, etc. And they have done it again and again through the course of a long career. It's a wonder they aren't better known than they are. This album is as good an introduction to their work as any.

rogerthat | 5/5 |

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