The Ocean – Phanerozoic II, Mesozoic / Cenozoic: Album Review

New meisterwork from The Ocean. We’re told it’s “more progressive and perverse” which suits us. Does it live up to the promise?

Release date: 25th September 2020

Label: Pelagic Records

Format: CD / DL / deluxe CD / box set bundle / vinyl

Progressive, perverse and experimental indeed. When the chips are down, the need to make an album stand out is paramount. The promise of “weirder, more daring” certainly comes in the deployment of electronics, beats, shifts in tempos and time signatures and regular bouts of crushing heaviness.

The template is set by the brief slumber that doesn’t last long in the opening volley of the explosive Triassic. However, maybe we should look to the massive Jurassic/Cretaceous at thirteen minutes as perhaps the place to experience the experimental and ambitious nature of the album. Juddering riffs dominate the first half and continue the harsh and impassioned vocals of the opening Triassic. Heading into a bubbling electronic passage before we’re musically and vocally assaulted again. The “wiped off the face of the earth” line fully deserving of such a violent delivery. It’s the progressive version of IDLES. Genuinely scary at times and an exhausting encounter.

It’s an encounter that’s repeated in a much shorter burst in Palaeocene where the brutal battery of harsh metal gets briefly halted before dominating the piece. Challenges aplenty lie ahead amidst the occasional user-friendly vibes. Eocene is much lighter and delicate and Oligocene is an atmospheric piece punctuated by some shuffling drum work.

Having ticked that box, Miocene I Pliocene takes us back into the blackness of doom metal with a ponderous pace and throat-ripping vocals. It may be more apt to call them incantations in the way they evoke something powerful and other worldly. There is balance with some contrasting interventions, yet ultimately, the darkness proves hypnotic.

The relatively understated album closer Holocene, sets up a simple groove and percussive guitar figure. It broods and smoulders, threatening to explode into the expected eruption but never does. The restraint comes as both a surprise and a pleasant alternative.

The band has talked about how 2013’s Pelagial was a guided and focussed journey and how they wanted to make the new record a contrast. “Closer to the experience of freefall” is a perfect comparison. Dangerous and wild, this is a dark ride. Promise fulfilled.

And just when you thought you’d reached safety, news just in – “the Natural History Museum of Luxembourg have discovered a new brittle star fossil and named it after Berlin progressive metal band The Ocean to celebrate their palaeontology-inspired music.”  The REAL sign that you’ve made it.

Listen to Pleistocene here:

The Ocean online: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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