"As a band we're trying to expand the borders of a metal scene that some pricks claim has come full circle. Well, think again! Oceans' is a blend of a lot of metal styles and also has a lot of influences from the world outside of heavy metal. Probably that's the way you as a listener work too!" – OCEANS OF SADNESS
Innovation. It's a mixed term musically in my eyes. Innovation is, most of the time, not actually there, whether a band promises it or not, and when it is there, it often sounds forced, like a band is trying too hard to sound different. OCEANS OF SADNESS actually do sound different, and I mean different. There is not a single band, in the world, which I can think of that sounds like these guys. But at the same time, while it is wonderful and unique, it still sounds slightly forced.
There are so many different ideas flowing through the minds of this band that the music they make is almost impossible to keep up with, inviting more listens yet also pushing you away at the same time. Influences from classical music can be heard, Death Metal, Hard Rock, Jazz, Pop, absolutely everything (but this is still a Heavy Metal album, have no doubts) and the style they play is impossible to pin down. It sounds like a mixture of artists from different genre's have collided together, giving birth to a confused, reckless yet brilliant album full of bright ideas. It sounds like a mess, it sounds like it is all over the place, and it is, but brilliantly so, and you almost wouldn't have it any other way. For to take this randomness away from them would be taking away the very essence of their sound, the very thing which makes them unique. And what metal doesn't need right now, is more ordinary artists. Something crazy should be welcomed.
The instruments reflect the schizophrenic nature of the album, with violin, piano, trumpets and other odd instruments playing alongside the usual Metal repertoire. Of course they don't all play at the same time, and some instruments only make brief appearances, the vocals too, vary across different styles (more on them later). There are plenty of guitar riffs on this album, plenty of good ones too but due to the crowded sound of the album, they are mostly unmemorable, although on a few tracks the guitarists really do shine, for example, "Pride And Shame" features a catchy powerful riff and plenty of melodic guitar leads that remind me of a modern version of swedish Death Metal! Yet more variance in an already varied album. The bass is actually quite established in the sound, more easily heard than on most metal albums, and it helps that they actually have a decent bass player who carries the music along with an undeniable groove, and when the music slows down for brief periods there is always the sound of the bass dragging the tempo along. The drumming is required to be great with the amount of things that go on in the music, and it is, keeping a tempo yet constantly altering the rhythm is no easy feat, but it is pulled off well, and gives a small semblance of order amidst the chaos of this album.
One of OCEANS OF SADNESS’s strengths is their vocalist, there are a few mixed opinions about him but in my mind he is excellent. His clean voice cold and distant yet resonates emotion in a strange way. But what I like about him is his growl, which is used less than his clean vocals; they are understandable, yet powerful and almost maniacal. Sounding almost more like a shout than a deep growl they radiate anger and aggression, which helps the music during its heavier parts, where they almost sound like a Death Metal band were it not for the constant use of the keyboards. The keyboards form probably the core of OCEANS OF SADNESS’ sounds, being present in all of the songs and constantly providing a backdrop for the guitars to work around.
The variance of the album is displayed in the very first track, “Mould”, it starts with a relaxed bass line and keyboard work with a reasonably paced drum beat. The vocals sound sleepy, relaxed, drawing the listener in for the wall of sound that comes bursting in. A huge Metal riff comes in with the roar of the vocalist being backed up by the choir, a truly epic opening repeated moments later. Then, the band show off their creativity with an almost childish keyboard rhythm working along with the menacing vocals and guitars. The lyrics are simple, yet fantastically catchy and suitable alongside the joyful climax of the music. Soon after this part of the song, there is an almost demonic sounding vocal line which, despite being sung, sounds more evil than the death vocals ever did. Already, early on in the album the band have managed to captivate me with their mix of harsh Metal and odd use of keyboards and symphonic elements, and that is only a taste of what is to come. Throughout the rest of the album the band show the same creativity and flair as they did on the first song, and all the songs are catchy as hell at points. This just adds to the brilliance.
Now though, this album isn't perfect. Far from it, the music is cluttered and all over the place in such a way as to push some listeners away on the first listen, despite the true grandness of the album not being revealed to a few hearings later. Also, some might not warm to the vocalist, as his voice is quite different to others, almost in a love or hate sort of way. Fortunately, I love his voice. Finally, some people just might not like the sound, the keyboards often sound odd, and the constant transitions from soft to heavy in some songs might irritate listeners.
At the end of it all though, you have to respect what OCEANS OF SADNESS have done here. It isn't easy to include so many different aspects of music into your sound and make it work this well. This album is just wonderfully mental, yet in a weird and slightly psychotic way, it all makes sense.
(Online August 1, 2008)