It is very unlikely to me that there is a more aptly named album than this one. Coming after their first full length album “Celestial”, Boston’s ISIS then released one of the most original and elusive albums in the last 5 or so years. Founded by Hydra Head Records’ Aaron Turner, ISIS had previously released the afore mentioned album and some EPs and while “Celestial” is itself a work of brilliance, “Oceanic” is nothing short of a masterpiece. Where their previous works were far more experimental along the lines of a lot of NEUROSIS’ work, “Oceanic” is a more focused and in its own way an alternative foray that is astonishing in its own scope.
Furthering on my initial point that this is perhaps the most aptly titled album around, allow me to use the metaphor fully (well thank you). This album encompasses all you could imagine in a seafaring journey. From the most serene ripples on a small inlet to the near crushing weight of a tidal wave, it is simply amazing how one can, if allowing oneself, to imagine all the liveliness of water encompassed within “Oceanic”. The initial track “The Beginning And The Ends” may appear to start as a pretty ordinary hard rock cut, but within seconds it bursts into ferocious, churning dark currents a washing the listener with a sound as heavy as it is hypnotic. The bottom end crunch can evoke the near surreal experience of being surrounded by people yet unable to communicate over the magnificent drone of water, able to choke even the ears. Throughout most of the tracks on “Oceanic”, the band shows the consummate ability to move between the placid moments of clean, sparsely enumerated passages with the drenching crush of uber-heavy power chords that seem to flow along while also saturating you with immeasurable mass. In “Weight” you are thrown into a mysterious collusion of ambience with meagre drums and little else with the soft cry of a Woman, who unlike a true Siren is calling in a gentle, warm way. Afterwards “From Sinking” immediately flows over you with disgruntled shards of power. Anyone who thinks only Death Metal or such can be truly heavy need do nothing but listen to this track to understand how power is conveyed through many means.
ISIS’ “Oceanic” is nothing short of a complete sail through all the intricacies of what could happen were the elements of the sea allowed to manifest itself through a set of speakers: power, beauty, danger, tranquillity and carnage. “Oceanic” may not be an easy listen at first for those not often exposed to an alternative view of the heavier end of music, but if you give it some time and push off from shore more than once then I’m pretty sure you’ll find the view exquisite. (Online March 18, 2006)