Local Finnish “dark pop metal” outfit OCEAN DARK caught our attention in 2020 with their EP, “Voice to the Nations.” When we noticed that they had released a full album on June 11th, 2021, it seemed like a good idea to tune in again and see what a full-length album might sound like.
If I’m being honest, I can’t tell you how I feel about pop metal. Certainly, some of my absolute favorite bands like EMBER FALLS and ARION have a ton of pop influences, yet they remain undoubtedly metal at the core of who they are. Bands, however, like HIM or DEAD BY APRIL that are more inclined to be poppy with elements of heavy mixed in here and there, are not generally my favorites. “Voice to the Nations” was an intriguing balance of, as they say, dark pop metal, so it seemed worthwhile to check out the album and see where exactly OCEAN DARK falls on the pop spectrum of rock and metal.
On the whole, this album proves to be quite fun. From start to finish, it is upbeat and feels positive. There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, so albums that are simply pleasant can be a real treat to come upon. “Hope & Chaos” doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel, but they do have a very pleasant and reasonably unique hard pop-rock sound that has plenty of familiar influences without sounding too much like any of them.
The album opens with one of the singles, “Fallen,” which a pretty hard-hitting intro with some interesting alternative-styled vocals over a fun drum beat, rising up to a pretty strong chorus. It starts the album off strong and includes a music video of the band performing in what looks like it could be a basement of a Finnish apartment building, creating a nice atmosphere. Olli Helenius has a very pleasing voice and shows a variety of aspects of it in this first song.
“Suddenly” is a very bouncy and poppy track with a pretty straightforward message: “love is gonna break your heart / love will make you see” and so on. What stood out most about this track was the vocal lines in the verses, which I swear are reminiscent of really old NIGHTWISH somehow. This one toes the line of too poppy and just catchy enough (with the powerful fills and strong soloing), but is pretty interesting if you give it a proper listen. They dip into a deeper, dropped sound with “Proclaim,” which is gritty as hell, musically, behind smooth, melodic singing.
“Home” starts strong with good riffing but gets a bit simple during the verses, building into nice but pretty straightforward (and, once again, catchy) chorus – very radio-friendly but a bit over-simple for my taste. Kudos, though, to its very laid-back solo. “No Shame” feels a bit like a hit ’90s rock song, with a pretty cool chorus and empowering lyrics.
“Unspeakable” is another one of the singles. It has a really lively feel and some great ohhh-ohhh parts in the chorus that would both be excellent in a live setting, building up dynamically from the get-go and making for one hell of a single. Meanwhile, “Who I Am” is a classic ’90s hard rock ballad, pure and simple. An ominous intro opens “Bow to Your Master,” which is another dropped and somewhat dirty-sounding track with some nice soloing and a lurking rhythm section with a hint of funk, leaving strong impression. Some of the most vulnerable-sounding vocals can be heard in “Way to Find You,” which is not quite a ballad but definitely has a nice, emotional progression that climaxes in a great singalong-able chorus. Then album then winds its journey up with “Prisoner,” a rocking, perky long song that isn’t the strongest on the album but does leave things on a positive note with a good energy that leaves the listener wanting more.
The overall feeling left by “Hope & Chaos” is of positive intrigue. On the surface, the music may not catch more than the casual listener’s attention, due to its perky poppiness. However, there are plenty of little treats to be found on closer inspection to make this more than just another basic melodic pop-rock band. OCEAN DARK have a great recipe to make easy-listening, friendly songs to appeal to the radio listeners, yet the open-minded heavy metal fan may also enjoy dipping their feet into these waters. If you like bands like LORDI (musically) or if you’re cool with the kind of music that would be played on mainstream radio yet has a little something special to it, OCEAN DARK could be worth a listen.
- No Shame
- Who I Am
- Bow to Your Master
- Way to Find You
Olli Helenius – Vocals
Miko Tekoniemi – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tommi Huuskonen – Bass
Nikke Karaksela – Drums
darkTunes Music Group