Nothing is more powerful than a band naming an album after themselves. In the case of the American progressive metal act OCEANS OF SLUMBER, their self-titled fourth full-length album marks a new beginning for the band, as they went through a major lineup change. Naming said album after themselves, the band makes a statement that not only have they started a brand new chapter in their history, but they have also matured and fine-tuned their sound with this release. With only singer Cammie Gilbert and drummer Dobber Beverly staying behind, the duo found their match and the result is “Oceans of Slumber,” out on 4 September 2020, via Century Media Records.
Living up to its title, the melancholic “The Soundtrack to My Last Day” has the honor of opening up this album. The track starts with a soothing guitar melody, regains strength, but then drops again to beautiful tranquility. This calmer passage is mixed with Cammie Gilbert‘s soulful vocals, which equip the song with a dreamy character. Midway through, ominous and doomy riffs and deep growls load the atmosphere with a darker tone, which demonstrates the overall feel of this album. As the song progresses, more progressive elements are introduced into the mix to create a perfect blend of doom, death, and prog. Clocking in at 7:36 minutes, the song is on the longer side of the album and definitely a brave choice with which to open the album.
With an acoustic guitar strumming pattern, “Pray for Fire” sets a slightly different, more hopeful tone. While a bit more mellow than its predecessor, it twists and turns until it becomes a powerful statement piece with strong choruses and bombastic instrumental sections. The lighter and harsher sections are often juxtaposed and the song abruptly changes its mood. This contrast, however, is what makes the song captivating as you never really know what to expect on the first listen.
A bow that’s very lightly touching the strings of a cello introduces the first single of the album, “A Return to the Earth Below.” The song is probably the most accessible of the album and has a more straightforward structure to it. This underlines the vast variety on this album, as there are songs for everyone to enjoy. Midway through, a more atmospheric soundscape is introduced, after which Cammie Gilbert shifts to fifth gear backed by heavy guitar riffs, piercing piano melodies, and ominous drums – this is perhaps one of my favorite sections of the whole album, as it pierces right through your soul.
“Imperfect Divinity” is an instrumental intermezzo that offers a little break in between the songs before the heaviest track on the album, “The Adorned Fathomless Creation,” is introduced. This build-up mostly consists of guitar sounds combined with beautiful piano melodies and intensifies the next chapter of the album. “The Adorned Fathomless Creation” is definitely the highlight of the album for me. Starting off with backward lyrics, the song has an extremely heavy intro with growls, topped off with furious riffs. The best way to describe this track is as a journey from chaos to ethereal beauty, ranging from death metal sounds, to Gothic and doom metal vibes, topped with progressive metal moments reminiscent of old-OPETH. The drumming patterns in this song are remarkable, from jazzy sections to blast-beats – is there anything drummer Dobber Beverly can’t do?
In stark contrast, the band plays around with the song’s intensity by placing songs like “To the Sea” and “The Colors of Grave” right behind it. “To the Sea” starts off with a very 70s prog guitar melody that radiates warmth. It progresses into a synth-infused track, topped with Cammie Gilbert‘s dark vocals. Altogether it retains its peaceful character throughout the track. “The Colors of Grace” features Mick Moss from dark rock act ANTIMATTER as a guest in a beautiful, heartfelt ballad.
A bit slower and calmer, “I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves” follows, drenched in a doomy atmosphere. The interplay of clean vocals and growls are taken to the extremes in here and are blended very well throughout the track and often used to intensify the whole song. Followed by the instrumental piano piece, “September (Those Who come Before),” this two-piece really has the potential to change the mood of the listener, introducing elements to the sound that convey emotions of yearning, which ultimately is something very well present in Autumn as a season. String sections introduce a climax to the song before it ends just as silently as it took off.
“Total Chaos Apparatus” lives up to its title by introducing the element of extremely well-organized chaos in OCEANS OF SLUMBER‘s sound. The track is incredibly difficult to analyze, considering its many layers and continuously changing mood, providing the perfect setting to introduce the two last tracks on the album.
That wonderful heaviness that is brought along by the slowness of doom metal is something that’s also present in “The Red Flower.” I specifically love the way this track is placed before the ultimate track of the album, “Wolf Moon (Including Zoanthropic Paranoia).” Originally by TYPE O NEGATIVE, OCEANS OF SLUMBER did their best to create their own enchanting version of the track. While because of the poppy keyboard melodies, the song has a bit of a lighter feel to it in comparison to the rest of the album, it surely is a great way to end the album.
This 70-minute journey through different scapes of emotions is possibly one of the best prog releases 2020 has to offer. OCEANS OF SLUMBER often juxtapose different sounds, but these contrasts never feel out of place or too much; in fact, they make perfect sense. Through darkness and light, through melancholy and hope, the six-piece have managed to create an album that fits its release date perfectly. The feeling of Sehnsucht overtakes this album – a feeling that represents thoughts and feelings about all facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences. In other words, “life’s longings” or an individual’s search for happiness, while coping with the reality of unattainable wishes. Such feelings are usually profound and tend to be accompanied by both positive and negative feelings. This produces what has often been described as an ambiguous emotional occurrence, which is precisely what this album is all about.
On top of that sentiment, the new lineup have created something fresh together; the instruments fuse together in a unified front, which is often fueled by Cammie Gilbert‘s versatile and beautiful vocals, varying from poppy, country, blues, and gospel styles that evoke a lot of emotions. It’s no wonder the album carries the name of the band, as with “Oceans of Slumber,” they have created an out-of-the-box, spectacular release that introduces a brand new and exciting chapter in the band’s history.
Written by Laureline Tilkin
- Soundtrack To My Last Day
- Pray for Fire
- A Return to the Earth Below
- Imperfect Divinity
- The Adorned Fathomless Creation
- To the Sea
- The Colors of Grace
- I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves
- September (Those Who Come Before)
- Total Failure Apparatus
- The Red Flower
- Wolf Moon (Including Zoanthropic Paranoia)
Cammie Gilbert – clean vocals
Dobber Beverly – drums, piano
Mat V. Aleman – keyboards
Jessie Santos – guitars
Alexander Lucian – guitars, harsh vocals
Semir Özerkan – bass, harsh vocals
Century Media Records
Interview with messier — “There’s only three of us, so we have to make it count and get the sound as big as we can.”