REVIEW: Oceans of Slumber – Starlight and Ash

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In 2020, progressive metal act OCEANS OF SLUMBER released their excellent self-titled album, marking somewhat of a new chapter in the band’s history, with a new lineup and a more cohesive sound altogether. Two years later, it’s time for them to release a brand new album, “Starlight and Ash,” released on July 22nd, 2022, via Century Media Records. We’re here to tell you what the band has in store for us with this release.

While “Oceans of Slumber” was full of darkness and extremities, “Starlight and Ash” shows a different side of the colorful progressive metal spectrum; softer, poppier, and more compact. While “Oceans of Slumber” had a lot of extreme progressive metal passage, “Starlight and Ash” focuses on a nice and mellow atmosphere, often introducing quite minimal sections; a route that a band like LEPROUS has also taken with their new material.

While interviewing vocalist Cammie Beverley for their Oceans of Slumber release in 2020, we already discussed her various inspirations in the non-metal genre, ranging from vocalists such as Nick Cave to, for instance, the late blues/folk rock singer Mark Lanegan. At the same time, Beverley mentioned how country music has been a constant factor in her music due to her life in Texas. She mentioned that country music envisions wonderful storytelling and a lot of it can be very dark, it’s usually pretty soulful. Without knowing it at the time, she perfectly summed up what direction they would be heading in with “Starlight and Ash.”

“The Waters Rising” is by far one of the best examples of this. The instruments take a back seat and Cammie‘s vocals take a central spot. The band left metal behind but are producing an equally dark sound via the storytelling approach that they now have made more important. Softer and more polished is “The Hanging Tree,” which does have a progressive edge to it due to its intricate structure. If you’re longing for a heavier song, “Star Altar” is probably the most doom metal -oriented track out there and darker at its core; a great example of how this album is also a very versatile record.

Another surprise on the record is the instrumental piano intermezzo “The Spring of 21,” a song that perfectly translates the feeling of being slightly hopeful that the pandemic might be over, but unsure about the future. It’s very peaceful and hopeful, yet has somewhat of a melancholic sound to it. It also serves as a nice breather between all the impressive, overwhelming tracks filled with intense emotions. The intermezzo comes after the heavier “Star Altar” and then smoothly transitions into one of the softer, more hopeful tunes “Just a Day,” this trio of songs serves really as my highlight of the record, perfectly balancing out different shades of a contrasting musical spectrum.

OCEANS OF SLUMBER also often include covers in their albums and this time it’s the traditional folk song “House of the Rising Sun.” The song was made popular by THE ANIMALS and it’s one of those tracks that has been covered quite a lot. When I first saw them release it as a single, I thought it made a lot of sense, considering the emotivity in Cammie‘s vocals and in essence, it being quite a dark song. Thankfully, it really held up to my high expectations.

The album ends with another heavier track, “The Shipbuilders Son,” which has a really beautiful guitar sound and also includes probably the best drum parts off this entire record. As the song progresses, short strumming riffs are introduced but then everything halts and another piano melody, in all simplicity, plays along with Cammie‘s vocals. Halfway through the doomy onslaught of distorted guitars and slow, yet cool drum patterns provide the grande finale to this intense, yet intriguing record.

A lot of bands seem to have been heading towards new directions during the pandemic, allowing them probably more time for experimentation. OCEANS OF SLUMBER can also be added to that list, yet this step somehow feels like a logical one to take after the excelling self-titled record they produced. In the case of “Starlight and Ash,” maybe not all of their fans will stay aboard the hype train after this run, however, this album offers an immersive listening experience and is probably the most soothing soundtrack to the life we are living right now, filled with uncertainties.

Tracklist

  1. The Waters Rising
  2. Hearts of Stone
  3. The Lighthouse
  4. Red Forest Roads
  5. The Hanging Tree
  6. Salvation
  7. Star Altar
  8. The Spring of 21
  9. Just a Day
  10. House of the Rising Sun
  11. The Shipbuilders Son

Lineup

Cammie Beverly – vocals
Xan Fernandez – guitar
Jessie Santos – guitar
Mathew Aleman – synth
Semir Ozerkan – bass
Dobber Beverly – drums and piano

Label

Century Media Records

Links

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