One of the most celebrated literary classics is the multi-volume novel, In Search of Lost Time, written by the French author, Marcel Proust, during 1909-1912. The average reader, who’s into this kind of hypnotic and dreamy style, will have it done in ten hours and seven minutes, by reading approximately 250 words per minute. Regardless of how slow or fast you read, one thing is for certain: the book is something that has the potential to make time disappear completely. A similar phenomenon occurs when you listen to a specific brand of progressive rock/metal. Some of us even like to think that music, in general, is simply how we decorate time or, to be more precise, how we escape time. It feels like being swallowed by an immersive ocean of sound. Now, with all this in mind, I could not have come up with a more appropriate album title for the new OUR OCEANS outing, “While Time Disappears,” released via SPV Long Branch Records on November 27th, 2020.
This is a poignant collection of nine new songs that should maybe be regarded not so much as though carrying on the prog-metal legacy, but alongside the more rascally side of post-rockish soundscapes, jazz fusion harmony, and beautiful pop melodies. Sporting two former CYNIC musicians, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is a band on a mission to tread down the less beaten path. Hailing from the Netherlands, the band sounds like kindred spirits to the Danish prog monolith, VOLA, which is also renowned for the way the band blends THE BEACH BOYS vocal harmonies with Pat Metheny-tinged jazz chops and aggressive, oddball metal riffing. OUR OCEANS is maybe a little bit less metal and more atmospheric prog rock, in a way that is slightly reminiscent of certain Australian proggers such as THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, KARNIVOOL, and DEAD LETTER CIRCUS. That is to say, these flying Dutchmen turned out to be one of the best bands that I have had the pleasure to discover in this strange year 2020.
The opening track, “Unravel,” is a perfect gambit. It builds momentum with frantic guitar arpeggios that bounce around in an oddball time signature until the song bursts into a powerhouse riff maelstrom of raw emotion. The vocal ornamentation is somewhat reminiscent of certain Danish prog-influenced indie outfits such as VETO and CARPARK NORTH, as well as the Californian alt. rockers, DREDG. The following track, “Weeping Lead,” slows things down a notch, resonating with the faint air of the late British prog-metal band OCEANSIZE. By now, if there’s any love for progressive flavor in your heart, you’re converted. The magic of OUR OCEANS derives from the fact that, while it simultaneously triggers all these flashbacks of all the aforementioned bands, it doesn’t really sound like any of them, per se. The band has developed a voice of its own – a signature sound that is characterized by introspective lyrics, haunting melodies, and robust songcraft of the progressive kind.
The album soon plunges into a plaintive mood, introducing three slow or mid-tempo tracks in a row. Despite not punching you in the face right away, the milder tracks aren’t lacking one bit in terms of emotional urgency. The songs, “The Heart’s Whisper” and “Motherly Flame” apply the sort of post-rock paradigm of introducing emotional crescendos, from whisper to a scream, in 5 minutes’ time. “Passing By,” in turn, is an ethereal ballad with an almost jazzy feeling here and there.
Just when I thought that this album was going to be one of those late-night records, what with all these slow-paced numbers, the game changed. “Face Them” is a genuine punch-up of a song. The drumming in particular is impressive, going off on a wild tangent, almost reaching THE MARS VOLTA levels of crazy. The high-energy feel is further emphasized by the zany guitar riffs that resonate with a somewhat ring-modulated twist. The frantic feeling is mellowed by the following track, “Your Night, My Dawn,” which quite nicely pulsates forward with an electronic feel somewhat similar to DEAD LETTER CIRCUS‘ magnificent track “Alien.” Did I already tell you how great a band this is? Oh, yes! It is!
Before the party’s over, another slow-tempo number titled “You Take” does something that I had thought no band would ever dare to even try. Whether it is deliberate or not, on this song, the band’s vocalist Tymon Kruidenier channels the ghost of Jeff Buckley in such a way that it’s hard to believe my ears. So even before hearing the album closer, “With Hands Torn Open” – which is quite a haunting way to bring the album to a close, by the way – I know for certain that this bunch is one of the coolest bands I’ve found this year, hands down! It is hard to get enough of this album. It’s dark and overwhelmingly smitten with sadness, frustration, and heartbreak. It’s spine-chilling – and I love it. To paraphrase a thought from Proust, when the heartstrings yearn to be plucked, they yearn to be sounded again however rough, even if it should break them.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Weeping Lead
- The Heart’s Whisper
- Motherly Flame
- Passing By
- Face Them
- Your Night, My Dawn
- You Take
- With Hands Torn Open
Tymon Kruidenier – Vocals & Guitars
Robin Zielhorst – Bass & Vocals
Yuma van Eekelen – Drums
SPV Long Branch Records