Since moving to LA five years ago the holiday season has come to mean pretty much just one thing to me:

METAL.

So last year while in the throws of a deep Opeth binge I found myself hunting around on the internet for other groups to pontificate on. These days it takes more than just weight and speed to impress me though; Reign in Blood is, amazingly enough brothers and sisters of the cassette era, almost 25 years old – it’s been done. Groups that get me now are the ones that operate on what I consider a three-deep concept: music, imagery and presence should all work cohesively, and when they do you usually get a pretty killer band. 

And on that note, say hello to The Ocean.




I stumbled across The Ocean (also known as The Ocean Collective) last year around Christmas time when I found this:

http://www.theoceancollective.com/main.html

Impressed, I found myself at a nearby record store where I purchased the 2009 re-master version of the groups’ 2004 album Fluxion. Initially I liked it quite a bit; there were moments heavy enough to crack concrete but within and around those moments there were also dark, orchestral (yep. They recorded an entire orchestra to augment some of the tracks) movements, so that the album kind of acts like a tumultuous sea – softly lilting passages suddenly give way to cataclysmic bouts of violence and horror that make for an almost exhausting and unpredictable experience.

I’ve chewed on Fluxion for a year then and finally went on a binge after this re-ignited my interest in the group a couple of weeks ago:



Something about the entire package behind these guys suddenly began to add up in a way a band has not for me since I first spiraled headlong into Tool. In the past week now I’ve picked up three more of The Ocean Collective’s albums and simply put, I am blown away.

With Heliocentric I was completely thrown for a loop. There is a depth of material unlike anything the group has attempted before on this album, which was released about six months ago. Loïc Rossetti is the new vocalist they have notably entered into the fold here, and he helms a weighty ten tracks that range from the trademark Ocean tsunami-style to soft-spoken introspection sometimes accomplished with the accompaniment of grand piano, lite string flourishes and picturesque guitar. There is a definite note of both Faith No More and Mr. Bungle here – not only because Martin Kvamme* handles most of the bands’ visual imagery, but also because there is now an attention to vocal melody a la Patton that was missing on the earlier albums. The vocals no longer need just burst above the music; now the instrumentation can breathe and weave itself around Rossetti’s melodies. The result is one of the most ambitious and serious heavy albums in years.

Now I’d like to juxtapose Heliocentric with another of the groups’ albums I recently purchased. 2006’s Aeolian, the counter-part to Fluxion (originally slated to be released as a double album) is one of the heaviest, most chaotically complex arrangements of musical slaughter I’ve ever heard. Imagine Dillinger Escape Plan, Dimmu Borgir and Cthulhu dropped into a musical blender and you’ll be approaching the sound of Aeolian, a pummelingly complex hour of music which upon first listen left me gasping for breath and … MORE OCEAN. So once more I took a drive to the record store…

Heliocentric dropped on April 9th earlier this year and exactly seven months later on November 9th Anthropocentric followed it. Continuing the groups’ themed album sets, at first listen Anthropocentric comes off very much a return to the heavier form that made up some of The Ocean’s earlier albums. However, this time they have the new vocalist to employ in arranging and the result is a richly textured slab of powerful songs that, while not quite as introspective as some of the material on Heliocentric, is every bit as evolutionary to the group and metal in general. It might be my orientation, but again I believe I hear more than a little Faith No More influence in the song writing, and there’s more visuals and lyrical content to broaden the experience to once again cement these guys at the top of my list, twice now, for 2010.

…………

* Whose website is here: http://www.unitdeltaplus.com/