Oceans of Slumber - WinterOceans of Slumber is a progressive metal band from Texas that surprised me. Winter, an album ironically named after something not experienced in Texas,1 is an album of strange character coming from one of metal’s premier labels. Rather than fitting into any of the expected “surefire” categories produced by most labels these days, Oceans of Slumber walks its own path. Their sound is best described as a combination of melodic death, doom and black metal influenced by the Century Black roster circa 1998. Winter blends that with a sadboy metal and an alternative rock base making the album beautiful, mysterious, and oddly chaotic. It’s also really good.

My first impression, though, was that Winter is a beautiful album. All of its diverse pieces are like differently colored threads in a motley arrangement of impressions and ideas. What holds the weave together are the smooth alto tones of Cammie Gilbert. Gilbert’s voice is soft, sultry and deep, but she can swell and fade and knock out moments of epic power (chorus/bridge on “Devout” – awesome). She rides the waves of emotional music and the different genres and she always comes out on top, echoing Åkerfeldt (“Turpentine”) or channeling Stayley (“Apopologue” or “Sunlight”), or using a range and light touch at times, while contrasting it with emotional power that most metal vocalists dream of (“…This Road”). Even when the band breaks into its most extreme moments, Cammie is conspicuous in her absence. Her dynamic voice and approach work to unite the disparate weave and I’m not sure that Winter works without her.

Musically disparate, yes, but Winter is a cool record. Taken song-by-song, each one offers something unique and they’re all well-written. As a whole, it’s tougher going down. The thing that stands out for me after so many listens is that the album doesn’t quite feel cohesive. At 13 songs and 54 minutes, there’s a haphazard lurch to it. I can’t decide if this is a brilliant construction or the result of having a lot of good material, but more song stems than the band wanted to leave on the proverbial cutting room floor. This creates a whole which feels spotty, not connecting the heaviest and softest material, but rather just containing both within the same record. Opening track “Winter” exemplifies this issue. Nearly half-way through the song is the first time a new listener realizes the band has some death metal chops. And the rest of the album is kind of an ongoing tease; dangling excellent ’90s-colored melodic death with a distinctly Scandinavian flavor just out of reach. When blended just right, it’s excellent. “Suffer the Last Bridge” shows the band knocking out both a grungy ’90s rock chorus and a grindy, driven bridge in the same song—a weird, but highly effective, combination.

Oceans of Slumber 2016-02

Of course, the heavier moments are interspersed with sublime a capella cleans like “Lullaby” or the instrumental “Laid to Rest,” both of which are like doodles in a sketchbook. So, too, “Good Life” and “How Tall the Trees” are interspersed between longer songs, with a piano solo “Grace” closing out the album. After a few listens I set up the track listing to be all the proper songs, followed by the sketches and the band’s excellent, but weirdly placed, cover of “Night in White Satin” at the very end. The album’s scattered feel is tough for me to immerse myself in completely. The interludes are beautiful but almost distracting, and yet all the ideas are so good. “Lullaby” makes my heart ache, and the melodies and harmonies in “Sunlight” put me in a rapture. This lilting ride pays off at the end, though, as “…This Road” is an amazing song. Like Diablo Swing Orchestra‘s “Justice for Saint Mary,” this album’s penultimate track (but probably should’ve been the closer) nails the drama and emotional climax that the whole album hints at.

When it comes down to it Winter is a beautiful enigma. Even frustrated as I am with the album’s flow, I’m enraptured by the material. The whole band—from guitarists Contreras and Gary, rhythm section Kelly and Beverly (both dudes, btw), and synth dude Yelsaeb—is obviously extremely talented and it shows through in their bursts of furious virtuosity which punctuate all the songs in one way or another. These exclamation points make me wish for a heavier album, where the band could flex those muscles more. But there’s so much to love here and there’s so much potential, too. Oceans of Slumber is a band that nails a unique balance and has the talent to do whatever they want. The strength of the whole band wrapped in the multifaceted vocal charisma of Gilbert makes Winter shine, and spring is coming.

Rating: Very good!
DR: 6 (basically) | Media Reviewed: 192 kb/s mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: oceansofslumber.com | facebook.com/oceansofslumber
Out Worldwide: March 4th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. Which perfectly encapsulates the irony that the NHL team the Minnesota Northstars moved to Texas where, in fact, there is no natural ice. Not that I’m still bitter or anything.
  • AndySynn

    Is this the first time we’ve ever agreed on something?

    And, if so, is that an ill-omen of coming catastrophe?

    • It’s what Talcott Parsons would have called a convergence. Now you can Wikipedia that and not laugh at my shitty sociologist joke.

      The short answer is: no, we both fucking love Anata. Which means, yes, this is definitely an ill-omen.

      • Even more disconcerting is you endorsing sad boy metal.

        • AndySynn

          At least it’s not a double-album.

          • Boom goes the dynamite.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Oh Synn, if Winter is released, can Spring (vol. 2) be far behind?

          • Name’s Dalton

            Made me laugh out loud. Bravo, Monsterth. Bravo.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            ; )

          • Innit Bartender

            Shelley is metal and metalheads love poetry!

          • Monsterth Goatom

            The Romantics are a treasure-trove of source material. I’m still waiting for Jorn to make a Rock Opera out of Coleridge’s Christabel.

          • Innit Bartender

            I am dreaming of Arjen putting setting some music to Ode to an Grecian Urn by Keats… Also, in your first post, were you referring to the long-lost second album by UK Progsters Spring (the band that couldn’t have enough mellotrons)? If so, you deserve some tons of medals!

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Sadly, no. If only I was so Trve and Kvlt.

      • William Hebblewhite

        Jesus Christ, that Sociology joke was bad and you should be ashamed.

        • Name’s Dalton

          Joke shaming, are we? What sort of a community are we becoming?

          • AngryMetalBird

            Still one of the best! I gave up posting in the comments sections of most other sites. The “atmosphere” there is such that I feel like trying to discuss with a horde of demented pitbulls :(. One of the reasons I’m so happy I’ve found AGM

  • Hmm. Was kinda meh until I heard the harsh vocals. Color me intrigued.

  • sssgadget

    DR: 6 (basically) ? -_-

    • tomasjacobi

      My guess would be that it means the actual full length songs are around DR6 and the shorter interlude-style songs are more dynamic. This is quite common and if you just take the simple average DR value from such an album you’ll get a higher number that doesn’t reflect how compressed most of the songs are.

  • El_Cuervo

    Great album, no doubt.

  • Tom Hardy

    Unnecessary leads – check.
    Song structures that go nowhere – check.
    All artists allowed to shine in the embedded track or the title track on YT – check.
    Hot mess – check.

    Don’t doubt the musicianship on those 2 tracks. I have absolutely no patience for circuitous songs, this’s definitely not my cup of tea.

    • basenjibrian

      Tom: This is an honest question and I am not meaning to (merely) be snarky: But do you really even like metal…or music in general?
      Your are the most DEMANDING poster on the site!

      • Tom Hardy

        Certainly do jolly ol basenjibrian. And with so much music to listen to, I have little patience for mediocrity as you’d understand. In the little time I’ve spent on this site, I’ve recommended bands and/or albums along the way through some discussions that were had. I try not to sugar-coat and fortunately for me, there’s nobody to suck up to either (not that it’s what reviewers on here go through, reviewers on this site are generally good at being absolutely fair vis-a-vis the music). So all you get is an honest opinion. Hope that’s fair yeah?

        • basenjibrian

          Fair enough, man. Fair enough! :)

    • Lasse Momme

      I disagree on writing off the leads as being “unnecessary”. I think there are plenty of examples of extremely tasteful lead work on here, especially on Turpentine. I mean, sure, it’s sort of theatrical and “look at how massive our wings are” at times and I can definitely see how it wouldn’t be someones cup of tea but I think labeling the lead work as unnecessary sort of implies that it’s just a bunch of mindless wank and I just don’t think that does the quality of the leads anywhere near enough justice.

      • Tom Hardy

        That’s one perspective and I respect it. Want to split this absolutely tasteless fookal juice my set director wanted me to try? It looks green and tastes like mud.

  • William Hebblewhite

    I forgot, is Very Good with an ! a 3.75 or is it closer to a 4?

    • El_Cuervo

      Check the tags bruh

  • Grymm

    I have nothing to add except, for a second there, I thought the guy to the right of the girl was Lord Worm of Cryptopsy fame.

  • Bart the Repairman

    Once again I’m spending too much time counting faces and silhouettes hidden in the artwork…

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Second time in the same day. What are the odds, eh?

      • Bart the Repairman

        I look forward to the day when somebody find an
        accidentally painted unicorn somewhere between messy details.

  • Pimpolho

    Well, this is currently my album of the year. It’s pretty fantastic.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Great find, AMG. I usually don’t care for sadboy metal, but, after streaming the album, I really dig this (I hear more of the sultry you mentioned than sadboy). A certain meandering quality to the whole affair, but Gilbert’s singing brings it all together for me.

    • Bart the Repairman

      I feel completely opposite about the vocals. I appreciate their uniqueness, but can’t force myself to like them. Too bad, because music certainly fits my taste.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I respect that. But, yea, great music.

  • Iain Gleasure

    I am confused, I thought AMG was Swedish as in living in Sweden not Minnesota. So why is he bitter about the North Stars moving to Texas?

    And why indeed is the Swedish and/or Minnesotan and/or Wrong man trying to make it seem like it matters when everyone knows that wherever the stars are, the Canadian teams will win the cup.

    (that last bit is a joke, look at the NHL standings if you don’t get it)

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I’m a Canadian hockey fan forever!… Occasionally.

    • Tom Hardy

      Before he was an angry metal guy, he was a regular happy fella who hailed from the snowy state of Wisconsin.

      • Name’s Dalton

        Wait. He’s not from fucking Sweden? I’m so disillusioned.

        • Kalsten

          As far as I remember, he moved from the US to Sweden.

      • Iain Gleasure

        Wait, you know who else came from Wisconsin? Dick Cheney! Oh wait, that was Wyoming.

        But that still isn’t proof that AMG isn’t secretly Dick Chaney! I mean have we ever seen them in a room together?

        • Tom Hardy

          I understand your sentiment and think it’s best leaving the young angry metal guy confirm it himself. Cheerio.

  • Reese Burns

    I can’t be the only one who didn’t enjoy this, like, at all, right?

    • The Stormin Mormon

      You must be :P

    • Tom Hardy

      I didn’t either. At all.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I liked the guitar sounds and her voice is like honey but yeah I can’t get into it this song at all. To me it seems really disjointed I don’t think the growly guy vocals added anything and the keys are overbearing.
      Theres nothing bad about this and her voice sounds beautiful but if the album is like the song I reckon I’d struggle to get through it.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Wait. Put that comment I made here.

  • Scourge

    I love the Dallas Stars!

  • Kronos

    Chorineu is really getting around these days.

    • Martin Knap

      two covers by him in a row, wow.

  • Kmill

    I really get into bands that bring something new to the table, And this certainly qualifies. Great song!

  • Diego Ferreira

    Got me hooked because of the Nights in White Satin cover. Stayed for the rest.

  • The Stormin Mormon

    I’ve loved Oceans of Slumber ever since their killer “Solitude” cover. This is beyond awesome

  • One More Thing

    I’m usually not a fan of the whole guy and girl vocal trade off thing but this is pretty damn good stuff. I love that artwork. Can’t wait to check out the rest.

    • tim.o

      Not the typical Beauty & Beast vocal stylings. Quite refreshing.

  • Name’s Dalton

    Not my thing either.

  • Sounds pretty cool. I will check it out. Sample track is intriguing.

    Edit: That artwork is pretty impressive.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    After spinning Votum repeatedly and finding it to become even better with each listen, this album is sounding alarmingly clustered. Great review, but can’t get behind this one based on what I’ve heard so far. Even with so much going on, the instruments hardly compliment each other so every five seconds, segments pop up that sound loud, but empty.

    It’s almost like every member was on a different page during the recording process. And damn it too, because these guys as individuals sound brilliant.

    • Tofu muncher

      am with you there. And I could really go for less growl here and there.

  • Bizarrely, I’m liking the embedded track and I normally hate prog death (unless it’s Disillusion or Opeth before both went bad). Wat.

  • Didn’t expect to be listening to a Moody Blues song on a tuesday morning.

    This is a nice album. What a nice voice.

  • robpal

    I have mixed feelings about the embedded track… However, the ones they have released earlier (“Winter”, “Turpentine” and “Suffer The Last Bridge”) were all excellent, so definitely going to give this one a shot.
    I’m usually allergic to female vocals, but the singer here clearly has something that catches my attention, same as Avatarium.

  • lennymccall

    I loved their first record Aetherial with the male singer. Just cannot get into his new singer. Oh well.
    Speaking of new singers, when the hell is that new Skeletonwitch gonna leak out? Fuck Sirius XM.

  • junkyhead

    Enjoyed the embedded track. The drum tone grabbed my attention, the vocals, at first, threw me off, as im not that fond on female vocals. But yeah, everything seemed to fall into place. Nothing being over the top or cheesy. Looking forward to listen to the whole thing.

    • tim.o

      Great drums!

  • junkyhead

    Actually i even heard bits of Nevermore (circa This Godless Endeavor era) which is totally a good thing.

  • Tardsmat

    This reminds me quite a bit of modern sonata arctica in the sense that they have these really strange confusing song structures and incoherent albums, yet it’s somehow really good.

    • Which modern Sonata Arctica are you referring to as “good”? All of it I’ve heard in recent years has been embarrassingly bad.

      • Tardsmat

        I think their best album is unia, but days of grays and pariah’s child are also pretty good. Their newer albums are less consistent in quality i would say, but i enjoy the more courageous approach more than the relatively safe stuff they’ve done before.

  • Zadion

    I definitely disagree with the comments about the album’s flow. I love the way the album wanes with the interludes, and the Nights in White Satin cover is, astoundingly, perfect where it is. Normally I hate it when bands do covers at all, but they make that song theirs and if I didn’t know better I’d assume it was theirs. I wrote about this myself in my review, but Winter’s ebb and flow is largely what makes it so good.

    Gilbert’s voice makes the album, that’s for certain. I’ve never, ever heard a metal vocalist with so much soul. This has a huge chance of being my personal record of the year. It’s been a long time since I could look at an album and say, “I love every second of it.”

    • tim.o

      I totally agree on the Nights in White Satin cover. This could have been a total disaster; but they pulled it off and made it their own. Kudos.
      Also, I would say Uta Plotkin is quite soulful!

    • GonzO Rodrigue

      Yes. This, exactly. Finally, some actual vocal talent, and harsh vox used appropriately as a tool instead of a backdrop.

      Totally agree on the flow, too. Apparently if it isn’t crushingly heavy for 50 minutes, there’s a “flow problem”. What happened to the days when an album was supposed to convey a _range_ of moods?

      Album is damn near perfect. It’s a breath of fresh air for the genre, that’s for sure.

      • AndySynn

        Apparently if it isn’t crushingly heavy for 50 minutes, there’s a “flow problem”…

        Pretty sure no-one is saying that. Good straw-man argument though.

        • GonzO Rodrigue

          Lighten up, Francis.

    • AnnieK13

      Yeah I really like the flow of this one too. One of my favorite albums so far this year.

  • Bloody excellent, mate!

  • Pretty good, but I too would like it more if it were heavier.

  • Wilhelm

    I like this, They remind me of Madder Mortem so much in that it mixes prog metal and modern chug chug metal…and of course the female vocals. I’m also getting hints of Octavia Sperati, not bad.

    • lysurgery

      i too hear Octavia Sperati… and I like it

  • This album has been growing on me. The embedded track is not one of the better ones on the album IMO. The album starts out with the title track, “Winter” which would have been a much better sample of the album. For anyone who was less than impressed with “Devout” check out the track “Winter”.

  • Dagoth_RAC

    Singer reminds me of Anneke van Giersbergen from The Gathering, back in the Mandylion/Nighttime Birds era. She really makes the album. I think I would find the whole thing too unfocused/eclectic/modern/hipster if not for her.

  • the_niv

    Reminds me of Cynic’s members band Portal, which recorded a demo which was released as “The Portal Tapes” by Cynic, which was pure prog-alt-rock, without the metal. This sounds like that, but with the metal put back in.

  • The Metal Pigeon

    Have been enjoying the album, as well the triumph of one of our own Houston bands making the leap to the worldwide stage and hopefully getting bigger. Got to see them live last night at a benefit concert here in town, they were pretty spectacular in person.

  • AnnieK13

    The more I listen to this album, the more I like it. Thanks AMG – would not have found this without you!