Oceanwake - EarthenA couple of years back I reviewed the sophomore album from Finland’s Oceanwake. I commended their compelling fusion of sheer power with delicate atmospherics and it made my year-end list. They’ve now returned with Earthen and the scope is huger than ever. Comprising just two tracks of over 20 minutes apiece, I feared drone and repetition had taken hold. The succeeding album to the one with which I discover a good band is always a dicey affair as I have expectations as to quality and style. And so it was with trepidation that I clicked play…

…but I am delighted to report that my fears were unfounded. Earthen is recognizably still Oceanwake but it hikes the moody, atmospheric qualities from Sunless. It’s more expansive — almost progressive — and is simultaneously more subtle and denser. The compositions are not wanting for layers and depth as the bass is pleasingly audible and three or four guitar melodies harmonize or counter-point. This is especially apparent in the quieter passages, whereas the heavier bits focus on beefing up the leading riffs. Demystifying these layers is a legitimately joyous task as the melodies are amazingly evocative. Indeed, the vocal range used is also broader than before. The guttural growls are as savage as ever but a raspier timbre is also used occasionally which makes for pleasing variation. The cleans are also strengthened by the greater use of backing chants, conferring grandiosity but also addressing their prior lack of depth. The upshot is that Earthen is an improvement on Sunless which was itself great.

The two tracks balance well too. The second half of Earthen on “In Amidst the Silent Thrones” is stompier and destructive with longer passages of hard-hitting riffs. Just 30 seconds pass before you’re first struck and particular ideas are used as a refrain throughout, both in the quieter melodies and heavy riffs. This results in a more immediately engaging listen than “Storm Sermon” as it’s faster and recognizable moments recur. But on balance I prefer the opener. It’s the more measured, never ranging far from an emotive interlude and only using a few, very deliberate leads. Yet its music is the best I’ve heard this year thus far: it traverses moods, textures, and riffs but is paced perfectly. At no point do I feel that any part overstays its welcome yet neither is its run fragmented.

Oceanwake 2017

Musically there’s very little to fault. The greatest criticisms I have regard Earthen‘s production. The bizarre and frustrating decision was taken to downgrade a dynamic range of 8 previously to 4 here. Extended periods of heaviness (granted, these are few) are consequently ear-ringing after a couple of minutes. In the plentiful quieter and moodier passages, this limited range is similarly negative as an expanded soundstage would allow real contrasts in sound and finer detailing. Bands with loud and quiet elements are those which would benefit most obviously from good dynamics and so it’s true here. There’s also weird fuzz on the clean guitars. It’s much too obvious to be accidental and beyond lending an aura of distance, it’s perhaps utilized with too heavy a hand. However, the bass is more audible this time and the mix is always clear. It’s very satisfying to be able to pick out individual layers in the denser compositions.

So while there are production problems Earthen is otherwise a consummate improvement over Sunless. I truly am a sucker for dynamic song-writing comprising heavy and lighter passages but it’s rarely executed so well as here. And while the mood shifts the mournfulness, dejection and… well… DOOM of the genre is never forgotten. This is the first great record of the year that I’ve heard and it will feature in my writing again come December.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps MP3
Label: ViciSolum Productions
Websites: oceanwake.fi | facebook.com/oceanwake
Releases worldwide: March 10th, 2017

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  • antitayyip

    any review about lastest depeche mode album?

    • VikingSchism

      Is Depeche Mode metal?

      • antitayyip

        there are plenty of non metal reviews in this coop..

      • Is Oceanwake metal?

        • Grymm

          And WILL… THEY… BLEND?!

          *feverishly eyes his unused Ninja blender*

    • Wilhelm

      The song I heard was terrible, I think Songs of Faith and Devotion was their last good one.

      • antitayyip

        i checked the album out..i correct myself..there is nothing to review about..they are already a dead horse that shouldnt be kicked…

        • Paul VH

          The first track is the only song that even hints at past greatness.
          Last great song they wrote was Precious IMHO.
          Too bad…..

  • antitayyip

    drumming is nice…

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Maybe they’ll pull a Vainaja if enough of us spam their Facebook page

    • [not a Dr]

      promise them to keep the score matching the DR

      • Speaking of witch; I wonder if the new Saille will be reviewed. It’s a very good album, but the average DR only barely reach DR4, as 2/3 of the songs actually hit shitty DR3. It sounds compact but shockingly not too compressed.

        • AndySynn

          I’ve always found Saille to be resoundingly “meh”… so not too surprised by that.

          • Right now, I hope you never recover those Camels.

          • AndySynn

            DON’T YOU TALK ABOUT MY CAMELS!!!

          • Camels, Camels, Camels… I’ll stop when you acknowledge the idiosyncrasy of a band used to mix the finest elements of Morgul, Gloomy Grim, Arcturus, Tartaros, Limbonic Art, Obsidian Gate et al. with the majesty of Behemoth and Nile to a sophisticated and refined alloy, damn it.

          • AndySynn

            And once you find that band, I’ll happily acknowledge it.

            But, until then, Saille are just remarkably bland. Lots of influences thrown into a pot, but with very little in the way of spark or spice, or any real identity of their own.

            They’re not bad, by any means, but nothing about them strikes me as particularly “special”.

          • Camels, I say, Camels. If only I were rich, I’d have a live specimen of one of those two-bumped dromedaries dropped of in your driveway.

        • It sounds awful. I mean year-end list worthy unfortunately. I have no idea what happened.

          • Fortunately, the basic production, before by accident ending up in the waste compressor, ain’t all bad. And fortunately, I’m not a very picky audio-geek. It’s nevertheless unfortunate when good musical material is given such a mistreatment.

        • Grymm

          My review of it is coming, and yeah, that production was fucking horrendous.

          • I trust you’ll cover all aspects in an unbiased manner, according to the ever objective AMG practice. And I’m looking forward to reading it.

        • Feytalist

          New Saille is out? Why was I not informed. Shame about the loudness, but I like them enough to move past that if the music is good.

          Edit: Release date: March 13th. Fuckin tease :D

    • ricLP81

      Well, I for one won’t buy it until I see higher DR. I still can’t believe I bought the Subrosa album. There’s something great under the shit sounding thing I bought… Same thing here

      • I feel your pain.

  • Dethjesta

    Album cover looks like Colossus at Thorpe Park.

    • [not a Dr]

      I thought it was a sphere-track.

    • El_Cuervo

      Indeed but it’s a defunct park in Japan, I forget the name. The photo was taken by a band member.

      • Name’s Dalton

        Photo reminds me of the album cover from Red House Painters’ “Rollercoaster” LP, which featured an image from one on Coney Island.

    • Grymm

      I wonder if that is the infamous euthanasia rollercoaster…

      EDIT: Nope. El Cuervo answered it already.

  • madhare

    Hmm. I have a problem with the growls. In general, growls have a tendency to be pretentious sometimes. Like… It’s some little boy (maybe in his early teens) trying to be older and tougher than they are. Luckily, in many cases, that pretentiousness is nicely hidden by pounding music.

    But here with the crispy clear music in the background… I just can’t avoid hearing that fakery in his voice. Snot flowing from his nose as he explains to his mates “that this is like… like… how the… tough dudes sing… you know”.

    Otherwise sounds great.

    • Yeah I don’t like the growls either…

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Never before thought of growls as pretentious… I usually thought of growls as “I can’t sign in tune, so I’m just going to growl”. By the way, I love growls, but it is very rare a vocalist who can both growl and sign in tune (as Akerfeldt used to do).

      • Gaëtan Baratin

        What about Evan Berry?

  • El Cuervo lives!

  • Innit Bartender

    Nice one!!!

  • Diego Molero

    Just a couple of weeks ago I was relistening to Sunless, which is a great album. So it’s a nice surprise to see this review today, and even more nice to see that the record is even better than Sunless.
    I’m definitely in with this!

  • Reese Burns

    This sounds quite excellent, I’m definitely hearing improvements from their debut, and that cover is begging for a vinyl press.

    • DrewMusic

      Right?? There’s a Clouds-meets-Hope-Drone vibe throughout, with a sprinkling of Doom:VS with black metal vocals, contained within a most captivating scene of desolation (that album NEEDS to be on my wall like now…)
      I think the word I’m looking for is ‘sploosh.’

  • Gosh that video is a thing of beauty.

  • You wot m8?

    Odd. Just days ago I was scrolling my way through my Spotify collection, saw Sunless, and thought to myself “hmmm, I wonder when they’re going to put out something new.” I was initally concerned over the newer, almost lighter touch of this album, but I’ve come to love it. This progression without the loss of what made me love them bodes incredibly well for future releases.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I loved their debut hard for about 4 months then it totally slipped of the radar… Will definitely give this a go tho..

  • John Mosley

    Great review. I didn’t dig the album. A bit overwrought with adolescent angst. Probably just more indication that I am transitioning into older elitist metal snob as the years like on.

  • sir_c

    A rollercoaster… there you go. Music is indeed pretty good, but a DR4 makes that I won’t buy it. This kind of music is normally best enjoyed with proper headphones, but after 2-3 mins my ears are literally ringing.