There’s no way around it: depression is a bitch. I’m not talking about the kind that visits briefly after watching ‘Requiem for a Dream’; I’m talking about the kind that dowses your reality in darkness, buries the world under ice, then bares its teeth and screams into the wind, until the grim leviathan itself is all that you are aware of. The beast can be summoned by such various factors as genetics, trauma, or even the fucking weather, and knowing how to fend it off can quite literally be the difference between life and death. For many, this means hiding in the warm glow of a positive support system when the emotional forecast calls for misery. I, however, am a storm chaser. When others bury their heads and chant “Rain, rain, go away”, I light a cigarette and whisper “Hello, Darkness, my old friend,” then wallow with the likes of Katatonia, Clouds, Draconian, October Tide, Saturnus and so very many more.
My point: I’m no stranger to emptiness, I have used music as an outlet for my own struggles with depression for almost thirty years and my music library is positively littered with negativity. The sounds of being depressed have haunted my ears in varying shades of grey for as long as I can remember, but never before have I heard an album embody depression itself with the same level of unnerving perfection as Slow’s V – Oceans does. A 55-minute slab of Belgian sadness, Oceans harnesses the darkest powers of our subconscious depths and renders them exquisitely, crushingly real. If that icy giant from the first paragraph ever recorded an album, this would be it.
Pianos punctuate the surrounding dark, adding the vaguest shimmer of light yet illuminating only misery with their doleful keys. The guitars craft dense atmospheres somewhere between Clouds and Départe on despairoids, effectively robbing the listener of breath as they churn their way through the stifling seas of sadness. Percussion is delivered effectively with a sense of patience that defies mortal attention spans, but it’s Déhà’s tremendous vocals that steal the show and lend it its credibility. These are not the sniffles of the voice in your head telling you that Ben and Jerry will save you. This is the ancient guttural roar of depression itself, the timeless evil of mental turmoil sonically brought to life.
It should come as no surprise that Oceans takes the turtle approach, and by taking things… unfastly, Slow more than win all throughout the album. The payout of Déhà’s monstrous bellows when the piano-induced suspense of “Néant” finally explodes floors me every time, an emotional reaction made possible by refusing to rush. Similar rise-and-fall dynamics feature heavily throughout the album, and they all work to devastating effect. Subsequently, Oceans works best when experienced front to back, alone and in the dark. This may be easier for some than others, given Oceans’ 55-minute playtime, but c’mon. You knew what you were getting into here.
Music is my favorite way to confront depression, and Oceans has crawled to the highest point on my low list. This is not musical commiseration, but a monolog by the monster itself. There is no happiness here, but sometimes that’s the point. If you’re up for being so down, I promise the rewards are worth it.
Tracks to check out: “Oceans (Full)”