The Ocean // Heliocentric
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —Inventive and interesting!
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: theoceancollective.com | myspace.com/theoceancollective
Release Dates: EU: 12.04.2010 | North America: 04.13.2010

Apparently everyone but me has heard of The Ocean Collective and has been all stoked about them for the past few years and talking about how cool they are. Apparently they’ve even opened up for bands like Cult of Luna and Opeth and have toured the world doing tons of shows and going through a bajillion members on the way! Who knew!? Apparently everyone but me! So let me say that this record was a shot in the dark. Metal Blade is distroing another more underground band through their label and while this hasn’t always done them well, this was definitely a good choice.

Heliocentric is a record that borders onto what I think most people would probably call post-hardcore at this point. These guys belong right in the same league as Cult of Luna, Ghost Brigade, Burst and others who have deftly blended hardcore, metal and alternative rock into something its own. Heliocentric offers one of the most cogent and inventive additions to this legacy with an orchestral approach that hasn’t been seen with the other bands. The songs here are varied in their rhythms and sounds, with solid bass and vaguely progressive hints and jazz influences from time to time.

One of the biggest complaints that I’ve encountered about this album has been that the band has changed their sound. “Why does a band have to include clean vocals to ‘go progressive,'” complained one Straw Man on the Internets. I think there’s a pretty good answer to that, actually. See, clean vocals have a dynamism that harsh vocals of any kind do not have. In this case, it allows The Ocean to build more chords, harmonies and layers into their music, adding another dimension that would absolutely have been missing from Heliocentric otherwise. While the music on here is borderline prog and there are orchestral pieces that are very cool, were it not for the clean vocals this album would be a lot less interesting. Vocalist Loïc Rosetti performs admirably, giving melodic dimension the songs and giving voice to the beauty and the conceptual depth of the album.

The records soft underbelly may be the lyrics. While I don’t have the lyric sheet in front of me, those things that I did make out were pretty week. It sounds like the band is giving voice to Galileo’s struggles with discovery and the ensuing battle with the Catholic church. This ended in his recanting and being put on house arrest. This is a fascinating topic and it’s cool to use as a thematic piece, and for a band known for their massive projects, it’s makes sense that they’d go this route. But the lyrics often come off as simple, lacking depth and a little cheesy at times. This is partially because trying to write from someone’s point of view and do internal dialogue is just really tough, so it’s no surprise that the lyrics fall short in those cases. A for effort, but these guys aren’t going to be winning a Nobel Prize is poetry or anything.

Taken in its entirety, however, Heliocentric is a very cool, interesting and forward thinking record. It’s nice to see bands thinking big and aiming at these huge concepts and this record is well-executed and loaded with great tracks. In my opinion some of the best stuff on here are tracks like “Ptolemy Was Wrong” and “Catharsis of a Heretic” which have a lot of clean vocals and nice depth to them. But every song has cool parts and this makes me want to dig deeper into the band’s discography.

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  • Xurathar

    Listening now to Heliocentric. I have followed The Ocean since I found in a shop Precambrian. It’s a double CD, and the second one(the more melodic-orchestral stuff) it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard to date. I really recommend it if you want to hear more from this guys.

    One thing I love from The Ocean is their love for packaging. Precambrian album has such a beautiful package.

  • Monkey Business

    Lulznoh. The album is bad. Heliocentric = COMBO BREAKER!

  • Jay

    After Precambrian I was really stoked about this new album, Precambrian might be the best album of all time, and Aeolian is up there as well.

    Unfortunately, Heliocentric is a vile and fucking hateful piece of shit. I listened to all of it and it was like applying a dull razor directly onto my auditory nerve.

    The vocals are shit, the melodies are exaggerated beyond repair, and there’s none of the metal sludge I liked in any of the previous albums. Instead we get some dickish Blink 182 vocals dishing out lectures about the Ptolemaic world view in 5 word repeated sentences in a shrill fucking harpy-voice.

    The reason why they made this big a change is currently unknown to me, but the net result is a piece of garbage. This is something your mom would put on for a long car ride. Do not buy, except maybe to use as a coaster.

    • This record would have been like applying a dull razor to your auditory nerve WITHOUT the clean vocals. The layers is what makes this record so good. If it weren’t for those, this record would be way more boring.

  • Jay

    If you want layers, buy a cake.

    Also the suggestion that boring axiomatically equates to bad is a lie, but that’s beside the point since I still reject the basic premise of your assertion. The vocals are NOT good, they are fucking vile. I will concede their technical merit, but then again Dani Filth is a technically good singer as well so it doesn’t really matter to most people.

    My point was, if you liked any of The Ocean’s previous albums, you will hate the shit out of this one. If you like Tracy Chapman though, this is the album for you.

    • I always like watching a band’s fanbase herniate over change.

  • Jay

    Well, I enjoyed their transition from Fogdiver to Fluxion to Aeolian to Precambrian, so again to say that all change is a deterrent for established fans is axiomatically a lie.

    • Well aren’t you cranky? ;)

      Also, that a band’s fanbase will get itself into a twist over a new record that differs itself from previous records is practically axiomatic. I can think of very few bands who have gone through any kind of *major* sound shift without shedding some fans.

      But that said, we’re not dealing in absolutes here, despite the fact that you really seem to wish we were (that is, you wish that your opinion were absolute). I am not alone in my opinion about this record. There are lots of people in an uproar over this album. But I like it. I think it’s well written, interesting, if a little bit inarticulately written. In fact, I think it’s an excellent album, hence the score. You bitching in my comments section doesn’t change my opinion.

  • Jay

    I never thought it would. Which begs the question why you write reviews, I guess, but that’s beside the point.

    The fact is, the band has gone through many major changes already, although as you stated in your review you were not familiar with them, having not heard their previous works.

    Imagine if Smashing Pumpkins suddenly decided “hey, let’s try to sound more like Jason Mraz”.

    I’m sure they would garner new fans as a result, but the established base would call them dickless sellouts, and quite rightly so.

    The strange thing about The Ocean though, is that they kept growing their fanbase every album, most likely because they made this excellent incremental change, but this really isn’t an increment as much as it is a complete deviation. In that regard it’s more like Peter Tägtgren deciding he wants to sound more like Alanis Morisette.

    My initial point still stands unrefuted: If you liked any of their earlier works, there is literally NOTHING on this new album to catch your attention. If you are a The Ocean neophyte, then yes this will probably be refreshing.

    I still fucking hate it, and voicing that opinion is, I thought, what a “comments” section alluded to. I’m sorry if I misunderstood.

    • No, I’m not familiar with it. I’m just also responding to the fact that I’ve been looking around on RYM and stuff like that and the fans are shitting themselves. But sometimes I think the band has the right to do what they want. Whether or not we follow along is, well, dependent on the fanbase, right?

      But I think you also point out what I’ve said earlier, that is: a fanbase will crumble in the face of real change. As you pointed out, you’ve followed along, and these things were incremental. But when they totally backed off from the fundamentals of what you liked about them, you didn’t like it at all. That is to say “there’s change and then there’s CHANGE.”

      Anyway, I never said your comments weren’t welcome, I just wasn’t sure who they were aimed at. I really liked the record.

      Also, I’d love to see Peter Tägtgren decide to become Alanis Morisette. :P

  • Jay

    Sorry I totally forgot about this site.

    “But when they totally backed off from the fundamentals of what you liked about them, you didn’t like it at all.”

    Yeah that’s exactly my point. Going from Epic metal to epic failure isn’t something I’m going to get behind and support. That paragrapg right there really just underlines my point, I like Metal, so for example if a Metal group teams up with Lady Gaga to make generic electropop, I’ll stop liking the band because I don’t like generic electropop. I think that’s pretty transparently logical.

    When a band used to make music you liked and then stops in favor of making music you completely detest, chances are the people who liked the music they used to make will frown upon that. Severely. I don’t really think that is a difficult thing to understand.

    • Well, thanks for stopping by again!

      To be totally honest, having gone back and listened to their other stuff some now, I like this record better. But this is ’cause I’m not a big fan of sludge. I just am not. It’s a genre of metal/punk/hardcore or whatever that just doesn’t appeal to me. What made this new record good was the clean vocals because it added something more interesting to the mix.

      I get where you’re coming from, definitely. There is a disappointment involved. It’s like new In Flames. You go back and listen to Jester Race and go *OH MAN!* and then you listen to whatever new shit they’re putting out and go *oh man… :(*.

      And that is exactly what I said so at this point we agree. A fanbase will crumble in the face of REAL change. That is FUNDAMENTAL change. And you agree, it’s transparently logical.

      Again, not that taste in music is LOGICAL.

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