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.