Power metal is one of those genres that promises a lot but has a tendency to under deliver. Progressive power — prower? — metal promises more and delivers less often still. While the key constituents, including soaring guitars, prominent keyboards, bombastic drums, and faux-operatic vocals, are all welcome, the manner in which they are stitched together is often where it comes apart. Add to this the risks inherent in making a concept album and you have quite the heady mix. According to their own bio, Greece’s Floating Worlds, who have been around in one form or another since 1998, encountered a lot of failed attempts to record their first songs. In 2007, they finally managed to self-release their debut, Only a Dream, Can Kill a Dream…, which was followed in 2013 by another self-financed release, Below the Sea of Light, a record which I confess I could not get all the way through. Undeterred, and with a deal now inked with Germany’s Pride & Joy Music, have Floating Worlds now got things on an even keel with concept album Battleship Oceania?
The concept Floating Worlds are running with here is, unsurprisingly, the tale of a battleship. A legendary battleship, in fact, and through its travels, Floating Worlds will educate us on the horrors of war, the power and the money-hungry, the “obscure role of global media,” and more. There is no denying the scale of the chosen concept but, unfortunately, the musical medium employed is a largely bland and utterly forgettable affair. There are hints of better things scattered across this album, a half-decent riff here (see “The Curse” or the chorus on “Game of Thrones”) or a staccato drum-keyboard section (“Oceania”), but also a fair bit of light comedic relief. I suspect the latter was unintended and comes in the form of the various spoken word introductions to, and interludes in, the songs on the record (see in particular the cringe-worthy “The Last Goodbye”).
The trouble here is not the musicianship. All five members of Floating Worlds put in decent enough shifts, with vocalist Jon Soti giving probably the most notable performance, but he also epitomizes the problem with this album. Soti has a decent, clear voice and is clearly giving his all to sell the concept behind Battleship Oceania but his delivery, like the concept, lacks the power and edge to convince. Floating Worlds were, I think, attempting to do something along the lines of Iced Earth‘s Gettysburg (1863), which tells the story of the defining battle of the American Civil War (or even, albeit from a very different music stable, 1914‘s Blind Leading the Blind). While Iced Earth had all the historical and emotional heft to cover up a few slightly cliched spoken passages or questionable composition choices, Floating Worlds‘ mythical ship tale offers nothing of the kind. Indeed, its complete lack of gravitas, straying often into the realms of comedy, only serves to highlight the musical shortcomings.
Although there are a few positives scattered across Battleship Oceania, it’s very hard to pick out and focus on them because they get swamped by the ill-advised sound effects, chanting, “deck announcements,” and so on. As I say, Soti is a decent enough frontman, though the material he’s delivering makes it hard to take him seriously, and Andreas V on guitars has his moments, notably on “Divine Love,” which is improved by the addition of S. Assarioti’s operatic female vocals, and “Eternal Sleep,” which is probably the pick of the album. With its soaring vocals, pounding drums and stripped back keyboard sections, it’s a decent, if overly-long, progressive power metal song. That’s probably about the best I can say. The production doesn’t help Floating Worlds in their journey either. Often sounding like the band is in a large echoing room, the music is flat and lacking in depth (in all senses), where it should be full and lush.
There’s really no way around it, this is a poor record. The music, as far as European power metal goes, is fine but doing nothing new and there is certainly nothing progressive about it, while the concept for the album is as grandiose as it is overblown. The members of Floating Worlds are all capable enough but, if there is a follow up to Battleship Oceania the hope has to be that the concept album is abandoned, allowing the band to focus on writing songs rather than a story.