Ocean Chief – Den Tredje Dagen Review

Doom is a tricky genre to get right. At least in my opinion. It has a fine line to walk, trading in tectonic riffs, bleak atmospherics and roared vocals, often at glacial speeds, it  risks sacrificing memorability on the altar of heaviness.  Swedish quartet Ocean Chief have done their time and paid their dues, however, and should be well equipped to avoid this pitfall. With at least four full-lengths under the collective belt1 since forming in 2001, Ocean Chief now return after a six-year absence, following 2014’s Universums härd. That last record had a pretty healthy dose of stoner psychedelia running through its doom-laden waters, taking it into Brant Bjork territory as often as it went into Suma’s. Has Ocean Chief’s time away kept them to this path or led them up the garden path?

Describing latest outing Den Tredje Dagen (The Third Day, I think), Ocean Chief themselves say that their aim was to “present an even harsher and darker side of the band … There are haunting passages on the album that almost make us afraid of ourselves…” I have to say these sort of nonsense statements from bands annoy the hell out of me – who are you trying to kid? – but Ocean Chief are right in so far as Den Tredje Dagen is a harsher, darker and heavier outing than Universums härd. Although there are still hints of the heavily fuzzed stoner riffage of Sleep’s Dopesmoker on show here, Den Tredje Dagen has all the of the psychedelia elements stripped out. Left behind is an altogether starker, more stripped back doom sound of the sort conjured by YOB on Our Raw Heart. The riffs crawl forward in menacingly slow fashion, riding atop a similarly mid-paced rhythm section, while gruff, roared vocals from founding member and drummer Tobias Larsson abrade the listener.

Clocking in just seconds shy of the hour mark,2 Ocean Chief must be commended for sticking to their blueprint with admirable diligence. Not once over Den Tredje Dagen’s 59 minutes and 4 seconds does the band get above a slow trot, in terms of pace, and it’s often considerably slower (“Den sista resan”). In and of itself, that’s no problem – doom is hardly the genre to head for if lightning quick riffs are what you crave – but it does, to go back to where we began, make it all the more important that the snail-paced riffs you’re laying down are memorable. And this, for me, is where Den Tredje Dagen comes unstuck and why it’s a shame Ocean Chief took the decision to do away with pretty much every element that made Universums härd the interesting record it was.

As I mentioned to several other writers in the virtual AMG breakout space – social distancing people; stay home, stay safe! – the other day, I had Den Tredje Dagen on in my home office. I went downstairs to make tea, stopped to check in on my napping shark pup and had a quick conflab with Mrs Carcharodon. When I got back, and I must have been gone ten minutes, I honestly couldn’t tell whether it was still the same song, or whether Ocean Chief had moved on. A single riff, and often enough a single note, can be drawn out over minutes (“Dömd” is particularly guilty in this respect), I guess to really impress upon you just how dark and bleak everything really is. But the lack of variation, compounded by a general lack of melody and how far back in the mix the drums are for much of the time, leave you to contemplate just how monotonous much of the riffing is.

There’s nothing actually wrong with Den Tredje Dagen. It’s not a bad album by any stretch and Ocean Chief know their way around a doom riff as well as anyone, but the record left me utterly cold and, more often than not, bored. Where I wanted to be crushed under the weight of sheer atmosphere before being born aloft on the crest of a breaking riff, I was usually submerged under a gently rolling sea of tedium. Ocean Chief were on much more interesting form on their last outing and the six-year hiatus appears to have refocused them in an altogether more one-dimensional direction.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Argonauta Records 
Websites: oceanchief.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/oceanchief.official 
Release Date: April 17th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The promo blurb claims five full-lengths to Ocean Chief’s name but Metal Archives only lists four, although it’s possible 2004’s The Oden Sessions may the missing piece of the puzzle.
  2. For review purposes, I have a five-track version of the album, including the 14-minute CD bonus track, “Dimension 5.”
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