Oceanhoarse – Heads Will Roll Review

On their YouTube channel, you can find this Finnish foursome, Oceanhoarse, cavorting around with regional rock stars playing covers of stadium-sized classics, truly having fun on their journey to stardom. Do you want to hear Janne Wirman (Warmen, ex-Children of Bodom) lay down keys on the Ozzy classic “Shot in the Dark”? What about Jari Mäenpää singing Ozzy’s classic “No More Tears”?1 At any rate, Oceanhoarseߵs recorded escapades reveal that amongst the pop-inflected groove that has defined the band’s sound thus far, the members remain in adoration of all things pentatonic and cheesy. In a head-turning move, though not far removed from earlier efforts, Heads Will Roll sounds like an idea sparked after a rekindling of enjoyment for In Flamesߵ infamous Reroute to Remain. Now that’s a hoarse of a different color.

Defend whatever album you want, but In Flames at their most alternative and least melodeath is not the act you’d expect to see aped in 2023—even In Flames agrees. Yet, here we are, Oceanhoarse in full Björiff meets Breaking Benjamin territory (“Help Is on the Way,” “Heads Will Roll”), partying like an 80s arena rock hero got stuck in Sounds of a Playground Fading. To his credit, Joonas Kosonen, frontman and vocalist, captures a certain gruff charm that outclasses the early attempts of one unstudied Anders Fridén through the 00s. However, Kosonen’s penchant for also dropping into the nasally spoken shout fit for a Rage Against the Machine rant (“Adrift”) or a creepy, aggressive tough guy chest thump (“Nails”) lands awkwardly against this mélange of strangely stitched radio reaching tunes. Hold the reins tight, it’s a bumpy ride.

You see, Kosonen’s confused ideas regarding his own vocal range get in the way of keeping just about any song thoroughly enjoyable. Heads Will Roll relies primarily on huge, clean choruses (“Pryopen,” “Nails”), but often Kosonen struggles to sound little more than a budget Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage). Kosonen never comes close to a true hefty growl either, though he comes up with a few low-impact, aggressively scratchy shouts (“Nails”). This dichotomy of power chorus and struggled verse rips apart a couple songs that from an instrumental standpoint hit with tricky and catchy fervor (“Brick,” “Adrift”). He almost nails a comfortable cadence on the slow opener “Fall like Dominoes,” where his tough guy bridge adds enough character to be acceptable. But again Kosonen falls flat as the song continues after a wild solo, forcing us to wallow in a bevy of increasingly frustrating squawks.

Confoundingly, I really enjoy one song here, which makes the album’s flaws all the more egregious. “Waves” encompasses everything Oceanhoarse can do to be a band who sounds like the brightly lit future they imagine—monstrous heavy metal grooves, powerfully accentuating gang shouts, and a solo fit to be played against a wind machine. Nevermind that Oceanhoarse released this song five years ago with a different singer, Kosonen manages to bark it out fine enough. On ten other occasions though Oceanhoarse fails to match this high point in any way. While the title track, landing two spots (including one pointless instrumental, “Dead Zone”) away from “Waves” may not be of the same caliber, it at least feels like it could have been an appropriate ending for this excursion. As it stands, three more tracks follow, and their energy feels so far removed from the peak that they might as well be bonus tracks.2

Heads Will Roll makes me angry. Oceanhoarse can play. Tonally, I love a lot of choices—the cutting 80s-inspired solo tone, the nod to Lamb of God chuggery on “Smoke Signals,” the cymbal clarity that sparkles at the quietest moments. But none of these elements come together often enough to keep me engaged outside of that one lone point. Their debut album Dead Reckoning featured many of these same enjoyable elements but in a package stuck together with a little more dirty in the nails and pop-infused Pantera worship. In many ways, that worked better, even if Oceanhoarse had not yet discovered its own identity. I’m not sure these Finns are anywhere closer now two albums down, but at least they’re swinging for the fences. For now, though, the minor leagues will have to do.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Noble Demon
Websites: oceanhoarse.com | oceanhoarse.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/oceanhoarse
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2023

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Time II will never finish at this rate.
  2. It has no effect on the score, but be warned: if you buy the vinyl, they cut “Waves” to fit the album. Boooooo!
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