Doom. Doom is done right when the word is no longer a mere genre, but an onomatopoeic descriptor of what you are hearing. Suffice to say, Finland’s Oceanwake understands this. The opening chords of their sophomore release, Sunless, floored me with their doomy resonance and sheer, earthquake-triggering power. I knew I was in for a treat from this moment onwards and I was gripped until the final cataclysmic maelstrom. Though bearing sludgy overtones, don’t mistake this beast for anything less than what it is: epic, assertive, but at times enchanting too.
What strikes me most about these Finns is the beauty in their simplicity. Mid-paced, their leads never trouble themselves with speed or technicality, preferring crushing and uncomplicated melodies. You won’t immediately hook on to a catchy lick, but each of the four songs are completely compelling as the simplistic leads weave in and out, deftly developing throughout. “Avanturine” best exemplifies this, remaining tethered to a core chord-progression but fluctuating and moving through phases before reaching a grand finale. I can hear comparisons with Swallow The Sun but this feels more stripped back and controlled. There are no fancy shifting time signatures (as far as I could hear!), no unusual instruments and no cheap parlor tricks. Just doom metal executed exceptionally well.
Ensuring the four long songs don’t stagnate, there are frequent transitions between soft and heavy, wisely avoiding overly bathetic drivel. In this vein, Sunless recalls The Fall of Every Season‘s Amends but with less emotion and more cohesion. These quieter, sometimes acoustic, sections are very unhurried but always feel meaningful and disciplined, progressing back towards the central riff or into thus far uncharted territories. This is particularly notable on the longest track “The Lay of a Coming Storm,” wherein just as the riff is losing a little momentum it develops to a subtly mournful phase with sparing clean vox. The clean vocalist’s range is limited, but this denies excessive sentimentality and they’re far from bad, offering variation from the gratifyingly savage growls. Ultimately, it’s this natural duality of the crushing with the evocative which ensured my complete captivation.
As far as negatives go, I’m clutching at straws. “The Lay of a Coming Storm” could be a little shorter and is potentially the least engaging of the four tracks, but it’s still awesome. Each track averages over 10 minutes, but this amounts to an ideal length of just 44 minutes, leaving me wanting more. While bearing a solid dynamic range, Sunless would benefit from a greater range still. It’s never a big issue but things can get a little soupy in the sludgier moments, such as the beginning of “Ephemeral.” Nonetheless, the mix balances everything well and the tone is plenty meaty, so the production is good on the whole – courtesy of Korpiklaani front-man Jonne Järvelä.
Presumably you’ve peeked below already and seen that I’ve not awarded the coveted 5.0 or even 4.5. As excellent as this is, I don’t think it’s quite special enough to merit that, though it still comes highly recommended. The scope of Sunless is tremendous and I can’t begin listening without finishing the entire thing. Oceanwake has seriously stepped up its game since its debut full-length and I’m excited to see where things go from here. Doom indeed.