Our Oceans – While Time Disappears Review

When I just started reading AMG, sometime in the first half of 2016, the column of Record(s) o’ the Month covers was a wealth of new music to listen to. Not only did every article contain 3 albums that were always worth spinning, even if it wasn’t my style, but the discussions and disagreements were another wellspring all on their own. But one album always drew my eye, thanks to the beautiful turquoise cover illustration. Although never receiving a proper standalone review, Our Oceansself-titled debut caught the heart of our beloved angry creator with its ethereal, yet intricate, prog rock that shares DNA with Steven Wilson and Pain of Salvation, among others. Five years have come and gone and the Dutch trio, whose resumés include Cynic and Exivious, have finished their new offering, sporting a notably more drab cover than its predecessor. Is this an ill omen, or is that judging a book by its cover?

The instrumental skills of Tymon, Robin and Yuma are as effortlessly expert as they’ve ever been. Tymon’s guitar is subtle and diverse, and his solos are excellent, particularly on closer “With Hands Torn Open.” Robin’s fretless bass is as vital as the guitars, enhancing the melodious writing with unexpected bends and writhing jazz. Yuma is an absolute pleasure on drums: inventively swinging and astoundingly diverse, he has complete control over the range of tempos and moods spread across the album. And that range is wide. In fact, While Time Disappears is certainly a more diverse affair than the debut, with styles like the doom-influenced “Weeping Lead,” the emotional yet gentle balladry of “Passing By” and the upbeat rocker “Face Them” demonstrating the band’s eclecticism.

The songwriting, however, is not quite up to the level of the debut. Our Oceans is not a band of razor sharp, singular focus, but even in that context While Time Disappears tends to feel a bit adrift at the best of times. Several of the tracks fail to really build up to anything, with the confused D&B Lite of “Your Take” and the weary wandering of “You Take” the back-to-back low point. When the latter does erupt into a moment of fury, it doesn’t feel earned and doesn’t sustain for long. And though their instrumental skills are top notch, Tymon’s vocal work is a little rougher this time around. He pours his heart and soul into his performance, but frequently pushes past his limits, and when he does, his otherwise pleasant timbre of Muse-meets-Porcupine Tree turns shrill and unpleasantly jagged, which severely mars cuts like “The Heart’s Whisper.”

Even so, the highs are still a fair bit higher than the lows are low. “Unravel” is an inspired opener, kicking off with a riff heavier than anything else the band has done but soon swinging into catchy jazz-rock territory. “With Hands Torn Open” ends the album on a high note, containing a satisfying catharsis and some truly inventive performances from the entire line-up. Funnily enough, for a band that has gathered a reputation as ethereal, it’s the ragged double-time of “Face Them” that’s the biggest highlight. The bass rumbles and twangs in an utterly satisfying manner, Tymon sounds energetic as hell and the track is full of immediate hooks. Furthermore, the production is once again warm and vibrant, and though I don’t always agree with the effects on Tymon’s voice, the fantastic mix that really allows the bass to shine more than makes up for it.

There is no escaping the conclusion: Our Oceans are going through a small sophomore slump. While Time Disappears is more diverse than the debut, but less focused, even considering the gentle, ethereal prog the band peddles, and a few vocal issues cast a shadow on its face. Nevertheless, prog fanatics will find enough to enjoy in the superb performances and the eclectic songwriting. This is still a trio capable of some great music; even when they’re not on their A-game, they seem unable to make anything less than good. I just hope that next time, we can again expect better from them.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Long Branch Records
Websites: ouroceansband.bandcamp.com | ouroceans.net | facebook.com/ouroceans
Releases Worldwide: November 27th, 2020

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