When I listen to The Ocean, I can’t help but think of Angry Metal Guy. Though I was a fan before (especially of fluXion and the Precambrian double album), Noctus and Angry Metal Guy convinced me to take Pelagial seriously. That album soared through 2013, taking home the coveted AMG RotM award and AMG‘s end o’ the year spot. All year long, it never let up its hold on me. And it still hasn’t. It’s been five years and, now, I stand here holding Pelagial‘s follow-up, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic. The ocean images and sounds are gone as we return to a concept the band created over a decade ago. As the Earth evolved from the Hadean eon to the Archean and Proterozoic periods, The Ocean also evolved. Now they/we/all have arrived at one of Earth’s and The Ocean‘s most important periods: Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic. But, how big will this Cambrian Explosion be?
Being a chemist, I never had to study geologic eons and periods,1 yet I’ve always found them fascinating. And when I heard 2007’s Precambrian, the theme and musical concept took hold of me. Though Pelagial is better, it wouldn’t have happened without Precambrian. In a single release, we hear the band evolve from the heavy first disc of the Hadean eon to uncharted territories of the Proterozoic-themed second disc. And the band changed forever. But, now, having achieved Pelagial, the stakes are higher than ever.
This time, there’re no oceanic sounds or water whooshing past your ears as the opening track submerses you. Instead, the slow-moving effects and piano of “The Cambrian Explosion” guide you down into the depths of the Earth. Your fingertips scrape across the rock as you dive deeper, adding texture to the brooding mood that things aren’t as calm as they seem. The opener finally climaxes, exploding into “Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence”—a song as epic and layered as any on Pelagial. The distortion is like thunder, the drums are crust cracking, and the vocals are red-hot. Through its eight-minute length, it paints harsh with clean and explores a bass-building midsection that erupts into the most-passionate rendition of the song’s chorus. Epic is the name of the game here and with only seven tracks to this forty-eight-minute record, you can expect a lot of it.
But, the more-epic of the bunch would have to be the back-to-back “Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions” and “Devonian: Nascent.” “Silurian” introduces effects-riddled bass/guitar chugs that fall away to clean guitars and gentle cymbal raps. Then, the climb begins—taking two iterations to get it right for the grand finale. The piano, strings, and clean guitars hold the Earth still before the planet’s gyration overcomes the calm and a sick, staccato-ed guitar pulls at the horns and strings that blare and scream in the shifting clouds. The result coats the planet in fire. Then “Devonian: Nascent” arrives, extinguishing the flames with thick retardant—a special chemical synthesized with beautiful atmospheres and the clean smoothness of Jonas Renske (Katatonia). As the smoke settles into the troposphere, rotating with the Earth, Rossetti’s harsh vocals return and the ground turns red once more. As the bass guitar builds and the Earth begins to crack, the crushing riffs hammer harder than anything else on Palaeozoic—sending a ripple along the ground and straight up my spine.
Added to the tail-end of the instrumentals and epic soundtracks is closer “Permian: The Great Dying.” Not surprising, the album is on a mission to the final track. A finale that stands out for its long builds, thick atmospheres, and loads of clean vocals. While songs like “Devonian,” “Silurian,” and “Camburian II” chase storms from the lowest of valleys to the highest of mountains, “Permian” is content on chasing its storm on level ground. There are times of ascension and descension but the wise closer refuses to break pace. This cruising speed allows it’s gruff, full-lunged cleans to push down on the song like gravity and when the song reaches its max nine minutes later, it pops and burns out like an old, trusty speaker whose served its time.
While Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic isn’t as cohesive as Pelagial, it’s still fucking good. Track-wise, “The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse” is the only one that feels like filler. But it’s short and doesn’t hurt the end-product. Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic is a sleek continuation of Precambrian2 and, to some extent, Pelagial. Even if it doesn’t top the latter. That said, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic is epic, gorgeous, and powerful—taking what it was given in 2007 and pushing its limits even further.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: theocean.bandcamp.com | metalblade.com/theocean | facebook.com/theoceancollective
Releases Worldwide: November 2nd, 2018