The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic Review

Above the couch, in my teeny one-bedroom apartment, hangs a painting of the ocean. I bought it when I moved in and at one of the lowest points of my life. There’re hints of a sun beaming behind those dark clouds, but it won’t come out. The waves are an angry black, with blueish white tips; crashing against the shore like frustrated fists to a tabletop. What shore it is, I have no idea. It’s an imagined piece. There’s no way in Hell a human being would be safe from that viewpoint. She/he would be smashed against those black, volcanic rocks. The result could be a splash of red to round out the blacks, greys, dark blues, and shocking whites. Sometimes I get lost in its chaoticness as it hangs quietly in my living room. To me, it’s a cheap painting that holds emotions and memories—though they’re bad ones. To others, it’s a color palette that matches my space. Regardless, I’ve always thought that if I could put music to it, it’d be The Ocean.

I’ve said it before, The Ocean is dear to my heart. While many focus on the dynamics and progressiveness of their releases, I’m numbed and overwhelmed by the raw power and imagery their music conveys. Not everyone sees it or hears it. It’s the consequence of the “post-hardcore” label. A title that I know turns many listeners away like djent or metalcore. But I don’t see or hear that when I listen to Pelagial or Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic. There’s internal pressure as one goes deeper below waves. There’s chaos and intrigue while traveling through the lifeforms, landmasses, and facial features this weathered planet has seen. There’s also never one song that represents The Ocean. And that’s where some people mess up. The Ocean’s albums must remain intact. And, as with each successive album, The Collective is once again redefining what an album means to them.

This is clear in a few different ways. The first is in the vocals of Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic. Though we are once again graced with vocal-additioner Tomas Hallbom and the beautiful croonings of Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse on “Jurassic | Cretaceous,” it’s Loïc Rossetti’s familiar vocals that mix things up. He still maintains that post-hardcore clean/growl combo, but adds some new techniques that freshen up the album and separate it from its predecessor. On album bookends, “Triassic” and “Holocene,” he sports a robotic, monotone effect to his voice. Though calm and soothing, it lends an uneasiness to the tracks. And while the beautiful, sing-along verses of “Pleistocene” aren’t new to Rossetti, the eye-opening up-and-down vocal movements on “Miocene | Pliocene” and closer “Holocene” are. On the other side of the coin, Rossetti unleashes his nastiest vocal performance to date with “Palaeocene.” It’s so vicious that the only voice to compare it to is Sodom’s Tom Angelripper.

But it’s not only the vocals that the band tamper with on this new release. There’s a foreign theme that runs throughout Phanerozoic II. A theme that gives it an almost Middle Eastern mood. The guitar work of “Triassic” and the strings of “Holocene” capture this vibe the best. The other standout quality of Phanerozoic II is the heavy Tool influence. The band has always had that bass-heavy progression to their sound, but “Eocene” and the album’s epic, “Jurassic | Cretaceous,” are so Tool-ing that a blind taste test would fool any middle-aged California hophead.

But, what stands out the most on this new epoch, is the general progressiveness of the record. Especially when compared to Phanerozoic I. II is far more eclectic, electronic, and it develops very differently than its predecessor. Phanerozoic I is a flowing, straightforward record, while II uses far more vocal and instrumental layers. In particular, the bass and orchestrations. They create a perfect backdrop for the keys and vocals to experiment. Although no one in their right mind would expect a traditional “Part II” from The Ocean, I can’t say I expected this.

As with all The Ocean releases, I do love Phanerozoic II. I may prefer the “straightforward” approach of Peligial and Phanerozoic I, but Phanerozoic II is an exercise in progressive variety that works well. It has all the classic elements of the band but with surprises around every corner. For me, it’s the flow that presents a problem. While the band has the ability to engulf a listener with an album’s fluidity, this new record only quasi flows. At times, it feels like a collection of great songs instead of a cohesive eight-track unit. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s no filler here and there’s plenty of great performances and captivating songwriting. As it’s been since the beginning, The Ocean has never let me down, and it seems they never will.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps OR kb/s mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 25th, 2020

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