Formed back in 2000 in Berlin, The Ocean (or The Ocean Collective) have emerged as one of the most creative and popular progressive metal outfits. In 2013, they released one the best albums of this decade in Pelagial—which, in turn, led to one of the most entrancing live performances I’ve ever experienced. It was their third effort—and, so far, their best—with Loïc Rossetti on vocals. Rossetti joined forces with the group in 2009 and together they have ushered in three of the most important, conceptual albums of the past half-decade. It’s this era that I’ve choose to focus on for this week’s list.
While Pelagial could undoubtedly fill this entire list, it would be unwise to neglect the impressive work found in Heliocentric and Anthropocentric, both three years senior to Pelagial. While there is no denying the quality found in The Ocean’s initial years, it’s these latter three that deserve to be looked at in their own category. Each one has its own story, its own theory, and its own emotion. And they’re all incredibly progressive listens. The structure of each album requires you to sit and listen to them start to finish with no interruption, with Pelagial actually being one continuous piece of music. It becomes exceptionally difficult to pull individual tracks from the mix. No matter; here are nine that I feel have defined The Ocean in these years…
“Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny” (from Pelagial, 2013)
If you want to try and get a tip-of-the-iceberg feel for Pelagial without committing—which, let’s be frank, is NOT how you should do things—this is where you would hypothetically start. Instrumental diversity, an incredible vocal performance, and creative structure all make our initial plunge into the watery depths of this album a memorable one. But it’s just the beginning…
“The Grand Inquisitor II – Roots & Locusts” (from Anthropocentric, 2010)
This may have been Loïc’s most dynamic performance, as his full range is on display throughout “Roots and Locusts.” This is not only an impressive track musically, but the lyrical content adds another level. There’s something inherently powerful in the way he pushes the chorus. There’s a lot to be gathered in this track’s message, and it’s delivered perfectly.
“Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe” (from Pelagial, 2013)
Sticking to a similar theme of questioning and cynicism, we move to my personal favorite from Pelagial. As we’ve now moved significantly further into the depths of the abyss that depicts the theme of this album, we start light with melodic leads and eventually find ourselves punished through a sarcastic allowance of our beliefs. It’s awesomely upsetting.
“She Was the Universe” (from Anthropocentric, 2010)
Anthropocentrism is the belief that mankind is the center of all things, and this album delves wonderfully into that belief system. A track that brings in personal emotion and devotion to another being, “She Was the Universe” is a fantastic play on this album’s concept. Even more interestingly, it’s one of the heavier tracks throughout, bringing punishing leads and ferocious growls—which you may not have expected, given the title.
“Swallowed by the Earth” (from Heliocentric, 2010)
“Swallowed by the Earth,” the first track from the oldest Rossetti album, weaves between heavier, deliberate riffs and far more somber leads. Released just half a year before Anthropocentric, Heliocentric instead focused on the Earth as center of our solar system. We are painted a picture of a great flood wiping out much of our existence, presented with the right amount of sobriety.
“Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams” (from Pelagial, 2013)
Opening with, and periodically returning to, some of the more technical leads on this album, “The Wish in Dreams” increased Pelagial’s pace in an astounding, almost jarring way. This is the first track that truly makes you feel like you’re descending into the darkness of the ocean. There is nothing light about this song. It invokes feelings of intense helplessness.
“Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated” (from Pelagial, 2013)
The final track on this list taken from Pelagial is the most burdensome by a distance, as we descend further. The cadence is deliberate and heavy, formulating a dark, almost sludgy, feel. Loïc’s vocal intensity matches this sound perfectly. For those unaware, this album was initially intended to be an instrumental. Quite frankly, I’m glad it’s not. The voice and music relate so well, especially in “Disequillibrated”.
“Firmament” (from Heliocentric, 2010)
This was the first song I ever checked out from The Ocean, and it got things off to a good start. I would encourage listening to it with its introduction, “Shamayim,” as well. The two combine to get Heliocentric off to a rousing start, with “Firmament” delivering thick rhythms throughout, and seamlessly weaving from light to heavy, and from simple to technical in a way only The Ocean can pull off.
“The Origin of God” (from Heliocentric, 2010)
Finally, we round out our circles with the closer to Heliocentric. This is the second part of what really should be considered a continuous piece of music, prefaced by the more complex “The Origin of Species.” This one’s more a bit more straightforward in architecture, the message is far clearer and the use of brass during the instrumental intervals is brilliant. Oh, and the vocals? Dynamic as hell—but then, we’re used to that from Loïc. Either way, he certainly opened his account with The Ocean in the right way with his performance on Heliocentric, which is why we round things off here.
The Nine Circles ov The Ocean on Spotify
That will do it from me. I highly encourage you give the above a listen. And then, more importantly, listen to each of these albums in full. They are something impressive.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”