Retrospective: The Ocean – “Pelagial”


It’s certainly been awhile since I decided to cover the Throwback/Retrospective/Old-stuff-we-still-like segment of this blog. I haven’t been avoiding it. Rather, it’s been more a result of my trying to keep up with all the amazing new material that has dropped recently (and failing to do so). Yet, as I was scrolling through the application known as Timehop and gazing at all the awful things I have done to people and places over the years, I also happened across this little post that ran exactly one year ago to date. And there I had it: Inspiration! Yes, it is time again to cover the amazing project known as The Ocean (or The Ocean Collective). And today I want to revisit one of my favorite albums — not by this band, but in general — over the last several years: Pelagial.

the ocean

Pelagial is (quite obviously) a concept album centered around the oceanic depths. Naturally, the music and song titles align with the experience of slowly sinking. So you gotta listen to this thing start to finish, as a continuous listen, without jumping around. If you do otherwise, I swear I will punch you in the god damn face. Anyway, the presentation of such subject matter is absolutely mint. For those that have a hard copy of Pelagial in whatever format, you know exactly what I mean. Unfolding the pages of the album reveal imagery exactly inline with the album’s concept as shades of blue transition from lighter to darker as our eyes work vertically downward. The watery texture of this same artwork truly helps this album encourage, and really force, an audience to experience the feeling of sinking deeper. Visually, it’s spectacular.

Ok, ok. But the music. Equally as impressive. More so, in fact. From the delicate opening of “Epipelagic”, to the darker and heavier moments of the likes of “Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams”, Pelagial covers impressive territory. With song titles that align with the various depths of the ocean, the album becomes progressively darker and more jarring — with lyrical content to match — as we transition from one song to the next. Yes, it’s metaphorical. Of course it’s metaphorical. Sinking deeper into the ocean is a representation of descending within our own mental psyche, simultaneously fighting the pull downward and accepting the inevitable fate. Musically, the impressive instrumental work across all levels enhances this element to the album structure. The guitars of Robin Staps and Jona Nido, coupled with the bipolar rhythms of Luc Hess, keep the sound moving in a number of directions, refusing to settle into a comfort zone. Take a look at “Hadopelagic II: Let The Believe” to get a sense of what I’m getting at. But despite these complexities, never (and I mean never) have I experienced an album that explores so much territory yet remains composed so well. Pun semi-intended, it is dangerously easy to become absolutely immersed in this music.

But I think the real hero for me has to be Loïc Rossetti. The vocalist for The Ocean only joined the band in 2010, but his impact is immediate. I am aware that there is an instrumental version of this album (and it is also awesome), but what Mr. Rossetti does here, both in sound and lyric, is among the best work I’ve ever heard and unquestionably adds to an album that perhaps was initially intended to be vocal-free. First of all, the range he displays is unreal. From his harsh barks, to his emotionally drawn out half-sung growls on “Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety”, to his straightforward yet glorious clean singing interspersed elsewhere, I can’t help but be one to think he only helps take Pelagial further. Lyrically, I happen to think this album doesn’t get enough credit. The challenging messages contained in Loïc’s voice require time and space to absorb. I mean, check out this sample from “Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated”:

We sink through boundless vasts of blue.
When we come home at last: you’ll see for yourselves
How far down into the black these rays can reach.

Coming true there is only what accords with your nature,
With your being – of which you know nothing.
But it’s there, inside of you
Controlling you ’til the day you die.

How far down into the black can sunlight reach?
Low light, our eyes open wide:
There’s something underneath.

I mean come on. I know some people don’t pay much mind to lyrical content. I am not among them. If you are like-minded, you cannot help but be impressed with what is contained on this album.

In closing, I just want to share the fact that I had the pleasure of seeing The Ocean perform this album in full a couple years back. If getting lost in this album is as awesome an experience as I’m leading on, seeing these songs performed live is infinitely more so. In a small venue (The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA), The Ocean absolutely tore it up. A live video played behind the stage in line with music, enhancing the overall concept of the album. The band worked the crowd brilliantly — at one point, since the Sinclair has two floors for the audience, Loïc decided to disappear into the crowd during an instrumental section, emerge on the second floor, and then dive into the crowd below… only to resume singing while crowd surfing. FUCK, man. It was awesome. If you ever get a chance to see these geniuses live, do it. Here’s a shitty picture from that show:


Alright, I think you all get the idea. Pelagial is an absolute masterpiece of progressive metal that simply hasn’t gotten old in any way, shape, or form. I understand that it’s a newer release — only dropping 2013 — but I can guarantee it is going to hold up for a long, long time. Do yourselves a favor and get lost in this thing. And if you already have, do it again.

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
– Corey

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